Tesla Solar Roof set for local residence Smart Home PensacolaImagine a house so technologically advanced in efficiency and renewable energy that the building would generate enough energy to not only supply the home’s entire electricity needs, but also enough power to fuel the homeowners' electric vehicles.
That dream could soon become reality for the team behind Smart Home Pensacola – a two-story residence under construction on Bayshore Drive. Next year it will be one of the first adopters in the United States of the Tesla Solar Roof.
"What we're really interested in doing is showcasing the most innovative technologies, and that brings us back to Tesla with their new solar roof," said Dave Robau, Smart Home Pensacola project manager. "I've been working hand-in-glove with Tesla on this particular home design. We've worked with the architect, so that we get the slope correct for proper solar generation."
Robau expects the tiles to be ready for Smart Home Pensacola in 2018, possibly within the year's first quarter. The solar installation will be the finishing touch on the roughly 2,800-square-foot home.
The expectation is that the setup will supply enough electricity through the panels and Tesla battery technology to power the home all year with no need for supplementary energy from Gulf Power Company, the region's utility. In fact, the structure will generate so much electricity, it is anticipated to push excess back onto the grid through net metering. Finally, as a bonus, the panels will also look good.
"What you'll see when the Tesla Solar Roof gets installed is that it's aesthetically a very beautiful roof," Robau said. "With built-in photovoltaics, the solar panels themselves will actually integrate into the roof and it’s a very seamless design."
The property owners are John and Silvia Switzer. John Switzer's family history notably includes partial control of Lamar Advertising Company, an outdoor advertising company founded in 1902. The company today has more than 330,000 displays across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
On top of their forthcoming smart home, John and Silvia Switzer also drive Tesla automobiles. Robau said the home's solar generation will also power their electric cars.
In addition to the Tesla technology, Robau said that other aspects factored into the home’s energy efficiency. Instead of conventional materials used to construct building envelopes – typically stick frames and fiberglass insulation – the house uses structural insulated panels.
The panels consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural sheathing boards. A 2015 report the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded structural insulated panels "use only about one-fourth of the heating energy and one-sixth of the cooling energy required by" stick frames and fiberglass. In other words, less air leaks occur through structural insulated panels, which then cuts down on the need to run an air conditioning unit.
The home also will employ geothermal heat pumps, another means of saving energy. The pumps involve an underground piping system that utilizes solar energy absorbed by the ground. They then are able to heat, cool and in some instances, supply a house with hot water.
"Geothermal heats and cools more efficiently than a conventional air conditioner or air-source heat pump," said Danny Marshall, co-owner of Pensacola-based Energy Systems. The company is installing Smart Home Pensacola's geothermal pumps.
"You still have a refrigeration circuit," he continued. "You still have a compressor and evaporator coil. But you're taking that heat and putting it into the water. That makes the system more efficient with less moving parts and less motors spinning and running. The system is more efficient basically because of that."
A final component of the home's advantages include its raised foundation, which stands 18.5 feet tall from the ground. The height should protect the building from extreme weather such as hurricanes and other tropical storms that hit the Gulf Coast.
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Smart Home Pensacola is a part of the Department of Energy's Zero Energy Ready Home program. Robau declined to disclose how much the total cost of the home is expected to be. Construction is scheduled to finish in December. He estimated the home's lifespan to be 300 years.
Haris Alibašić, an assistant professor at the University of West Florida's College of Education and Professional Studies, said with energy costs from utilities consistently increasing year after year, the savings from solar panels should only escalate into the future. After Gulf Power raises its rates July 1, a home at 1,112 kilowatt-hours of usage will pay about $151 on the monthly bill, a jump from $144.01.
Alibašić, also a member of the City of Pensacola's Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Task Force, added that solar panels aid when outages occur from extreme weather because of their ability to generate independent of a utility.
"So there is a multitude of benefits when you look purely at the economics of on-site solar," Alibašić said. "From resiliency planning purposes, the solar deployment can be viewed as a really good, resilient source of power in times when there is no other source of power."