June 27, 2010 – Vol.15 No.15
TWO INNOVATIONS IN ONE PACKAGE.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
A national home builder is now including solar and super energy efficiency as standard equipment in new homes at a reasonable price. That’s fantastic. It’s about time. Green homes for the masses. That’s innovation one.
Innovation two is the solar energy technology installed in those homes: electricity and thermal energy from the same system.
Meritage Homes, one of America’s top ten home builders, is now constructing more than 200 homes near Phoenix, Arizona that will be up to 80 percent more energy efficient than typical existing homes of the same size.
Green construction, standard in each home in the new Lyon’s Gate community, will begin with a high performance outside wall system that is 9 inches thick and filled with sprayed-in foam insulation. The company says its outside walls are 3.5 times more energy efficient than in most homes now built.
Keeping tabs on the home’s frugal energy consumption will be an electronic energy management system that will allow homeowners to monitor and control the home’s electrical system through an Internet connected computer or smart phone from anywhere in the world. Forget to turn down the air conditioning before you left on vacation? Log in and adjust the thermostat from that beach in Hawaii.
Since the houses are built in an arid climate, water use is an issue. The homes also come standard with a weather sensing irrigation system.
The standard equipment solar energy system on the homes is the major player in cutting energy costs. The Echo (tm) system provided by California-based PVT Solar generates both electrical and thermal energy.
The photovoltaic solar panels of the Echo system will supply electricity to run appliances as any PV system would. Additionally, however to bring overall efficiency up and cut utility bills, outside air is channeled beneath the rooftop solar array to draw heat from the underside of the panels helping to cool them while warming the air. The flowing solar heated air is then ducted into the attic space through the roof where it is sent to a unit the company calls an Energy Transfer Module. In that unit some of the heated air passes through a heat exchanger to make domestic hot water, and the rest is filtered to be distributed throughout the house for heating in colder months. In warm months nighttime cool fresh air flows through the system easing the load on the air conditioner.
Putting the waste thermal energy of the panels to work, providing heat and hot water, combined with the electricity generating capacity of the PV panels, bring the overall energy efficiency of the system to 50 percent. Without the thermal energy utilization the solar panels would be about 15 percent efficient.
Being able to sell the solar/energy efficient homes for well under $200,000 could be a game changer for the home building industry. The average sale price of a new home in the U.S. is now about $260,000. These homes, green stuff included, and ranging in size from 1600 to 3000 square feet, start at under $180,000. That price, combined with low utility bills and low environmental impact, should certainly bring in buyers even in a tough real estate climate. Low price and low energy costs should make a winner. Other builders will likely be watching.
There are eight floor plans available in single and two-story options. Construction is now underway and the model homes should be open by the time you read this. Lyon's Gate is located at Higley and Ray Roads in Gilbert, Arizona.
Meritage Homes Corporation
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