The Living House is hoping to generate all of its power requirements on site, without any need for a connection to the power grid.
How we are using the sun
The average Auckland house consumes 7,970 kWh of electricity from the grid each year with nearly 30% of that being used for heating1.The Living House is hoping to eliminate the need for space heating through clever design and materials selection in the building envelope, effectively getting us 30% of the way towards our goal. Using the sun, or solar energy, should take care of the rest.
We are planning on installing a building integrated photovolatic (BIPV) array on the roof of our new house which will be combine with a solar hot water system.
The solar water heating system should meet approximately 25% of the houses overall energy need by providing almost all of our water heating needs. The last 45% will be met by the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which will generate enough electricity to power all of the appliances and lights in the house and run the hot water cylinder for the remaining water heating needs.
Why we are using the sun
The choice to go solar is tightly linked with the reasons why we've chosen to pursue Living Building Challenge certification. Building a house like this does three things:
Helps the environment. Even though most of the country's electricity supply comes from hydro-electric power, a portion still comes from coal-powered plants. Coal pollutes the atmosphere and hydro-electric power requires infrastructure that infringes on the natural environment. And, regardless of the source, electricity gets shifted all around the country on a massive transmission grid that costs money to maintain and results in energy loss. Generating electricity via solar on-site is clean, efficient, and, we believe, elegant.
Our finances. When you factor in long-term electricity costs solar makes financial sense. In the past we have paid around 2,000 a year in electricity bills, equating to $50,000 over a 25-year period, not taking into account energy price inflation. We believe that our solar system should cost less than that making it a worthy long term investment.
Resilience. Our house is located in Beachlands, Auckland and this area of town is subject to power cuts during storms. Since Beachlands has no connection to potable water this generally means that when the power goes off so does the water as the water pumps won't work. Having our power power supply, connected to a battery back up, provides our new house with a high level of resilience to natural events.