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August 7, 2013

‘Zero Home’ makes more power than it consumes

New smart home is turned on it Utah.

By Ben Sullivan

The builders of a new smart home in Utah have claimed it will be the first of its kind for this climate – a smart home that produces more energy that it consumes.

At a price comparable to traditional homes, the "Zero Home" comes equipped with solar panels and an energy management system that includes a smart thermostat and energy analytics. It also comes with an electric vehicle charging station.

The technology is provided by home automation company Vivint, which was listed at 46 in Forbes’ Most Promising Companies of 2013.

The three-story home achieved a negative one rating on the House Energy Rating System (HERS), which in the US is the Department of Energy’s scoring system for measuring residential energy performance. Standard houses typically have a HERS rating of 100.

The cost of this home stands at $400,000 – about the same price as regular homes in the same area as this one.

"There shouldn’t be any new homes not built this way," Vivint CEO Todd Pedersen told Forbes on the day before the unveiling. "Why not take advantage of current technology that provides ease of use, cost savings and change consumer habits? Why not have houses built like this?"

However, IDC analyst Jonathan Gaw sees this Zero Home project more as a showcase project for home automation and net zero homes than as an easily replicated product for other parts of the country.

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"It’s easier in a very sunny place where you don’t have a lot cooling needs," he said. "That’s clearly part of the trick."
And while the Vivint and Garbett claim zero utility costs, it is likely homeowners will need to stay on the utility grid for backup, said Matt Feinstein, an analyst at Lux Research.

"If it’s just solar with no backup," Feinstein asked, "then what happens if you get a string of cloudy days?"

Currently, Vivint is the largest home automation services provider in the North America with 800,000 units installed. And Vivint has been aggressively expanding into solar in the past year. Vivint Solar, which only started in the past year, is already the second largest residential home installer in the US.

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