Oct

02

Do you have a programmable thermostat in your home, and if so, how often do you program it? For most Americans with programmable thermostats the answer is never because the technology is just too complicated. The purpose of a programmable device is to save energy and money by using less power to heat or cool your home when you are not there. Many people with programmable thermostats end up turning the device on and off throughout the day in an attempt to save energy because they think it is better than just leaving it on when, in fact, they are wasting much more energy than if they had left it alone. Due to this fact, Energy Star removed programmable thermostats from their list of energy-saving products.

Tony Fadell, the father of the iPod, has come up with an innovative solution to the efficiency and usability issues with similar innovation that we have seen from Apple products. After years of working with and developing Apple products Fadell wanted to create a thermostat that was like a smartphone and can be controlled from it. This self-programming thermostat named Nest adjusts to your preferences and schedule to create energy efficiency and comfort in your home after just a week of your manual adjustments.

Nest2

Also similar to Apple products, Nest is sleek and has been called the most beautiful thermostat on the market. Contrary to the rectangular beige thermostats that we are used to seeing in homes, Nest has a stainless steel ring that mirrors your wall color and a bright LCD screen that lights up when you wave your hand in front of it. The newer version of the nest is slimmer than the first one, but the software for both is the same. This is due to the fact that the device is hooked up to Wi-Fi and when the company makes updates for the products it automatically updates on both the new and old versions. They are very concerned with customer input on the product and make changes and updates according to customer requests. Maxime Vernon, head of marketing for Nest, stated, “We tweak and prioritize based on what customers are telling us,” and explained that they take after Apple’s marketing and technology with a simple product and a focus on customer experience.

So how does nest actually work? This “learning thermostat” only requires that you program it for the first week and after that it will learn your schedule and sense when you are home. During the time that you have to program it, you simply turn the circular dial on the outside of the device to the desired temperature. For instance, say you prefer the thermostat to be on 72 throughout the day, but a little bit lower at night and you lower the temperature around nine every night; the thermostat will pick up on this action. The device learns what you program and predicts what you want in the future. If it isn’t what you want, then you manually change it, either on the device or on your smart phone, and it learns from this and continually adapts.

One of the features that makes the Nest stand out is the sensor on the device that scans the house and realizes whether or not you are home and becomes accustomed to your habits. This feature enables the thermostat to lower your energy usage when the house is empty by either making the temperature lower or higher (depending on if you are using heat or air conditioning) when it knows you aren’t there. Nest begins to learn your schedule; when you leave the house everyday and when you come home. If you leave every morning at 9 a.m. sharp, then it begins to lower the temperature after just a half hour, but if you leave in the morning then run errands and come back before leaving for the day, it waits longer to start cooling off. So what happens when you get off work early and don’t want to come home to a house that is too hot or cold? You can get on the Nest application on your smartphone or computer and manually change the temperature. The more that you adjust the Nest the more it adapts and caters to your preferences.

Applications of Nest provide encouragement and notification of energy saving by the household. On the thermostat itself the screen will display a leaf when it is in energy-saving mode. If you are conscious about trying to save energy, just adjusting the thermostat one degree from your normal temperature will cause the screen to display an illuminated leaf. Nest also provides a free monthly report that allows you to track your usage and compare your savings with other months. The amount of energy saved varies between households; Nest says that they have seen savings ranging from 5% to 60% after using the thermostat. One factor that determines how much you will save is whether you are driven toward comfort or savings. If you are okay with layering up and using blankets in the house in order to keep your thermostat low, then it is likely that you will save a lot of energy. Heating and cooling the house contribute to about half of the energy usage in the average home, and Nest says that the average home has savings of about 20%. One thing to be aware of is that Nest doesn’t change factors such as poor insulation, leaky roofing, or drafty windows. If you have these problems in your home then you are using more energy no matter what thermostat you use.

One very attractive feature of Nest is that it is easy and readily available. Three out of four people are able to install Nest in 30 minutes or less. With most other thermostats, a technician is required for installation. Nest works with gas, electric, oil, forced air, heat pump, and radiant systems making it available for 95% of low-voltage home residential systems. It is also available for homes with multiple thermostats. The ease of use, availability, and energy-saving capabilities make Nest a top-notch thermostat and a worthwhile investment. Although Nest is more pricey than the typical thermostat, you will get your moneys worth after just two years of saving energy. If you are looking for an energy-saving device that is easy on the eyes and even easier to use, Nest is the thermostat for you. Visit nest.com or call Electronics2You for more information

Oct

27

The Next Big Thing
Posted by jwalter

Not to brag, but I think I have discovered the next big thing.  Well,  myself along with millions of other have discovered it.

It’s GoogleTV.  Its a a fairly inexpensive piece of hardware that connects to your TV, internet connection and set top box(cable or sat)  that gives you complete & total control over all video material available to you in an easy to use Google style search interface. Google doesn’t make the hardware. At present time Logitech &  sony offer google TV systems. I have a logitech so I’ll discuss its hardware. The Logitech Revue $399)comes with a standard keyboard that operates wirelessly. It was very easy to install. I connected it to my TV, thru the cable box via the included HDMI cables.  Connected a network jack to it and fired it up. It walked me thru the set up which took all 20 minutes. Once completed, I could access the web thru my TV and it never looked so good. I couldn’t believe how great the electronics2you.com web page looked on this 55″ LED TV. So here’s an example of what GoogleTV does…

Pick a TV show that you enjoy. Lets use one of my favorites for this example, House.  So I hit the search button on my google TV  keyboard and up pops a seach box overlay on whatever I have been watching. I type House into the box & it gives me a list of results in an order of importance. The first spot is the most current episode of House. If you select it, it asks if you want to setup your DVR to record it or go to whatever is currently playing on that chanel.

The next results is something that takes you to all previous series/episodes of house. It shows it in a grid format with series tabs. So It shows me season 7 episodes and within that, if the episode is free, on the web, or paid via itunes or amazon’s vod services, etc. Theres a small icon to show free or paid. It shows all previous seasons. The next result was for Full House, remember that show? The next result is to search the web for House. That brings up a Google search result as if you typed it into google from your pc. I can’t explain how good the web looks on Google TV. Its completely readable, not like the old WebTV devices. This is like looking at a huge computer monitor.

I’ve only touched the surface of what GoogleTV offers. Theres also a “home” button that allows instant access to your favs like CNBC or Blip.TV or Netflix streaming or Amazon VOD. It’s all customizable. you can link it to your google account and set up video cues to watch.

I know what the next question is…Can I get rid of my cable or sat provider? Well, Almost….
1. You will always need a highspeed internet connection for this to work.
2.  Hulu is a website that allows you to watch most TVs shows the day after they come out on TV. That would satisfy most people, but Hulu blocks GoogleTV. When  you try to acces the Hulu website, you get a message that says something like “we see that you are using GoogleTV. you can not access hulu at this time, but we are working hard to make this available to you.”  So what that means is Google wants to set up an paid service for its users. It will be cheap, currently you can get Hulu premium on your pc for $10/month. I bet Google is telling Hulu to set it up or we’ll take you over and give it out for free.

I think this will succeed because of Google’s biz model for everything. They offer everything free or super cheap & somehow(thru ads) still make tons of money from it. With that model they can focus on the service and not worry about locking in manufacturers or any specific technology. They can make a great user experience & that doesn’t usually happen with new technologies.

I’ve only touched the surface of GoogleTVs capabilities.  You really have to see it in action to fully understand it.

Sep

16

Analog Sunset
Posted by jwalter

This is a term that you’re going to start hearing a lot of soon. This is the day that HD content will no longer be available on analog devices.

So what does that mean?
Basically,  you will no longer be able to transfer HD video via an analog cable such as component video.

Some manufacurers are already starting to limit the number of analog jacks on their equipment. Two of  Denon’s lower end receivers only inlcude 1 analog video input. So if you have, for example a Wii and a control4 controller, you’re out of luck. This is just the start. Denon may have jumped the gun and started earlier than other manufacturers, by others will follow and eventaully we will be left with only HDMI inputs on equipment. It starts Dec 31, 2010 and is mandatory by 2013.

So what’s wrong with that?
HDMI is not just a cable. It requires software at each component. And they have to sync up to each other. They both have to have the same version of HDMI. There’s many different versions and really no authority to oversee it all. It can get ugly, quick.

So why are they doing it?
Its mainly about copyrights. The Advanced Access Content System (AACS), the governing body, which is made up of content providers, such as movie studios, doesnt want it to be possible to copy HD. I guess they have a lot of power. Unfortunately for them the HDMI coding algorithm was hacked yesterday.

Aug

27

Today we are finishing up a system in a dentist office that should become a model for other businesses. Bluewave Dentistry in Brunswick Forest went beyond what we ordinarily install in a commercial building. Of course we installed a great sounding audio system. Along with the audio system, we installed a couple flat panel monitors set up to play DVDs or Digital advertising. But we went a step further with this project that really should become the standard for business. We installed a control4 automation system. With this system, the last employee leaving the building can double tap a light switch located near any exit and it will shut down the audio system, the TVs, video sources, all lights & other equipment. In the morning, the same switch turns everything on. The peace of mind of knowing that everything is off when your closed and comes back on to the exact way you want your business to look & feel, is reason enough to install a system like this. Then there’s the fun factor, like being able to operate the entire system from an ipad. Each individual light, all of the music sources and TVs & custom scenes can be adjusted from the simple to use Ipad. We included a Sonos music server that allows you to choose Pandora, Last.FM and many other music sources…all accessible from the Ipad or anywhere in world that has an internet connection
This is a large building. We set up a lot of lighting zones, lots of speakers and it was surprisingly inexpensive.
I can see these systems in every restaurant or retail location. In these types of businesses ambiance is everything & it must be consistent day after day. The cost of these systems can range from a few thousand to about 15,000 for a very large system, which is much, much less expensive than it used to be just a few years ago. The benefits of this system will quickly pay itself off.

Aug

20

So many lightning strikes
Posted by jwalter

This season is quickly becoming the worst for lightning strikes that I have seen. We have had at least a dozen or more service calls to assess damage from lighting strikes. We usually see this happen mainly on the beaches where the houses are very tall, but this season its everywhere.
Most people think that adding a surge protector will solve the lightning strike issues. That’s not completely true. It certainly doesn’t hurt to use a surge protector on your TVs, audio equipment & computers, and we do recommend that & install them on all of our systems, but that doesn’t always go far enough.  If you really want to be protected, you should consider a whole house surge protection system. When we design these systems, we consider every component that connects from outside of the house to inside. For example, obviously, the power panel, but also the HVAC units, telephone, cable TV, landscape lighting & even exterior speakers. If we install proprietary surge protectors on all of those systems, we are cutting off the feeds between the inside and outside of the house.
These systems range from $1500 to 4 or $5000.  Most often when the home is struck, there is enough damage to easily cover the insurance deductible, but many people do not want to deal with the hassle of replacing so many things in their home.  Now if only the insurance companies were forward thinking enough to offer a discount for protected homes, but the don’t.

Aug

19

Why am I blogging
Posted by jwalter

Let me start by saying I am not a fan of the word blog. Im not exactly sure why, but probably becasue it is so over used and the fact that there are so many useless blogs out there in the Blogosphere…Which is another term I dislike.

With that said, this blog does have a purpose and I hope that you find it informative and useful.

My name is Jason Walter and I am the owner of Electronics2You. We have been operating in Wilmington, NC for over 10 years. We provide audio/video, lighting and other technologies to the residential & commercial markets. We are always on the cutting edge of technologies. Some of our projects are extremely large and complex. I plan to discuss these projects as well as emerging technologies on the blog. I’ll even discuss some of the positives and negatives of operating a business in the current economic state.

This is my first blog. If you stay with me, you’ll notice changes to the design layout and other techniques as I learn them. So bare with me & enjoy.

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