Building residential units that use less energy has, over the past half decade, become a goal shared by many architects, designers and consumers alike. But is it possible to build a home that actually produces more energy than it uses?
A recently-launched experiment out of the University of California-Davis hopes to answer just that.
The goal of the Honda Smart Home US, a collaboration between the automaker and scientists at the university, is to see whether it’s possible to not only eliminate the combined carbon footprint of both car and home, which account for a 44 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S., but to toss power back to the grid, too.
The experimental 1,944 square foot, two-bedroom unit, located in the west village of the University of California, Davis, was unveiled late last month. For three years, a group of up to four faculty and staff members will live in the home while researchers monitor how it performs under the day-to-day demands of human occupants. Researchers hope to have the group move in by September.
Whereas a conventional house of similar size consumes about 13.3 megawatt-hours of electricity a year, the smart home, through a series of energy-saving modifications, would actually generate an estimated annual surplus of 2.6 megawatt-hours, according to computer simulations.
Like with other “net-zero” concept homes, the smart unit’s power supply comes from an array of roof-mounted solar panels. Electricity is converted from sunlight through a 9.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system and then funneled through Honda’s custom-built home energy management system (HEMS), a wall-mounted white box mounted in a room next to the garage. The device is programmed to distribute the influx of renewable energy throughout the home as efficiently as possible. Researchers say power for all of the home’s heating, cooling, water, lighting and appliances is supplied by the panels; the home also generates enough energy to recharge a Honda Fit, an electric plug-in vehicle that occupants will use for daily commutes. . . .