Builders likely know GE as a supplier of major appliances and, if they are really savvy, lighting products. And while the company has certainly gained a strong foothold in those product categories, GE Consumer & Industrial (as it is known officially) plans to leverage that position and its lesser-known electrical distribution division and GE Energy subsidiary into a portfolio of solutions that will enable builders to provide net-zero energy homes by 2015.
Achieving net-zero energy relies on a comprehensive combination of energy-efficient products and systems, off-grid power generation, and a willing local electric utility partner that will allow homeowners to turn surplus energy into credits through the meter and power grid. GE Consumer & Industrial’s plan is to be a one-stop shop for builders of net-zero energy homes, an ambitious goal that will require the company to develop and market a broader range of products.
Among those solutions are a full suite of appliances and lighting fixtures equipped with demand response technology that work with similarly enabled utility meters to delay or reduce energy use of those products during peak demand times for grid power. Already, GE boasts 550 appliances and 271 lighting products that qualify under the federal Energy Star program.
Appliances, lighting, and HVAC equipment account for more than 80 percent of a home’s energy use. To address the third leg of that stool, GE will unveil a hybrid electric heat pump water heater later this year. The product is designed to use less than half the energy required for a standard 50-gallon water heater and will be equipped with demand response to further reduce its energy use. A new geothermal heat pump will address space heating and cooling needs in what is proving to be an effective and efficient alternative to air-reliant HVAC equipment.
Next year, GE will continue its effort by introducing a home energy manager, deemed the central nervous system of the net-zero energy home, as well as smart thermostats that will help homeowners better manage their energy use. Concurrently, GE Energy will contribute photovoltaics, advanced on-site energy storage, and small-scale wind turbines—among other renewable energy generating solutions—to satisfy that sector of the net-zero energy home.
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