The Mayor of Houston, several financial institutions and the American Gas Association recently announced the launch of a new model for energy-efficient housing that, through a combination of high-tech insulation, new building materials and fuel cell technology, will reportedly reduce the energy bills for homeowners to zero.
After debuting two model homes in Houston’s Independence Heights neighborhood in late November, the technology commercialization company, Houze Advanced Building Science, said it plans to build about eighty 1,600- to 1,650-square-foot metal-frame homes in the area, according to The Houston Chronicle. The homes will come in four basic models and are expected to cost in the range of $145,000 to $225,000, Houze says.
That’s Houze, with a “Z-E,” standing for “zero energy,” the website reminds us. Of course, the development group has not managed to rewrite the laws of physics; the houses made by the company will use some energy from non-renewable natural gas. This fuel, however, will be used to run 10-kilowatt micro-cogeneration power cells that will generate more than enough electricity to power the houses. The excess energy, Houze says, will then be sold back to power companies and offset the cost of the natural gas.
Additional savings for those who purchase Houze homes include rebates of between 40 and 70 percent from insurance companies and mortgage lenders. Because of these energy savings, rebates and other incentives, Houze says it will offer a 10-year guarantee that homeowners will pay nothing for electricity or gas for at least 10 years.
One of the keys to the performance of the homes will be the use of “next generation” insulation materials, according to the Houze website. Using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS)—where a conventional house merits a rating of 120 to 150 points in terms of energy efficiency and an Energy Star-rated home must be at 85 points or lower—Houze says that it’s structure, alone, typically have a HERS rating of 44 points. When the fuel cell technology is paired with the house, the HERS rating will fall to zero points.
While the Houze units are currently planned for the Houston area, the company says it is developing public/private partnerships to expand the program to 35 other markets in the United States over the next two years and may also apply the technology to churches, schools and small commercial buildings.
Houze’s Net-Positive Energy Initiative also will be showcased at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas in January 2013.