Home control integrator Cantara wrote the code and integrated all the systems in the Honda Smart Home, and won an award for it at CEDIA.
There is so much happening behind the bright white walls of the Honda Smart Home that remains unseen.
Cool water is piped through those walls and under the floors to cool the house instead of using traditional air-conditioning. Warm water is piped through the floor to provide radiant heating.
The color of the lights changes imperceptibly through the day, from a soft blue in the morning to a rich amber in the evening. It’s a test to see if LED lighting can work with the circadian rhythms of the home’s new residents, who just moved in Oct. 1, to help them wake and feel refreshed in the morning and help them feel tired and go to sleep in the evening.
The residents are faculty members at the University of California at Davis and his or her family. The home was built on campus at UC Davis and researchers at the university will monitor the home’s energy and water use, and how the systems act and react on each other.
The electricity it uses is tightly monitored so that when this green, passive home is pulling electricity from the grid (which does happen), the house can decide what energy to buy and how it is generated, in six-second increments.
“When you walk into the home it looks like a normal comfortable beautifully designed house, but there’s nothing normal in the house,” says Jason Voorhees, president of Cantara, a home control and A/V integrator that was selected to create the software needed to control the Honda Smart Home.
A house this sophisticated needs a powerful computer system to control every aspect and that’s where Cantara succeeded. Last month Cantara won Best Integrated Home Level V: $450,001 & Over at CEDIA
“We think this is a really unusual and special project that with enough attention could change the conversation about what CEDIA companies do and our value and place in the homebuilding industry,” says Voorhees.
Doing It Bigger and Better (and Greener)
The concept for the Honda Smart Home got its start in Japan, where Honda completed a similar home in 2012. That home, called the Honda Smart Home System, got Honda’s United States division interested, and inter-company competition began. American Honda Motor Company tasked project engineer Michael Koenig with coming up with new concepts for an American version (which of course means bigger and better).
According to Voorhees, Keonig and his team created “a laundry list of technology fantasies they wanted to make happen” and then started shopping those fantasies to manufacturers, contractors and integrators.
“The concept is not just to take the home off the grid, the concept is what if we could make homes that are so efficient we could take today’s technology to power them and use them as tiny power factories to power buildings that are less efficient. You’re kind of balancing out legacy buildings,” Voorhees says.
Cantara won the home control and AV integration contract thanks to its use of AMX control systems. Cantara is one of the largest dealers in the country of AMX A/V and control solutions.
With the HSHus (as Honda calls it on its blog ) Koenig and his group wanted to build the most efficient home in the world and even be able to charge an electric vehicle without relying on the grid.
Through solar panels on the roof and prototype efficiencies the home, the Honda Smart Home is able to generate power for the home all day long, power the car every day, and still sell 2Kw of power to the grid every day—after charging a Honda vehicle.
Cantara’s job was to make sure every system within the home—plumbing, heating and ventilation, electricity, lighting, and the audio/video systems—all worked toward this goal.
That Was a Big Task.
Honda looked at everything. Every piece of furniture, every form of construction, every type of concrete for the floors and countertops for the kitchen was researched for the way it was built, the materials it contained, and the way everything used water and absorbed energy. Floors absorb heat, but so do sofas.
“Everything in the home was looked at and experimented with,” Voorhees says.
The system Cantara designed touches nearly every aspect of the home.
“Anything that uses electrons is under the umbrella of the control system we made for the house,” he says. “For instance, the heating and cooling system is so different, so next-gen and also so complex, there’s no thermostat in the world that exists that can control this system.”
Programming all of these systems took time. Phase 1 of the installation and programming was done in March during the home’s grand opening. Phase 2 was done over the summer and was completed Oct. 1, the day the family moved in.
“Over the summer we did some things that were really crazy,” Voorhees says.
Phase 2 programming included an algorithm that Cantara programmed with Honda that crunches data provided by the electric utility and selects the optimal time to charge the Honda Fit electric vehicle based on the generation source of that electricity. Utilities publish source of electricity to the public, at certain time utility purchases electricity made from coal, at other time they purchase electricity from wind power.
“Honda wants to buy electricity from wind generation, Voorhees says, “The system can crunch that and decide what electricity to buy and when to charge the car based on that.”
“Cantara’s system is the first in the world of home automation systems to connect and communicate with an EV,” Voorhees says.
“Say you pull the Honda Fit into the garage at 7 p.m., and the car’s battery power is almost empty. You can tell the car to either charge immediately, or to complete charging by a certain time. You can punch that time into the touch panel and the system will decide when to charge the vehicle.”
Being able to control what energy to purchase and when to buy it could be a big thing in green home control—especially as more smart grid services from utilities become available.