When it comes to building energy efficient homes in California, De Young Properties is in a race with itself.
This summer, the family-run company claimed the title of largest zero-net energy home builder in the state with EnVision, 36 single-family homes in a southeast Clovis development.
Now it’s going bigger. The De Youngs have recently launched RidgeView, a 58-home development of zero net energy homes in north Clovis at Locan and Quincy avenues.
What is zero net energy? It’s simply the ability of the home to produce as much clean energy, typically through solar, as the homeowner can use in a year.
The RidgeView development will feature many of the same energy-saving features as its sister development, EnVision at Shaw and Highland avenues, but on a larger, more detailed scale.
The homes will also serve as a laboratory of sorts where researchers can collect data on how to improve energy efficiency and provide a template for how to meet a new state standard calling for solar power on most new homes by 2020.
The California Energy Commission’s goal is to slash energy usage in new homes by more than 50 percent. That will cut greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 115,000 fossil fuel cars off the road.
For the De Youngs, meeting the state’s mandate is as important as providing solutions for a cleaner environment and building better, smarter homes.
“By building these large-scale communities, we are demonstrating to regional, statewide and even national builders that Zero Energy homes can be constructed affordably and we are hopefully inspiring other builders to follow in our footsteps,” said Brandon De Young, executive vice president of De Young Properties.
Among the features of the De Youngs’ energy efficient homes is the use of solar and installling a heat pump water heater that uses electricity instead of gas to heat the water. The heat pump pulls heat from the surrounding air and transfers it to water that’s stored in a tank.
The homes also have roof tiles to reflect heat and sunlight, high-grade insulation in the walls and attic and a high-efficiency air conditioning and heating system.
Each home will come with a built-in energy monitoring system that will allow the homeowners to view their real-time and historical home energy consumption through a smartphone app.
De Young Properties is partnering with ConSol, a Sacramento-based research and energy consulting firm, to collect data on how homeowners use energy, what time of the day they use it and figuring out how to slash energy use even more.
Garth Torvestad, senior technical consultant with ConSol, is overseeing the collection of the data that will be gathered from each of the home’s electrical circuits. Part of what researchers want to test is how accurate their models are for estimating home energy use.
“We are trying to look at behavioral things like how much power is being drained from the ac unit or how many loads of dishes do you do in your dishwasher in a given year,” Torvestad said. “Also critical is the time of the day that energy use occurs.”
Researchers know that the peak time for generating electricity from solar panels is about 3 p.m. And that has generally coincided with the peak energy usage in a home. But that model is changing, Torvestad said.
“The peak has shifted a lot to about 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. just at the same time as the generation of electricity has begun to die off,” Torvestad said. “We are really interested in finding ways to where we could avoid peak demand and shift the loads. Because we can’t change solar generation.”
De Young also is interested in learning how zero energy homes perform in day-to-day living.
“Not only will our team be learning, but the homeowners will have the opportunity to learn about their energy patterns, as well, which can help them save even more energy and money,” De Young said.
RidgeView homes start in the $400,000s and at least 40 percent of the available lots have been sold.
Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob
New energy-efficient home tract in north Clovis is largest of its kind in California, by Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee, October 5, 2018.