When collaboration leads to an all-green solution
Photos by Brock Beazley
In 2019, Solaire Properties had the vision to create an all-green, electric home that proved living in comfort and luxury does not have to come with a huge ecological footprint. Their goal was to design and build a home that was both energy efficient and self-sufficient without compromising on size or style.
In 2020, Solaire completed their “Vanquish Project” in collaboration with Brisbane’s Redback Technologies and Stiebel-Eltron Australia. The result was a seamless blend between an eco-conscious design and luxury living to create the home of the future.
What is an all-green, electric home?
An all-green, electric home is a home that has no gas connection and is thermally efficient to reduce heating and cooling needs, and powered by a well-designed solar and storage system that is able to cover the household’s usage. As an all-green, electric home, Vanquish is designed to be more energy-efficient than the average home by utilising new technology in an innovative and integrated way.
Vanquish takes its all-green, electric design even further by aiming to be a fully certified passive house. A “passive house” is a building standard that is energy efficient, comfortable, affordable to run and ecological. A principal element of this design concept is the aim to drastically reduce a home’s heating and cooling requirements, effectively reducing or removing the homes largest energy use – air conditioning – from the equation.
How did Vanquish accomplish an all-green, electric home?
Solaire’s Vanquish design combines high-performance windows and doors for increased energy efficiency, advanced air conditioning and ventilation systems for temperature-controlled, pollen-filtered air, and a full solar and battery storage to provide clean renewable energy for the home, creating a fully sustainable, all green, electric home.
This level of energy efficiency means that Vanquish is what is known as a net-zero home, meaning the amount of renewable energy created by the home each year is equal to or more than the amount of energy consumed, leaving its occupants with a net-zero energy bill. One secret to Vanquish’s energy efficiency lies in the collaboration between the home’s renewable energy source and its hot water system.
As mentioned earlier, a key element to an all green, electric home is a well-designed solar and storage system to power the home with renewable energy. Vanquish is powered by Redback Technologies’ Smart 3-Phase Hybrid System, combining 10kW of solar power with 28kWh of battery storage. This system operates by generating energy when the sun is shining, and using it to power the home, while storing any excess solar production in the batteries for use in the evening.
While generating and storing energy is important, a home’s thermal efficiency is just as important to its overall energy consumption as heating and cooling can be the biggest users of energy in a home. However, this is not a problem for Vanquish due to the home’s integration of high tech, energy-efficient Stiebel-Eltron heat pump hot water system.
Watch Vanquish Episode 8
“All About Energy”
Solaire teams up with The University of Queensland, Stiebel Eltron and Brisbane’s own Redback Technologies to deliver the absolute leading edge of energy efficiency and storage in the home!
How does a Stiebel-Eltron Heat Pump work?
A heat pump operates by converting energy stored in the air, water or beneath the ground into heating energy. In the case of an air source hot water heat pump like the one installed in Solaire’s Vanquish, it operates through a fan that draws air through an evaporator, transferring thermal energy within the air to a liquid refrigerant causing it to change into a gas.
The refrigerant gas is then drawn into a compressor which increases the pressure and as a result, increases the temperature. The heat exchanger then transports gaseous refrigerant around the outside of the water cylinder, heating the water inside and reverting the gaseous refrigerant back into a liquid. The pressure of the refrigerant is then reduced as it goes through an expansion valve and returns to the evaporator for the process to start all over again.
All in all, it sounds like an energy heavy process, however, Stiebel-Eltron’s heat pumps can be combined and optimised with solar PV to maximise its use of renewable energy to operate. This is where Stiebel-Eltron’s integration with Redback Technologies comes into play.
How do Stiebel Eltron and Redback Technologies integrate?
Redback Technologies’ Smart 3-Phase Hybrid system has been integrated with the Stiebel-Eltron heat pump to match the heating process with self-generated energy, optimising the consumption of solar power in the water heating process. In order to achieve this, the Stiebel Eltron Heat Pump is connected to the home at two points.
The first is as a normal load to the house circuits. The second connection, however, is a special, additional heating element that acts as a power booster to superheat the hot water. This power booster is connected to the Redback Smart 3-Phase Hybrid system via a relay that controls the system to use solar energy to superheat the water using the power booster when there is excess PV.
Since Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels generally produce the most energy in the middle of the day during the peak solar window, the excess energy produced at that time is stored in the batteries as well as stored in the form of hot water. The excess energy produced is therefore utilized within the home instead of being sold back to the grid for a typically low feed-in-tariff.
What are the implications of this integration?
The relationship between the Redback Smart 3-Phase Hybrid System and the Stiebel- Eltron hot water heating system allows for the home to capitalise on its self-produced energy and use it in a more efficient way. Vanquish’s Passive House design eliminates air conditioning as one of the home’s major electrical loads. This ultimately leaves hot water and pool pumps as the home’s largest consumers of energy.
Since both the hot water heating process and the pool pumps can be configured through the PV system to operate during solar hours, these major energy consumers can be powered mostly, if not fully, through the home’s self-produced, renewable energy. With these big-ticket items taken care of, energy-efficient appliances, security systems and other comfort demands can continue to run smoothly from solar energy produced during the day, and from the stored energy in the batteries during the evening. Including battery storage in a solar set up is about more than having self-produced power in the evenings.
It is about being self-reliant in your energy needs no matter the scenario. Storing your self-produced energy in batteries increase your home’s self-sufficiency and decreases your reliance on the electricity grid. This protects you not only from fluctuations in electricity prices, but also from power outages.
Having battery storage means having peace of mind that your energy needs are covered, even when the unexpected happens. Vanquish’s 28kWh of battery storage mean there is enough power there to run the home in the evenings and keep it running even through a power outage.
How can similar results be achieved on a smaller scale?
As Vanquish demonstrates, having a net-zero home is about more than just solar panels. It is about having a smart design plan! While Vanquish achieved this on a large scale, there are many opportunities available for those of us looking to achieve a similar result on a smaller scale. Simple steps such as choosing a location that receives uninterrupted sunlight, orientating the home for maximum solar energy production, and choosing reliable solar and storage set up are key steps to take in achieving a net-zero home.
Further measures such as air-sealing, choosing all-electric energy-efficient appliances, and, of course, integrating your electric hot water system to utilize your excess solar power to heat your water are further ways in which we can maximise our energy efficiency.
While the materials and considerations needed to build a net-zero home may seem more costly upfront, building an energy-efficient home means energy self-sufficiency, security, and independence.
Vanquish is proof of what can be achieved when energy efficiency is considered at the design stage. It is an exciting project that proves you do not need to compromise on style to build green. Its unique collaboration with Redback Technologies and Stiebel-Eltron Australia helped to create a home that uses its energy in smarter and more efficient ways.