Applications to become the next tenants in AusGrid’s experimental Smart Home in Newington, Sydney, closed on Wednesday, after a month-long search for the perfect new candidates. The winning family – to be known as the Jetsons 2.0 – will live for 12 months rent free in the house that comes complete with cutting edge energy efficient appliances and technology, water efficient appliances and fixtures, a Mitsubishi i-Miev EV, a BlueGen fuel cell, as well as a solar pergola and rooftop solar.
And according to the inaugural Smart Home family – the ‘Jetsons 1.0′ who left the house in mid January after an 18-month residency – they’re in for an interesting (if not necessarily space-aged) and memorable stay. More than 160 families applied to be the first tenants in the Smart House, and a similar number were expected to apply to be their successors.
“The really impressive stuff is interconnected and all but invisible,” Clare Joyce wrote in the family’s farewell blog post, about her time in the Smart House with her partner Michael Adams and their daughter Ava. “It’s less ‘sexy’ but much more substantial. The BlueGen fuel cell, which converts gas to electricity, is the core of the house. It supplies a whopping amount of electricity, which powers the Smart Home and charges the i-MiEV electric car.”
In fact, according to Ausgrid energy efficiency expert Paul Myors, analysis of energy use and generation at the smart home during the original Jetsons’ residency showed it was producing enough electricity to power two average households.
“The Smart Home in essence has become a fully functioning power station,” Myors said. “The fuel cell used gas and waste heat to produce most of the on-site power, but with 65 per cent less greenhouse gas impact than power sourced from the grid.
“Combined with the solar pergola and rooftop solar system they produced an average 32 kilowatt hours per day – much more than the family was typically consuming inside the home,” he said. “However, there were a number high use times, or peak times, when the home still relied on the grid for power.”
But the team at Ausgrid have learned some important lessons, too. The fuel cell broke down for three weeks during winter, the Climate Wizard air-conditioning system, says Joyce, “was an energy and water hog and after many fits and starts it broke down for good during last year’s heatwave (we do hope this tech can be made viable, because in theory it’s terrific).”
The Ausgrid team also learned not to be too ambitious about the range of the EV. A charging station had been installed in the Joyce’s relatives’s home in Springwood in the Blue Mountains. The only problem was, apparently, that the EV didn’t quite made it all the way up the hill.