Konnichiwa! This week, Inhabitat will be reporting from the land of the rising sun, where we've embarked on Panasonic's eco press tour showcasing the electronics giant's newest green innovations - many of which you may never have seen before! Our first stop on this amazing trip was the Panasonic Eco Ideas House in Tokyo, Japan. This modern, virtually zero-emission show home is like a goodie bag filled with the company's most cutting edge technology. From solar panels to fuel cells to an integrated information and electricity management system, click through our gallery for a virtual tour of this light-filled, beautifully appointed, intelligent eco home!
Panasonic created the Eco Ideas House to show the world how a symphony of their every-saving products working in concert can help consumers realize a zero CO2-emissions home, and live a more enriched lifestyle. The modern abode stands right next to the company’s Tokyo center and has a total floor area of 136.9 sq. meters (the national average home size in Japan).
Upon stepping into the home, we noticed immediately how bright and airy it was. Our tour guide explained to us that one of the main principles of the design was using nature’s blessings to their fullest potential. By making the most of natural wind and breezes via a product called the Wind Passage Tower S, which takes cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter from beneath the floor to ventilate and regulate the temperature of the living room, Panasonic was able to keep the energy needed to cool and heat the space down significantly.
In addition to strategically placed skylights and windows that maximize daylighting, an intuitive lighting system senses how much natural light is available and adjusts the LED lights in the room accordingly. During the day, most lights are left off and as the sun sets, more lights turn on gradually. The homeowner can also control all of this manually via the Home Energy Management System (HEMS), and can even visualize the amount of energy being consumed at any given moment in the house. The HEMS can be accessed via TV or through a laptop or other smart device, giving the user full control and the ability to understand where excess power is being used and how to save it.
As if we weren’t envious enough of the fictitious homeowner who gets to live in the Eco Ideas House, it turns out that they also own a sweet little EV parked in a snazzy glass-enveloped garage. And as luck would have it, Panasonic doesn’t just make smart home management systems, LED lights and water-saving washing machines – they also make residential electric vehicle chargers. We tried this one, which is already on the market in Japan out and were impressed with how easy it was. Panasonic explained that in the future, they even envision electric cars as possible backup power modules for homes in case of emergency situations.
We already saw some of the ways that the Eco Ideas Home saves energy, but in order to become totally emission-free, the home would also need to generate its own energy. Our tour guide showed us Panasonic’s 3-pronged plan to accomplish this: during the day, solar power would be collected via the home’s rooftop array, while at night, Panasonic fuel cells would generate electricity by using hydrogen and oxygen and energy stored in the home’s lithium-ion storage batteries could be used.
Next, we actually got to see the home’s 5060w solar array in action. The array is made up of 22 Panasonic HIT solar panels, which are slightly translucent and can absorb sunlight via both their fronts and their backs (meaning that if you had a white roof, you could collect even more solar power when sunlight is reflected off on your rooftop onto the backs of the panels). We were curious as to why the array appeared to be missing two panels (as you can see in the previous photo) and Panasonic Vice President Peter Fannon and Media Relations Manager Akira Kadota explained that the reason was that since the company’s latest solar panels are even more efficient, they were able to use less panels and generate the same amount of power.
With the integration of natural lighting and ventilation, solar and fuel cell power, more efficient appliances and lighting and even electric vehicle charging, we really felt like Panasonic had left no green stone unturned in its Eco Ideas House – until our tour guide took us to the home’s awesome e-work office. The office goes even deeper into exploring the ways that people can cut down on CO2 in their lifestyles by creating the perfect work-at-home setup. Working from home obviously saves gas and slashes emissions but it may not seem feasible if your job demands face-to-face meetings with colleagues or the need to show samples to clients in person. The Eco Ideas Home’s powerful telecommuting office really blew us away with a demonstration where we interfaced with a Panasonic employee in a remote office (no lag whatsoever!). Our tele-colleague even showed us detailed documents in fine print and fabric swatches on our screen and they came through crystal clear. Try doing that on Skype! This element in the home really demonstrated to us that Panasonic isn’t just about manufacturing energy-efficient products. They also grasp the bigger picture about living a greener lifestyle overall.
Last but not least, we took a peek at a technology that is not currently available yet but is in the works. In the future, Panasonic envisions your home being able to offer you eco-advice like the tip seen above based on the weather and other environmental factors. A house that tells you when to do the laundry may not seem a little scary (HAL, anyone?) but we may very well be seeing it in our own homes soon.