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Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012

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On command: A Mitsui Home Co. employee waves at a control panel to turn the lights on and off in the living room of its pilot "smart house" in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Monday. HIROKO NAKATA

Mitsui opens power-saving model 'smart house'


Staff writer

KASHIWA, Chiba Pref. — Mitsui Home Co. unveiled a "smart house" Monday equipped with temperature sensors and other high-tech gear that can help reduce electricity consumption by some 50 percent.

The model home features sensors on the walls of each room that gauge temperature, humidity and internal sunlight. The home energy management system receives the data and automatically starts and stops air conditioners, as well as opens and closes windows, the company said.

"Our HEMS (home energy management system) has brains," Yoshihei Sakabe, general manager at Mitsui Home's Technology Research and Development Institute, told reporters in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

Energy-efficient "smart city" technologies that use renewable energy sources have drawn increasing attention, particularly since the March 2011 disasters shook the nation's attachment to nuclear energy.

The house, which includes solar panels, storage batteries and a system to supply hot water via solar heat, also boasts "smart windows" that shade incoming light in the summer and keep heat inside in the winter, using sensors.

The house has "water walls" that store water inside sheets of glass that help stabilize room temperatures. It also has double walls providing similar insulating effects.

Mitsui Home said it expects some of the technology used in the home to be on the market in a few years.

The builder plans to have three or four families live in the pilot house in turns between Oct. 1, 2013, and Nov. 30, 2015, to gain their feedback.

The pilot house was built in one of the nation's largest smart-city complexes, Kashiwanoha Campus City in Kashiwa. The smart city is being built by real estate firm Mitsui Fudosan Co. in cooperation with the University of Tokyo and Chiba University.

At the center of the project is a 127,000-sq.-meter space where housing, offices, hotels and other commercial venues will be completed by 2014. Some of the housing units are already occupied.

Mitsui Home plans to eventually link the smart home's energy management system to that of the Kashiwanoha smart city.

"We want this type of house to be built not only in this area, but also across the country," Sakabe said.



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