Yes, that’s right. Not a smart car or a smart phone – a smart home. Considering that 3D printers are printing food these days, a smart home is not such a stretch. In fact, Statistica says revenue for smart houses in North America will hit $9.4 billion next year – a 42 percent jump from 2012. Honda’s smart home hints at the direction we’re heading, and it’s unique in that it was developed to show how both a house and an electric car can be powered by renewable energy. According to Michael Koenig, the project leader for the Honda smart home, the initiative was designed to showcase “Honda’s vision for zero-carbon living and personal mobility.”
Welcome to the “Zero Net” World
All of the energy used in the house and to charge the car is monitored and controlled by a Home Energy Management System (HEMS) designed by Honda. Solar energy is stored during the day and then used at night when more electricity is demanded and the car needs to be charged. All in all, the 1,944-square-foot Honda smart home actually produces more energy than it uses – 75% less than a typical home – which makes it a “zero net” home. It’s fitting that Honda’s smart home dwells in an entire community that’s zero net, UC Davis West Village in California – the largest of its kind in the nation.
Bye-Bye Old-School Heat and AC
What may be most amazing about this home is that it remains comfortable to live in without an air conditioner and heater. This is achieved in a number of ways, from sloping eaves on the windows, to thicker walls, to a roof that reflects light. But the real star of the heating and cooling show is a unique heat pump system that regulates the indoor temperature. Holes are dug into the ground to use the earth’s temperature to heat or cool water, which is then run through the house in pipes under the floor and in the ceiling on the second floor. This isn’t a new idea. What is new is the size of the holes they dug. Typically, they’re dozens of feet deep and small in diameter. Honda’s smart house heat pump holes are 24 inches wide by 20 feet deep. According to Jonathon Woolley, one of the engineers at UC Davis who designed the system, this can reduce the cost of the heat pump system by 90 percent!
With innovation like that, smart homes could become mainstream before we know it. To learn more about Honda’s smart home, check out this video.