While still not mainstream, the idea of having a smart and/or green home is gaining momentum, even in the eco-challenged United States. Technologies control and automate everything from entertainment to energy use and can save and provide energy to an unprecedented degree. But a big problem is that the many manufacturers do not always make products that work together.
Perhaps a harbinger of the future is Panasonic, which is shifting its focus to sustainable home technologies in a big way. Its new Smart House, a demonstration project in Tokyo that will soon be available to homeowners throughout Japan (they’re even building an entire community of them in Fujisawa, a city south of Tokyo) utilizes all of the company’s green gizmos in one place. Since they’re all made by the same company, they play nice, and together can save significant amounts of energy and money. How much energy? The goal is to make these homes net zero, with the help of both energy reduction and production technologies. None of the ideas are completely new, but their bundling in one package is. Other companies are beginning to explore similar strategies, while the National Association of Home Builders has even built a show house equipped with an array of smart technologies (albeit often by different makers), called the New American Home, located outside of Las Vegas.
Below is a look at a few of the Panasonic Smart House’s offerings.
Home Energy Management System
The system visualizes the amount of energy used in the house, and breaks it down by appliances and equipment. It displays progress made toward an energy-saving target and provides advice on how to be more efficient.
Ecological Life Ventilation System
A hybrid air-conditioning system combining natural and mechanical ventilation, the “Wind Passage Tower” takes in cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.
Optimizes brightness of multiple lights. By delivering sunlight to the ceiling and walls, the system makes a room brighter and saves energy.
LEDs last for years, use very little energy, and generate almost no heat.
Heat Pump Technology
This technology gathers, transfers, and utilizes heat from the air to power refrigerators, air conditioners, washer/dryers, and hot water supplies.
Vacuum Insulation Panel
E-Vacua, a vacuum insulation panel made partly from recycled TV screens, can provide thermal insulation in a much thinner package.
Panels on a home’s roof generate power with no carbon dioxide emissions.
This technology generates electricity in a home using gas and air.
Storage Battery Unit
This is a home energy storage system using large lithium-ion batteries.
Link with EVs
Renewable energy created at home can be stored at home by linking homes and cars with a household recharging stand.
AC/DC hybrid wiring system
Electricity is delivered to homes as alternating current (AC). But electricity from solar cells and storage batteries is direct current (DC). The hybrid wiring system allows devices to use currents from either system without losing energy through conversion.