Case Study by Nancy Klosek | Photography by Adam Hahn
Besides the widespread devastation caused by 2020’s California wildfires, their occurrence brought front and center a host of additional concerns. For those homeowners fortunate enough to have had their property spared, among those concerns was anxiety over the effects of power interruptions.
The California-based integration firm Custom Home Technology (CHT) worked with one homeowner to tackle this worry head on, by including in the project proposal the sonnen ecoLinx energy storage solution as part of a grand game plan that would “deliver clean, reliable power that would keep his nerve center and connection with the outside world alive in the event of a power outage,” as John Michael Dogol Sr., the integration firm’s founder, told Connected Design.
“That’s when we recommended sonnen,” he continued. “The client was very enthusiastic. He is not satisfied with residential or commercial grade; he likes industrial grade. He said, ‘I don’t want to just do my A/V and Internet access – I want to protect my whole house.’ So we grew the project from one sonnen energy storage battery system to six.
“A lot of people don’t realize that you can be in the middle of the sunniest day of the year, and have tons of solar power being generated, but when you have an outage, the solar gets disconnected, the solar detects no grid power, and it shuts off. You don’t have solar – unless you have a solution like a sonnen battery.” He continues, “What sonnen does is simulate grid power from its own battery, and it will signal the solar power to come back on. The grid can be down, but the sonnen battery will keep delivering.”
The owner was not only receptive to adding sonnen systems to his connected technology setup, but was enthusiastic, too, about the installer’s recommendation of Crestron’s Digital Media System, which would also involve an upgrade to the 1080p video distribution system currently in place, allowing him to fully enjoy the ultra-high-resolution performance of today’s top-tier televisions.
In addition to sonnen, the CHT team also incorporated Adapt Energy-developed panels to work with the sonnen batteries to provide energy automation, using Artificial Intelligence, he said. “The system will look at weather reports, and if it’s going to be rainy, it will charge the batteries to 100 percent. It optimizes your energy storage where, if you’re going to have a heat wave, it will lower your A/C a few degrees so that it doesn’t have to fight to overcome the heat. It will also look at weather three days into the future, and adapt according to whatever conditions you’ll be facing,” he explained.
The owner also now benefits from a “time of use” program relating to energy usage in California, designed to keep energy costs down by encouraging certain periods of use during off-peak hours. The system charges in the morning, and then begins discharging energy in the early evening, and recharges via solar the next morning, he said.
“We made it all really simple to use, and he is very happy with it,” he added.
Partnering with sonnen
John Michael Dogol Sr. also commented that as he got “my mind wrapped around the benefits and features of sonnen,” it made sense to opt for their solutions and partnership.
By the same token, Jessica Weiss, national business development manager, Energy Automation and AI at sonnen, Inc., says the company is equally appreciative of the partnerships it has forged with the integrator community. “We’re dedicated to helping our partners seamlessly integrate energy storage into their offering so that they can provide a differentiated, best-in-class solution and greater value to their clients,” Weiss said, citing the company’s “360 degrees” of support. “At sonnen, we pride ourselves in providing the right resources and unparalleled support for success. We help our integrator partners every single step of the way. From personalized trainings and marketing, to design support, project management, and commissioning, our team of experts is ready to assist.”
Q&A Perspectives: Residential Designer Robert Platt
Residential Designer Robert Platt, of the Atlanta, Ga.-based firm Habitations LLC, spoke with Connected Design in general terms about why he factors sonnen intelligent energy solutions into his planning process with clients.
Connected Design: Tell us about your business – and how you became involved in collaborating with custom integration firms that install connected-home technologies for homeowners.
Robert Platt: We are a residential design firm specializing in major renovation design. The idea is to save as much of an existing structure as possible while achieving the design intent of the owner. In the end, we save about 18 percent of the structure at a minimum – and usually much more. That means less impact on the environment, landfills, and old-growth communities. The home rarely resembles the base we start with. For the property owners willing to pursue this avenue, rather than bulldozing and starting over, we see it as the highest form of recycling in the industry.
We’re very proud of our clients that choose this path. To that end, we are getting more calls for investigation into renewable energy options for their projects. It has been an adventure, to say the least.
When – and why – did you begin factoring in intelligent energy storage solutions offered by sonnen into your design plans?
It’s a long and winding road… hey, I think I have a song here! Seriously, it has been. First, we had to wind our way through the PV (photovoltaic) world. Once we established a PV vendor and a projected average yield, we came to the issue of how to use the energy we proposed to harvest from the sun – another interesting leg of the journey that ultimately led us to sonnen as the most effective solution, without question. This facet was a consideration of so many factors: industry tenure, successful installations, product options, long-term recycling considerations, overall performance, effective life and long-term support, among many other concerns; sonnen opened us to a world of new options – primarily, beyond truly effective storage, managing that energy wisely. With sonnen’s guidance, storage options in union with Adapt Energy technology were the door to success, in this instance.
What were the main benefits of including sonnen products into your planning?
They stood out as an independent, proactive solution. They are a more costly solution, yet a better value. Cost cannot be the single point of evaluation in this emerging industry. The first consideration was the “fine print” with other vendors.
Like other technologies in the housing industry overall, pro-rated performance and subsequent warranties are the rule. We saw the competitors with a notable diminishing return on performance and a subsequent shrinking warranty… Since I don’t have 10 or 20 years to sort it out through experience, sonnen addresses that performance expectation with a warranty that supports their claims. Next came the very real consideration of recycling at the end of the system’s life… sonnen has a proactive plan founded in the very architecture of the system. I liked that. In the planning stage, they offered us real support. The only people that find the renewable energy world easy to navigate are those in the renewable energy world. For those of us with other missions, not so much.
They brought assistance to the table that aided enormously in building our first custom system and our understanding of the options. They knew what questions to ask so that we could provide the appropriate data to develop a solution. For example, with sonnen, we developed a rather impressive level of expectation in performance… [It]has certainly been a collaborative effort, with sonnen as the leading edge.
Do regional factors come into play when specifying sonnen product solutions for a project? Are there special circumstances – for example, the location of a home, or the amount of time or the seasons the owner will likely spend in that home – that make specifying sonnen solutions all the more important?
With PV, region, orientation and so much more are certainly dominant factors shaping performance. However, with sonnen, storage is actually the mitigating factor that overcomes much of the challenge. The first part of the question is greatly a product of geography and fate. Planning helps to a degree, but some things cannot be planned away. Conversely, sonnen storage allows us to handshake with the physical environment and use the grid in a more flexible way, thus bringing the best of both energy sources together. I’d say that’s more than important. It’s critical…
Their personnel have stayed with us every step of the way and responded to changes in scope and scheduling without a hesitation. Great people. In addition, they listen. It’s voices like mine, a person outside of the industry, they need to hear. We are the link to the consumers, and sonnen gets that.
Facts About sonnen for Architects & Designers
Jessica Weiss of sonnen offers that the company’s intelligent energy storage solution is also a great way for architects and designers to get involved with integration projects to differentiate their designs, help achieve residential energy standards, and add value for their clients with:
• A safe, reliable, long-lasting, and intelligent solution that works with other technology in the home to automate energy management.
• A flexible battery storage system for an ultimate, clean energy smart home – offering backup power, time-of-use management, 24/hour solar self-consumption, and energy automation (when paired with an automation platform).
• Increased energy independence and resiliency – by managing and maximizing the use of clean energy during peak periods, power outages, and beyond.
• Energy security and peace of mind – by safeguarding and protecting what they treasure most.
• More reliable, consistent power in the home to offset challenges often associated with power outages and rolling blackouts/brownouts. • A lower carbon footprint and an eco-forward lifestyle – by powering the home using stored sunlight and using energy most efficiently.
• The foundation for a clean energy future – with opportunities to design sustainable, revenue-generating clean energy communities via a network of solar + sonnen batteries that can be connected to offer lasting energy management and resiliency benefits for both residents and local utilities.
Custom Home Technology
888 Prospect St., Suite 200
La Jolla, CA 92037
858-467-9996 / 858-245-9221
John Michael Dogol Sr., Founder firstname.lastname@example.org www.cht.life
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Nancy is a contributing editor for Connected Design