High-Efficiency Smart Home is Sales Tool

High-Efficiency Smart Home is Sales Tool

This is not your typical smart home. Or your typical green home. Or even your typical high-performance net-zero show home.

Indiana-based Granite Ridge Builders’ NextSTEP show home and Innovation Gallery is a place where green home dreams are made.

It features a Clare Controls home automation system, smart and efficient kitchen appliances, solar and geothermal power, automatically dimming LED lighting, automated blinds, digital locks, in an inviting setting warmed by an electric fireplace.

Not every buyer will get all the high-tech features in the NextSTEP (Smart Technology-Energy Performance) home. They’ll likely pick and choose what captures their imaginations. But unlike other “show homes” that display high-tech concepts of the future, all of the technology in this show space is available today and working.

Granite Ridge also has a partnership with Verizon, which also displays some of the technology from the NextStep home in its SmartStore in nearby Fort Wayne, Ind. Three local banks are also sponsors, and the home is being rented out for functions like parties, providing a chance to show off and get community leaders comfortable with smart home automation, energy-efficiency products, and putting renewable energies to work in a net-zero home that produced as much energy as it uses.

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Not Your Typical Smart Home

Granite Ridge has been a green builder and Energy Star partner. Brad Wallace and Jason Spuller attended the inaugural TecHome Builder Summit in March 2014, found Clare Controls and took the dive into home automation.

Granite Ridge NextSTEP Clare Controls
A Clare Controls home automation system operates security, climate and efficiency systems in the house.

“What’s it do for us as a builder? It really sets us apart,” says Brad Wallace, vice president of construction of Granite Ridge Builders. “We’re looking to do as much as we can in home automation to offer it.

The home automation system controls everything in the house, and several iPads are placed throughout so users can touch buttons and see lights dim, shades go up and down, call up music and entertainment. The Nest thermostat, however, is a working prop that people can play with, but which doesn’t affect the climate in the show home, for obvious reasons.

The Nest, Belkin WeMo products and some others are also offered at the Verizon SmartStore nearby. And that’s OK, because not every home buyer can do the whole automation deal.

“The goal is to sell new homes and have them upgradable as customers see fit,” says Spuller.

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Not Your Typical Net Zero Home

Not everyone would use a bevy of renewable energy resources such as solar photovoltaic (PV) for electricity, ground-source geothermal for heating and cooling, and solar thermal for hot water. But Granite Ridge included each to give home buyers a sense of the clean energy and low energy bills they can enjoy in a new home.

Granite Ridge NextSTEP solar barn
On the house and barn are 11.6 kw of solar, but it doesn’t scream high-end or ‘Green house!’ “We wanted house to look like normal, craftsman-style house that’s net zero and people wouldn’t look at it and say they couldn’t afford it,” says Brad Wallace of Granite Ridge Builders.

After building a tight structure and super-insulating it with values of R34 in the walls, R65 in the attic and R27 in basement, adding the renewable energy sources brings the NextStep home to below “net zero,” meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes. A HERS (Home Energy Systems Rating) rating of 0 is “net zero,” and the NextStep home is rated at minus-4, meaning it produces more energy than it consumes. The extra energy is sent back to the grid for credits via the solar PV system.

Efficiencies on the inside come via the home automation system. The lighting control is programmed to keep the efficient LED lamps at 85 percent illumination, which saves about 10 percent to 15 percent in energy needed for the lighting without people realizing the lights aren’t fully illuminated. Programming this into homes is a great way to get people to save.

All blinds are automated to open and close at certain times of the day to help defray heating and cooling costs.

And a great way to close a home automation option sale is simply by closing the door. When the digital door lock is secured, the security system is armed and the house automatically enters a low-power level.

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Not Your Typical Show Home

Open house, anyone? How about a party or get-together at the NextSTEP house instead—and rented out for occasions like holiday office parties.

“We draw people in that would never go out to an open house,” says Jason Spuller, Granite Ridge’s chief technology officer.

Granite Ridge NextSTEP ext
Renting out the NextSTEP show home for parties provides innovative marketing opportunities.

A recent get-togethers, people seem to have certain expectations, then drop their jaws upon seeing some of the smart home and energy efficient technologies work in the NextStep home, Spuller says.

After a local bank function there, Granite Ridge received an email from president of the bank, who was amazed at the quality and that everything worked so well.

This could have a great effect on sales, both for Granite Ridge and its high-tech installation partner, Audio Video Systems of West Angola. Ind. And it could make getting green mortgages a lot easier, now that bankers have gotten the technologies in their hands and have seen it work.

A key to selling smart home and energy efficiency tech is putting it in users hands, after all. That’s when people really get it and respond.

For more, see our webcast on the Energy Advantage!

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