Zeta Communities 'Zero-Energy Home' (Image Source: The Chronicle)
It’s not yet San Francisco real estate news per se, but ZETA Communities is based in the city. From the Chronicle:

Zeta Communities, which is headquartered in South of Market and owns a manufacturing plant in San Leandro, is close to completing its first “zero energy” townhome in Oakland and is working with a developer on a proposed 30-unit studio apartment building in Berkeley.

The firm plans to build segments of housing units indoors and ship them to development sites for assembly.

Energy-saving features include extra-thick windows, dense insulation, efficient appliances and a monitoring system that manages temperature and ventilation and tracks electricity use. Warmth in the house is used to heat incoming air, and recovered hot wastewater helps warm shower and sink water. Solar panels generate new energy.

Zero, it’s the new eleven.
Startup’s prefab homes aim for zero energy bills [SFGate]
ZETA Communities [zetacommunities.com]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    …. but it still has a garage too. Kinda like slathering your low calorie salad with creamy bacon dressing.
    (BTW : some pro audio manufactures now sell equipment that goes to 11)

  2. Posted by ex SF-er

    I think this is fantastic, especially if it works as planned.
    Many people around me are putting in geothermal. Thus far the results have been mixed, but it’s a new technology. I wonder how advanced ZETA’s products are?
    regardless, all new things must go through their growing pains. It is an exercise worth doing even if the end product of zero energy isn’t fully realized right away.

  3. Posted by resp

    From Wikipedia:
    “The term perpetual motion, taken literally, refers to movement that goes on forever. However, the term more commonly refers to any device or system that perpetually (indefinitely) produces more energy than it consumes, resulting in a net output of energy for indefinite time. The law of conservation of energy, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, implies that such a perpetual motion machine cannot exist”

  4. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    resp – this is not perpetual motion because the home gathers energy from the sun via the rooftop solar panels. The verbiage in the Chron article is misleading. This home does not “create” energy but rather harvests energy from the environment.

  5. Posted by resp

    i hear ya. but i still want to see the analysis of how much energy went into to manufacturing all the fancy building systems.

  6. Posted by Valentino

    We’ve taken great steps forward in the past 10 years in that consumers actually think about their energy usage on a somewhat regular basis. They at least think enough about it to make marketing such energy efficient homes profitable. I don’t think resp will get a complete analysis of the energy input during the manufacturing process, but come on… these are high density, space-efficient (at least the photo makes it look that way), and contain no more exotic materials than your average new construction. If the market demand for this type of housing increases, as it should, the material providers will automatically find ways to decrease their process energy usage. How could we do better at this juncture? Mud huts on plots of self sustaining farm land?

  7. Yes, the energy input analysis is very difficult to compute. And as Valentino suggests the real factor to watch is the difference between the energy cost of the old-fashioned concrete, doug fir studs, and stucco materials versus these new materials.
    Cool idea and I hope that it gets bundled into packages including land use/transportation improvements. Here in the SF area, transportation is by far the largest component of consumer’s energy diet. My costs for heating/cooling over the last 2 months has been zero (and in a 60 year old building).
    We’ll know when photovoltaic generation becomes energy positive when Mojave real estate valuations suddenly rise.

  8. Posted by EBGuy

    Many people around me are putting in geothermal. Thus far the results have been mixed
    Really?! Mixed results with massive upfront capital cost is not something to sing about. That said, my results with LXU have been positive (thank you Obama), and I’m very bullish on geothermal heat pumps . Just to be clear, you’re talking about a geothermal (aka groundsource, geoexchange) heat pump, not a high efficiency (air source) heat pump like those mentioned in the article? I really think we need to mandate photovoltaics and geothermal heat pumps for new construction in certain areas (where there are year round heating and cooling needs).
    We’ll know when photovoltaic generation becomes energy positive when Mojave real estate valuations suddenly rise.
    Well, at the very least, it appear unions are getting interested in how the Mojave gets allocated.

  9. Posted by ex SF-er

    Really?! Mixed results with massive upfront capital cost is not something to sing about
    I agree. My point was only to say that the proposals put forth by this company look great… but IMO they are still somewhat untested and they come at an upfront cost. Much like the geothermal companies that sold to people near me.
    Just to be clear, you’re talking about a geothermal (aka groundsource, geoexchange) heat pump, not a high efficiency (air source) heat pump like those mentioned in the article?
    yes. sorry for the confusion. I wasn’t trying to imply this company uses the same products that are near me… only that I’ve seen the hype before and sometimes the end results are more mixed.

  10. Posted by EBGuy

    Much like the geothermal companies that sold to people near me.
    Thanks for the clarification. Its always good to hear field reports on this technology, as it can be easy to be brainwashed (errr, green washed). I know that geothermal heat pumps are definite (or should be?) winners in areas with only electric service as heating with electricity is absurd. They should also fair well in other conditions if properly sized (if you believe the propaganda :-) So mixed results means: savings not materializing (there is a significant up front cost that should be mitigated by savings down the line), inadequate heating, or inadequate cooling that needs to be supplemented, or …? Inquiring minds want to know.

  11. Posted by andy oehler

    waste water pre-heats my shower water???
    so my sh*t makes my shower warm? i’d rather not know these details.
    but otherwise – great effort!

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