Technology

Rewiring New Home Electricity For A Smart, Lower Energy Cost Future

China-based Lumen Cache proposes low-volt DC structured wiring solutions as currency shifts to microgrids and solar generated power.

Technology

Rewiring New Home Electricity For A Smart, Lower Energy Cost Future

China-based Lumen Cache proposes low-volt DC structured wiring solutions as currency shifts to microgrids and solar generated power.

February 14th, 2022
Rewiring New Home Electricity For A Smart, Lower Energy Cost Future
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From the things-happen-for-a-reason-in-building-as-in-life vault comes the story of Derek Cowburn. For the foreseeable future, the inventor, engineer, and serial entrepreneur will be apt to schedule his Zoom meetings to account for the fact that he's quarantining indefinitely in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

Cowburn and his 11-year-old home electric systems and construction job site lighting equipment company LumenCache – currently operating out of his temporarily permanent home in Shenzhen – may not yet register as household names among you and me, nor even among builders and installers of America's new-home electrical wiring and power systems.

Here's the thing though.

Construction technology break-throughs are what will make housing's future different than a past and present full of deep, chronic challenges to building affordably, sustainably, and profitably. Cowburn's bold plan to recircuit home power could fuse a solution to those chronic challenge areas of homebuilding.

On its surface, a pivot to a system that can eliminate upwards of $1,000 per home in copper wire costs for starters, and from there, impact installation time both at the MEP and conduit stages, and during lighting finishing phases of a home may get builders' attention in an environment besieged by supply chokeholds that domino into scheduling misfires among the 25 or so separate trade contractors, and ultimately elongate the start-to-completion process.

"The construction process is a team sport," observes Cowburn. "If an electrician doesn't retain their allotted slot in the schedule, it creates animosity and, more than that, logistical issues as you have different trades working on top of each other to get work done."

Electricity's moment as a climate-friendlier residential power source, and direct current [DC] power – like that generated for microgrids and produced by solar panels – emerges as a low voltage. more cost- and energy-efficient alternative to heavy, high-voltage AC currency systems. With a secure, China-based end-to-end supply chain in place to deliver an array of LumenCache products and platforms, Cowburn's turn as a name to know among building innovators may also be getting close.

This 2021 white paper analysis from PWC notes:

Image Source: PWC Strategy & analysis
An example of a small microgrid would be a home with features including the ability to use an electric car’s battery to provide current to the home, as well as vice versa (Exhibit 1), and an example of a large one would be a town with facilities and offices connected to such a network."

Core to the LumenCache value proposition is both functionality and constructability – its pieces and parts fit snugly together with a snap – and work compatibly with smart home technology platforms and home systems alike:

  • High Voltage DC (HVDC) is used to connect massive national grids together by resolving the AC phase synchronization problem.
  • 380vDC is used in data centers and mid-scale solar arrays and is making its way into household appliances.
  • Solar and Batteries enable Net Zero Energy (NZE) homes and buildings.  They are Direct Current (DC) devices.
  • LEDs, Solid State Lighting, and ALL electronic devices are DC internally and require adapters to work with AC power.
  • LumenCache connects the grid edge (devices inside your power meter) to the installed devices that consume the energy using proven structured wiring techniques.

Says, Cowburn, benefits to builders and their electrician installer crews have begun to prove themselves over time:

Source: Lumen Cache
LumenCache is unique in that it does not require one specific standard for protocol or voltage, instead each wire can have it's own standard and the backplane maintains compatibility between vendors and even versions over time. It's truly future-proof and made for interoperability – two of the largest complaints of builders with smart home systems. It doesn't suffer the reliability, coverage, and security issues of wireless. It's also simple as a light switch, fast to install, and requires no special software (or even a laptop or phone) to install. And it's at parity with the cost of AC lighting, so you get all the benefits for roughly the same cost."

For homebuyer residents, LumenCache low voltage DC lighting solution helps them integrate with their energy management and controls to achieve their low-consumption goals without sacrificing the bright and inviting lighting plan they want these days as part of health-and-wellness trends. Still, builders face the decision – to stay in their comfort zone of AC currency, or to switch. PwC's report notes:

The rise of DC will have an impact across many parts of a business, including research and development, supply chain management, and product development. Indeed, it will fundamentally affect the growth strategy of many companies. As Edison’s vision for electricity transmission makes a decisive comeback, business leaders will need to factor this profound shift in power technology into their thinking.

An inflection point may come sooner or later, but it's probably a matter of when not if it will happen. Cowburn's personal-professional version of "things-happen-for-a-reason" comes down to the fact that being stationed in Shenzhen during the entirety of COVID-19 has accorded him an on-the-ground opportunity to secure an 11-factory partnership infrastructure and a thickly robust supply chain that can allow Lumen Cache to stand out as a solution where chokeholds are cropping up as critical path impediments to progressing each home to completion.

We were perfectly on time to do what we're doing, only it started seven years too early for adoption," says Cowburn. "In China, there's a proverb and I've been using it to describe what it feels like as the moment becomes ripe, 'all we are waiting for are the winds from the east ... ' And, now, we're feeling those winds. And we're on Shinzhen time, which is 13 hours ahead of the eastern time zone. So, it feels like a transitional moment for this company. We're the future."

So, Derek Cowburn and Lumen Cache may not yet be household names, but if you heed what Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder and chief scientist Amory B. Lovins attests to in his recommendation of Cowburn to Chinese officials for a talent grant:

Mr. Cowburn's innovations ... extend ... to highly efficient and advantageous systems for other kinds of power, control, and integration, bringing many previously disparate devices into the Internet of Things in a uniquely cost-effective, flexible, and secure way ... It is brilliantly simple, and therefor highly regarded by experts in industry and government abroad....
... Please don't be concerned that Mr. Cowburn lacks a doctorate. So do I ..."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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