There are numerous examples of highly energy efficient homes on the market, all featuring various types and combinations of technologies. For instance, Garbett Homes and Vivint have created a net-zero home in Utah that features a zero rating on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index. Builder KB Home has completed a house in Lancaster, California that is designed to use net-zero energy and zero freshwater for irrigation.
Similarly, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has been involved in net-zero residential projects for several years. Also, Meritage Homes offers net-zero homes at several of its communities in Arizona and Nevada. In addition, automaker Ford has partnered with several companies for its MyEnergi Lifestyle initiative that aims to demonstrate how homeowners can lower electric bills and reduce carbon emissions with a combination of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, smart appliances, and plug-in electric vehicles.
A new custom home in Houston, Texas offers another angle on residential energy efficiency that leverages the relatively low cost of natural gas as a way to lower electricity costs. The spec home features a micro-trigeneration system that is the first of its kind available for the residential market, according to the manufacturing company, M-CoGen. At the heart of the home’s energy production is a natural gas-powered unit, which operates with a traditional micro combined heat and power (microCHP, also called residential CHP, or resCHP) system and adds cooling and storage capabilities. The system can reduce overall electricity use by up to 70%. By adding cooling functionality, the system carries a new moniker: micro combined cooling, heat, and power (microCCHP). The system also incorporates a battery bank for energy storage and provides power management controls to enable the home to shed load and make decisions on time-of-day usage.
While this microCCHP system does not bring the home to net-zero functionality, it does provide homeowners with another alternative to the traditional one-way consumption model, particularly in markets where natural gas is plentiful and relatively affordable. Whether this particular generation solution will scale to thousands of new homes remains to be seen. Over time, though, this and the other combinations of onsite generation, storage, and energy management technology have a chance to disrupt the residential energy market, as rooftop solar PV systems have been doing for a number of years.
Tags: Construction Industry, Energy Efficient Buildings, HVAC, Home Energy Management, Smart Energy Program
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