- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
From the outside, as Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson pointed out, it looks like a normal home, but little is normal at least today about a house that produces as much energy as it consumes.
KB Home, a Los Angeles-based home building company, opened a model home in Waldorf this week aimed at saving the homeowner money while allowing him to be environmentally friendly.
The model is loaded with energy-efficient appliances, lighting and fixtures combined with renewable energy sources.
The home, according to information provided by KB Home, is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes.
The “net-zero” home, the second of its kind built by KB on the East Coast, is named ZeroHouse 2.0 and is Energy Star certified and WaterSense labeled.
KB Home has eight similar houses on the West Coast.
Robinson (D) took a tour of the home along with vendors, federal Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy representatives and students interested in entering the trade workforce.
From the front of the house, the only indication that the four-bedroom home nestled in the Middletown Woods community is capable of producing its own energy is a small sign in the yard. Stepping into the backyard and peering at the roof reveals 9.6 kilowatts worth of solar panels, which KB Home representatives said is the largest single component that helps the home reach self-sufficiency and protect against rising energy costs.
Troy Bevilacqua, with SunPower, the company that installed the panels and partnered with KB Home, said solar panel installations on homes are on the rise.
Last year, Bevilacqua said KB Home built 300 solar-powered homes in the U.S.
This year, KB Home built more than 1,000 solar powered homes.
“This is the direction the product needs to go,” Bevilacqua said during a press conference Wednesday outside of the model home.
In the model home, Bevilacqua demonstrated that a homeowner simply needs an Internet connection to see the progress of the solar power, how much energy the panels are producing versus how much the home is consuming and what areas of the house are producing the most energy.
SunPower does all of the analyzing of data remotely and data is collected every 15 minutes.
Vince DePorre, regional president of KB Home, said the monitoring system is one of the most unusual features of the home.
“For us that yell at our children to turn off lights and stuff, you can actually see it’s effectiveness,” he said.
Using the sun’s energy and being able to see just how the home is producing and using energy “reduces utility bills and improves the homeownership experience,” Bevilacqua said.
Robinson asked what happens to the energy the panels produce that is not consumed, say in the middle of the night when homeowners aren’t using as much electricity.
Bevilacqua said that energy is stored and can be used later.
“It’s like depositing money you don’t need into a bank account,” he said.
The net-zero home saves on water and heating costs with a Velux water heater, a solar hot water system that has an 80-gallon storage tank and is fed by collectors on the roof. The water heater can keep water hot at all times.
Faucets, toilets and shower heads were designed to use 2 percent less water than modern homes and with a click of a button, hot water is available in just one second.
These features gave the home a WaterSense label.
Michael Shapiro, deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the Waldorf home is the first WaterSense-labeled new home in the Washington, D.C., area and saves nearly 50,000 gallons of water a year.
While solar power is the big factor in the home’s energy and water savings, additional features such as an energy-efficient heat pump also play a role in cost savings and green features.
Carrier the heat pump manufacturer representatives said Wednesday that the heat pump is designed so that the indoor and outdoor units essentially speak to each other to use the correct amount of energy based on previous cycles.
All of the home’s windows are dual-pane and highly efficient, further contributing to energy savings.
Among many other eco-friendly features, the garage is equipped with a car charger, and the landscaping, provided by Denison Landscaping, was done using energy-efficient pavers and native plants.
With all of the up-to-date technology and energy- and water-efficient features, the price of the home might sound like a concern.
Cara Kane, director of communications for KB Home, said the house, with all of the features discussed, sits at about $450,000, comparable to other homes in the area.
This home, however, has the potential to save homeowners $6,000 annually on energy costs, according to information provided by KB Home.
KB Home representatives said homebuyers interested in the features are not locked into the whole package, as the homes can be built to the homeowner’s specifications.
Jerry Estep of Lexington Park walked through the home Wednesday with fellow trade students.
Interested in the construction trade, Estep said homes with energy- and water-efficient construction are becoming more common due to cost savings for the homeowner.
Home builders, as he said he would like to be one day, need to stay up to date on these new designs in order to keep up with the times.
As for building it, Estep said he sees the homes as potentially more time-consuming but worth it.
Sam Rashkin, chief architect at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program, said Wednesday that the net-zero house has exclusivity, is ultraenergy efficient and is technologically savvy among other features.
When it comes to the future of homes, he said, “if you don’t go where this house has gone, ask yourself if you will be relevant in the future.”