HOME OF THE FUTURE: ALMOST HERE TODAY?

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By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, EarthTalk

Photo:  This small rooftop wind turbine from Netherlands-based start-up The Archimedes can generate 1,500 kilowatt-hours of energy each year, which would account for about 15% of the typical American household's annual energy needs

April 12, 2019 (San Diego's East County) - Dear EarthTalk: Given all the advances in residential household efficiency, can you paint a picture of what the home of the future will look like?

—Jennifer C., Valmeyer, IL

No doubt, homes in the future, whether single family dwellings or apartments in larger buildings, will be much greener than what we are all living in these days. For starters, the use of sustainable, locally sourced (and ideally recycled) materials will be the norm, not the exception, so as to avoid the unnecessary emissions and resource consumption required to make new stuff and ship it around the world.

Homes of the future will be energy efficient. Part of this efficiency will come from better insulation, doors and windows to keep the heat/cold inside where you want it. The other part will come in the form of using renewable energy generated on-site, whether from rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, thin-film window treatments, solar shingles, micro wind turbines, kinetic energy harvesters, or other newfangled technologies. And all this self-sustaining energy will be stored in your own high-capacity batteries probably not so different from Tesla’s Powerwall array.

Homes of the future will also be smart. Your appliances, A/C, lighting, home security, motorized blinds, garage door openers and other systems will be connected to your network with controls available through apps over the Internet. And chances are, your future home will be smaller. The “tiny house” movement highlights how much homeowners can save on utility bills when space is limited. Efficiency can also be about use of space as much as about use of energy. While we won’t all live in tiny homes, downsizing will definitely continue to be “in.”

And what about outside your home? Don’t be surprised if your perfect lawn has been replaced by native plants attuned to the surrounding ecosystem. These hardy local plants won’t need chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides to thrive. Rainwater from your roof will be collected in cisterns, with the resulting “graywater” used to irrigate your landscaping. A green roof or vertical garden could top it all off.

While the picture painted above may seem far-fetched, it’s really not, given that you could build a home that met all of the above criteria today for not much more than a conventional home. That said, it might be greener still to retrofit your existing old-school home with eco-friendly upgrades than to tear it down and build a new one, given the emissions associated with manufacturing, materials transport and assembly on a new structure. While the new home will be more efficient, it could take decades to “pay back” the “carbon debt” accrued by building from scratch.

Of course, all buildings run their course eventually, so when it is time to tear-down, it’s good to know there are plenty of green options out there to replace the old homestead. And with California adopting new building codes that go into effect in 2020 calling on all new construction of single-family homes and low-rise apartments to meet zero net energy standards (whereby they generate as much power from on-site renewables as they consume from the grid), the future may be here sooner than we imagined.

CONTACTS: Tesla Powerwall, tesla.com/powerwall; “Tiny Homes Are Big On Energy Efficiency,” ase.org/blog/tiny-homes-are-big-energy-efficiency; “CA Building Code Takes Big Step Toward Net-Zero Energy,” nrdc.org/experts/pierre-delforge/ca-building-code-takes-big-step-toward-net-zero-energy.

Comments

Aren't energy generators like

Aren't energy generators like this dependent on the environment that you're in. I mean what do you do if you don't get a lot of wind where you are. Would it be useless then?

Archimedes wind turbine energy scam

Their energy kwh and their power kw numbers are an order of magnitude too high. ie, ten times higher than possible. Absolutely, no maybes ifs ands or buts. I suggest those outside reporters write a retraction. I value East County Mag so as much I had to put this out there. Miriam did not write this., ------------ Semi related topic,- Which I call the Scam of the Century - Smart meters-- I am individually fighting the demand by a big utility ( not sdge) -- that I have to have a smart meter ( by calling a Irton smart meter an ERT ( they have several different versions of what ERT stand for- ) installed to replace my dial - "mechanical" regular 1970s era meter.- if I don't allow the electric company to take away my working fine old meter and swap it with an Itron ERT= smart meter, they will not cut me off - totally - no electricity. I cannot find another perfect precedent instance in the US (nor the world) where a utility denies electric service to a person specifically for refusing an absolute demand- no ifs and or buts ERTsmart meter replacing an existing regular old dial meter. - or else I will not be allowed to have electrical service. Of anyone has some informational arguments that are not generally already well publicized, please find me and forward on to me - as I am in formal administrative/regulatory paper argument deadlines in a few weeks.

Converting older homes for energy efficiency

This Old House TV show has been showing a series on how they and homeowners have been remodeling older homes to be more energy efficient. Called Net Zero. Very interesting and doable, albeit costly.