Imagine keeping a 4,500-square-foot home cool throughout the hottest months of summer and not paying a dime for your electricity.
As improbable as it may sound, it's now a reality as M Street Homes, M-CoGen, BASF, Reliant and GE ecomagination have unveiled a new house in Houston that blends luxury living with the highest level of energy self sufficiency in a healthier, safer, stronger and smarter home.
The home -- dubbed SmartLux on Greenpark -- boasts a 39 Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which is the index by which a home's energy efficiency is measured. It can also conceivably create more electricity than it uses and can operate on or off the grid. This high performance home also saves water, reduces air contaminants and weathers storms better, all while providing an unsurpassed level of sustainable living.
"Our goal in building this home was to combine high performance and sustainability with luxury. People no longer need to compromise. It is truly the home of the future," said Randy Erwin, vice president of M Street Homes.
Leave it to Houston to find a way to blend luxury living with modern sustainability. In a city that lives in humid, triple digit temperatures during the summer, taking a Texas-sized luxury home off the grid is no small feat. To achieve this milestone, SmartLux on Greenpark uses a brand new technology, M-CoGen's PowerAire system, to power the entire home. This micro-trigeneration system is the first system of its kind available for the residential market. It takes the traditional micro-combined heat and power (MCHP) system a step further by adding cooling capabilities, which is a significant share of traditional electricity use.
There are several incentives to building a home of this caliber, as it was engineered to be energy efficient and structurally superior. Financially, homeowners are able to save, and may even earn money in the form of a bill credit on their electricity bill because the home can generate more electricity than it potentially consumes. This creates low to zero net electric utility bills and excess electricity returned to the grid provides a bill credit through a sell back plan and grid contribution agreement offered by Reliant.
Living is easy at SmartLux on Greenpark. The home features four bedrooms, four and a half baths, three living areas, a home theater, a wet bar area and an elevator. The tallest ceiling in the home towers at 28 feet while 78 windows ensure the home is light and bright throughout. What's even more amazing? The home only needs one five ton air conditioning system to cool it throughout.
"Typically cooling and heating comprise the lion's share of electricity usage in the average home," said Donald Williams, M-CoGen CEO. "Our system is unlike any other on the market today in its ability to offer both. Home electricity demand is reduced by as much as 70 percent, while the house has a virtually uninterruptable power supply. This advanced technology offers homeowners the ability to stay fully functional on or off the grid and could even create micro grids in the future if systems are tied together."
M-CoGen's PowerAire system's multiple power redundancies include solar power, a natural gas powered generator, rechargeable battery power, and interconnection to the grid, all of which contribute to a distributed solution, giving the home energy independence. The system can even tie into wind energy, if available, although it is not incorporated into this home.
The SmartLux on Greenpark home has sustainable features at every turn. BASF Spraytite® closed-cell spray polyurethane foam insulation and Enertite® open-cell spray polyurethane foam insulation are used to insulate the unvented attic and walls respectively. The closed cell foam in the attic strengthens the roof while creating a conditioned attic for the HVAC system, which is only three to five degrees warmer than the rest of the home. Additionally, the open cell foam in the walls not only insulates, but also air-seals, which helps to keep dust, pollutants and allergens out of the home. Together these products seal and blanket the home to provide a safe and comfortable environment for the homeowners.
"While the BASF technology aides in efficiency with heating and cooling, it also provides fundamental and structural benefits," said Chris Rosemond, construction science architect for the BASF Center for Building Excellence. "The unvented attic, along with state-of-the art insulation increases efficiency and racking strength, making the home better equipped to endure challenging weather conditions."
The home also provides a healthier indoor air quality as it is designed to prevent the flow of air contaminants, such as carbon monoxide, from undesirable locations. It is also better equipped to manage moisture, which lowers humidity, and in turn, reduces the development of mold, mildew and bacteria. A high quality -- MERV 10 (minimum efficiency reporting value) -- air filter was installed and the home's filtration system continuously circulates fresh, clean air throughout the home.
To top it all off, the house also has a highly efficient water system. With an on-demand hot water button installed at every sink, the home owner has hot water in seconds, rather than minutes in a normal home, saving thousands of gallons of water a year. GeoSpring™ water heaters, by GE ecomagination, a GE commitment, reduce water heater costs by more than $365 a year, based on DOE test procedures and direct comparison of a 50 gallon standard electric water heater, using 4879 kWh per year, and a GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater, using only 1830 kWh per year. This comparison also takes into account the national average electricity rate of 12 cents per kWh.
"GeoSpring™ Hybrid water heaters alone make a dramatic difference in the sustainability and cost of a home's water system," said Craig Lobel, founder of EcoEdge Consulting and lead consultant for GE ecomagination in Texas. "Combined with the other facets of the SmartLux on Greenpark home, the system created is incomparable to any other residential home on the market."
"We are pleased to have been chosen as the retail electricity provider of choice for this exciting new project. Reliant and NRG Energy have a strong commitment to helping change the way consumers think about how they use energy -- whether it's through plans like our sell-back plan, or through the smart energy services we offer," said Scott Burns, Director of Innovation at Reliant.
"Our parent company, NRG, is known across the nation for being an industry leader in the development of renewable and distributed energy solutions like solar power and electric vehicle charging. Taking part in advancement of new energy technology that is changing the lives of consumers is an important part of who we are as a company and we look forward to continuing to support customers as they adopt new approaches to their energy consumption."
SmartLux on Greenpark has received several external stamps of approval. The home meets requirements for several energy efficient building standards, namely: Environments for Living Platinum, BEYOND High Performance® approach from BASF, and the Department of Energy Challenge Home. Additionally, it exceeds most requirements for the GE ecomagination High Performance Home Program and U.S. Green Building Council LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for homes certification platinum.