What It’s Like to Live in This Smart, Energy-Efficient Home of the Future
Smithsonian, July 22, 2015. Image credit: HondaSmartHome
The Honda Smart Home, completed last spring, is an experiment in efficiency. With 1,944 square feet of comfortable living space, the structure uses 75 percent less energy and three times less water than a typical home. It runs on solar energy and a battery system for storing solar electricity that is then used at night, and doesn’t need a conventional air conditioner and heater, a remarkable feat when temperatures easily climb to the 90s in summer days and dip to the 30s in winter nights. The home’s automated and energy-efficient LED lighting system helps to regulate humans’ sleep-and-wake cycle by adjusting the brightness and warmth of the lights to mimic the shift in natural lighting throughout the day.
The house is equipped with an energy management system Honda created to monitor and manage its energy production and consumption. Though it’s connected to the electrical grid, the abode produces more energy than it uses throughout the year, making it a “zero net” home. California requires all new homes to be zero net energy starting in 2020. Honda posts the home’s architectural and technical designs online, says Michael Koenig, who leads the smart home project.
While Honda is best known for making cars, it has a broader interest in developing technologies for dealing with climate change. The smart home allows Honda and UC Davis researchers to test gadgets, software and design, of their own or from other companies, and monitor how well they work together. Some of the technologies are already available to consumers, such as solar panels installed by SolarCity and the energy-efficient Bosch dishwasher and Kitchen Aid refrigerator. Other technologies are employed in novel ways. LED lights are programmed to mimic the change in color and warmth of natural light—white and bright in the morning and yellow and warm near dusk—that research has shown affects human health. Then there are quite a few experimental technologies, such as the house’s heating and cooling system and Honda’s own energy management system that monitors and controls electricity production and use throughout the home. The university’s California Lighting Technology Center, Western Cooling Efficiency Center and other departments contributed to the home’s design.