Honda sees your Japanese “Smart Town,” Panasonic, and raises you an American “Smart House.” At the end of March, 2014, Honda revealed its Smart House on the University of California’s Davis campus. The University explained that the project is, “A Honda-developed home energy management system and an energy-efficient design that will allow the occupants to use less than half of the energy of a similarly sized new home in the Davis area for heating, cooling and lighting.
The home is also claimed to be three times more water-efficient than a typical US home. The Honda Smart Home strives to address two primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions: cars and houses. Not only is the house smart, green, and energy efficient, it includes a charging station for a Honda Fit EV (surprise, eh?) as part of Honda’s dream for zero-carbon living and personal transportation.
The home generates more power than it uses, a surplus of about 2.6 mWh per year, and is equipped with many other technologically innovative designs:
- The photovoltaic system on the roof ensures that the home generates enough power to run the home and charge the Honda Fit EV with excess to spare. The home can operate completely independently of the city’s power grid.
- A battery storage system allows this excess energy to be stored for use at night, when demand for electricity is high.
- Most solar panels convert energy into AC while most electric cars run on DC, but the home’s Honda Fit EV station supplies the car directly with DC power so as not to waste anything during conversion.
- The building is managed electronically by Honda’s HEMS (Home Energy Management System) which monitors the house, car, and energy storage system while communicating with the homeowner and energy company to optimize production and usage, donating power back to the utility when it can.
- Heating and cooling systems utilize geothermal energy and radiant heat/cooling in the floors.
- By utilizing volcanic ash and post-tension techniques, the home was built using less than half the usual amount of concrete, a huge CO2 emitter.
- Dual-flush toilets with WaterSense certification, low-flow faucets, a high-efficiency washing machine and dishwasher, climate-specific garden plants, and greywater recycling make the Honda house three times more water-efficient than a typical American home.
- Construction materials were chosen based on their “healthiness;” they avoided using materials that project volatile compounds or contribute to pollution.
“What we are trying to do is develop a technology pathway to meet California’s goal of having zero net energy homes,” Steve Center, VP of the Environmental Business Development Office of American Honda Motor Co. Inc. says, “But we are also trying to exceed that by including transportation in the solution.”
The University of California’s Davis campus says that they will not only showcase Honda’s vision, but the home will serve as a “living laboratory” where researchers from Honda, UC Davis, and Pacific Gas and Electric will experiment with new technologies that could influence business, housing, transportation, energy, and environmental preservation.
The university is planning the largest zero net energy housing development in the US, the West Village, and if they succeed, it will demonstrate the pathway for full integration of smart energy in the housing market. Taking a more global perspective, Panasonic partnered with local Japanese firms for the construction of an electric-car friendly smart town, Honda has partnered with PG&E and UC Davis to create a smart neighborhood, and Ford has collaborated with Whirlpool, SunPower, Eaton, and Nest to decrease homes’ carbon footprint.
We are in an age of a global intermingling of technology, partnership, and ecological responsibility that can only leave the construction of our futures, well… smarter.