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Honda’s experimental smart home is now open source

Updated on July 9, 2014 by Drew: After receiving thousands of requests from architects, builders, researchers, academics, policymakers, and enthusiastic members of the public, Honda has decided to make its experimental smart home completely open source. Starting today, all of the building plans, architectural and mechanical drawings, material specs, and raw 2D and 3D CAD data available to the public. In doing so, the company hopes that interested individuals across the globe will be able to use these plans as a starting point to build their own sustainable homes. To get your hands on these newly-available specs, just head over to HondaSmarthome.com and hit the downloads tab. There you’ll be able to access detailed info on everything from the home’s geothermal heating and cooling setup to its innovative energy management system.

Originally published 3-26-2014: In March, Japanese automobile manufacturer Honda held a Web conference to show off its latest experiment: a cutting-edge smart home designed from the ground up to showcase innovative technologies that enable zero net energy living and transportation. We tuned in to get a tour of the place, and liked what we saw.

The house, which resides in the West Village campus of the University of California, Davis, is capable of producing more energy on-site from renewable sources than it consumes annually, including enough energy to power a Honda Fit EV for daily commuting.

To make this possible, the house uses a combination of solar power, an intelligent energy management system, and a host of different low-energy appliances and fixtures. Due in part to the ultra-efficient design of the home, all of the energy needed for space heating, space cooling, ventilation, lighting, hot water, appliances — and even transportation energy for the Honda Fit EV — is supplied by a 9.5kW solar photovoltaic system mounted on the roof.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 10.38.05 AMSolar panels are definitely the lynchpin of the home, but the various high-efficiency systems hidden inside the walls and floors are arguably its most impressive feature. Take the geothermal heating and cooling system for example. In the ground beneath the house, eight 20-foot deep boreholes allow a geothermal heat pump to harness the ground’s relatively stable thermal sink to heat and cool the home’s floors and ceiling throughout the year.

Then there’s the house’s light system. Not only are the lights around five times more energy efficient than those found in the average American household, they’re also designed to better support the health and wellbeing of the home’s occupants. Honda worked with researchers from the California Lighting Technology Center at UC Davis to develop a lighting system that mimics natural shifts in daylight that occur from morning to night, so as not to upset the your circadian rhythm. At night, the lights will take on more of an amber hue in order to minimize your exposure to blue light, which halts the production of melatonin and makes it harder to sleep. In the morning, the lights automatically put off more blue to help put your body in an alert and energetic state.

All this stuff is definitely cool, but the most groundbreaking feature of Honda’s smart home is the company’s proprietary home energy management system (HEMS) — a combined hardware and software system that monitors, controls and optimizes electrical generation and consumption throughout the home’s microgrid. The system basically consists of a 10kWh lithium-ion battery that can store energy collected by the home’s solar panels and intelligently dish it out whenever you need power later on. And if the house ever creates a surplus of energy, HEMS can even supply power back to the grid.

The home is just an experiment right now, but even so, it stands as a shining example of what super-efficient, zero-impact homes of the future might look like. Find out more here.

Article originally published on 03-26-2014 under the title “Honda’s experimental smart home is so efficient it actually creates surplus power.”

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