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Zero-carbon living: Honda’s smart home to pave the way to a greener future

Hidden in the middle of California is a house that is designed to revolutionise the homes we live in by making our buildings produce more energy than they use.

In a matter of weeks the first occupants could be living in this smart house, which has been developed by Honda and the University of California.

The construction of the house was completed in the early part of this year after building work started last year. It collects enough energy from solar panels to run itself and a Honda Fit EV car.

The team at the house is now configuring the 270 data sources, which include all the electric loads in the house and solar output. When these are configured the house will be ready for the first occupants to move in.

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The project’s leader Michael Koenig told Factor that the project will help to create a zero-carbon lifestyle, but it has to give people financial reasons to want the technologies inside.

He said: “There should be some financial incentive, it should save them money on their utility bills or it should allow them to participate in an electrical market where they can buy and sell energy and create some financial value for themselves so that they are intrinsically motivated to have these types of homes and devices.”

The house hasn’t just been built for consumers though, or even for Honda to profit from the technologies further down the line, as Koenig explained: “One of the purposes of this project is to try to create a direct value to society and so one of things that we are trying to do is to advance the state of the art for green buildings, sustainability, and energy efficiency.”

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To help achieve the goal of a zero-carbon house, Honda’s Home Energy Management System (HEMS) is included.

It is a joint hardware and software system that controls and optimises electrical generation and consumption through the house’s micro gird.

The system stores solar energy that been generated during the day so it can be used it night when more energy is needed by those in the house. It is heated using only 20 percent of the energy a typical home uses.

Smart lighting is also used, which adapts to the body’s natural clock: blue-ish tones are projected during the day and amber tones are projected at night.

Koenig explained that the home aims to improve the occupant’s quality of life by adapting to their needs.

He said: “Once we keep having these types of smart homes and connected appliances and connected systems you can start having some very nice improvements like different light scenes at different types of day for example.

“It seems pretty trivial but it is actually really nice to be able to come home and have different lights on compared to when you get up at 10pm for a glass of wine.”

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The home is going to collect data for the next three years and those living in the house will be members of the university – which was agreed as part of the deal to use the land.

However the project could run for up to nine years in total, which would give the company a dearth of information about how smart homes and technologies can be designed further.

Matt Sloustcher, from Honda, said: “We wanted to create a realistic environment in which to evaluate the technologies that are found in the home so the occupant’s only obligations to Honda are just to live their life in the home.

“We wanted it to be very realistic scenario and more towards the end of a real home, real living situation and not a test lab environment.”


Images courtesy of Honda


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