The Smartest Home in Highland Park

It's the house that's ecologically smarter than the rest of the block: Welcome to 1422 Greystone, Lissa Rosenthal and Nathaniel Glosser’s smart home.

Every house gets older with time. Many houses get larger with the addition of new rooms and decks. But until recently, very few houses actually became more intelligent.

This is the ongoing story of 1422 Greystone Drive, a house located at the end of a quiet block in Highland Park. A simple brick home built in the 1920s, it was given an eco-friendly makeover in 2006 and 2007 by owners Lissa Rosenthal and Nathaniel Glosser.

The pair created an open floor plan in part to maximize the home’s natural light and filled the interior with custom cabinetry, tables and decorative woodwork—all made from rapidly renewable bamboo. They also installed the beginnings of a home-automation system.

But it wasn’t until last year that the “brains” of the house really began to grow. Now, the expanded Smarthome INSTEON automation system increases energy efficiency and comfort in the house by specifically controlling the lighting and parts of the heating and cooling systems.

This system can be controlled via Glosser’s desktop computer in the kitchen or by using a laptop or smartphone anywhere in the world. As long as Glosser and Rosenthal have an Internet connection, they can communicate with the house.

With a few keystrokes, the homeowners can set a preplanned pattern for the lighting that gives just enough illumination for the time of day or activities they have planned. Or they can manage individual lights or zones of the house based on their preferences. And a push of a button turns on “vacation” mode, making sure lights are on to deter burglars. 

At bedtime, Glosser taps an iPhone app, and the system instantly switches to the nighttime mode, which turns off any unneeded lights and leaves a path of subtle illumination from the second-floor master bedroom down to the main-floor kitchen. This setting uses very little energy and provides enough light for use during a late-night emergency.

“Additional expansions are planned,” says Glosser, “which include integration with the security system, keyless remote entry, garage door monitoring and control, irrigation control and ambient light sensors for data input.”

The initial expense, he says, comes back to a homeowner fairly quickly through lower utility bills.

“You’re using only the energy you need,” Glosser says.

Energy-Saving Tips

Here’s Glosser’s advice for using electricity efficiently and getting the most out of a home-automation system:

  • To cut down on the need for artificial light, consider opening up walls or portions of walls between rooms to spread natural light throughout your living space. Also, consider adding skylights and replacing solid wood doors with ones mostly made of frosted glass.
  • Rather than using basic on/off switches, install as many dimmers as possible. Glosser has individual INSTEON In-Line Link dimmers on each recessed ceiling light in the kitchen and on just about every other light fixture in the house, allowing him to pinpoint the level of light he needs. You may find you prefer lights on a lower setting rather than on full power, and thus use much less electricity.
  • Install extra electrical outlets so that items like phone and laptop chargers can be plugged in exactly where necessary. You’ll eliminate the need for extension cords and will plug in items only when and where you need them.