Homeowners seeking lower utility bills in the Triangle have an intriguing new option: solar powered electricity and hot water, along with efficient thermostat controls, are all being wrapped into a single package, thanks to a new partnership between three companies. Meritage Homes is now building houses that offer the Echo® solar system installed by Morrisville-based Southern Energy Management (SEM). Echo, from EchoFirst®, is sold across the Southwestern U.S. and Texas; this is the first time Echo technology has been deployed in the Eastern U.S.
Echo delivers twice the energy of a basic solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system by supplementing conventional panels with a unique solar thermal technology that captures the heat from the PV panels. Echo systems generate not only electricity, but also hot water for washing and bathing. This enables Meritage to offer homes that use 70%-80% less energy than a standard code-built home in the US. Additionally, the systems include Energy Star-qualified thermostat controls designed to automatically reduce heating and cooling bills by at least another 10 percent, along with mobile phone-enabled remote thermostat control.
“Meritage Homes understands that homeowners are looking for ways to save money on utility bills without sacrificing features, amenities or lifestyle,” said Meritage Homes vice president of marketing Eric Rosson. “By building new homes with solar PV and water heating in one, we’re offering homes the way they can, and should, be built.”
For Southern Energy Management, the largest solar power installation company in the Southeast, this partnership is yet another avenue to fulfill its mission of helping reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. SEM is providing the third party verification services for the Energy Star Certified homes Meritage builds in the Carolinas, and installing solar to offset a portion of the remaining energy needs. The combination reduces energy consumption by 50% or more over the same house built in 2006.
“We love the fact that by joining forces with Meritage and EchoFirst, SEM can introduce more people to the benefits of solar power and energy efficiency,” said SEM residential sales director Tom Fitzpatrick. “Providing homeowners an affordable way to integrate solar in the construction process has gone over well, with close to a dozen systems constructed or in process, confirming it has been extremely well received by homeowners. This makes the entire process easier and more affordable, and people get to enjoy energy savings in their new home starting with the very first utility bill.”
The Echo First system first started getting attention on the West Coast for its technology which is much more powerful than a basic solar system and takes up far less roof space. “Meritage is visionary in its deployment of Echo solar systems. Echo delivers more than twice as much energy as a basic solar system; it enables homeowners to generate more of their own energy — cutting electric bills dramatically,” said EchoFirst CEO Vikas Desai. “We’re pleased that Meritage is leveraging the benefits that Echo delivers to help drive higher homebuyer traffic and accelerated home sales. We’re proud to see that the Echo solar system has become the standard among builders that want to deliver the best clean energy solution available.”
The first homes constructed in collaboration with Meritage, Echo and SEM have already been built, and the homeowners have moved in and are already enjoying their high performance homes. Meritage is building in four Triangle area neighborhoods where the Echo solar systems are being deployed. Stop by and see for yourself how affordable a high performance home can be.
About Meritage Homes Corporation
Meritage Homes (meritagehomes.com) is one of the top 10 homebuilders in the United States based on homes closed. Meritage builds a variety of homes across the Southern and Western states to appeal to a wide range of buyers, including first-time, move-up, luxury and active adults. As of December 31, 2011, the Company had 157 actively selling communities in 13 metropolitan areas, including Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver, Orlando, Raleigh and the East Bay/Central Valley and Southern California. Meritage also announced its expansion into the Tampa, Florida market in December 2011.
Meritage has designed and built more than 70,000 homes in its 26-year history, and has a reputation for its distinctive style, quality construction and positive customer experience. In 2010, Meritage launched its new Simply Smart Series™ of homes and its 99-day guaranteed completion program in certain communities. Meritage was the first large national homebuilder to be 100 percent ENERGY STAR® qualified in every home started since January 1, 2010.
About EchoFirst Inc.
EchoFirst Inc. designs (echofirst.com), manufactures, and markets the Echo solar system. Echo supplements conventional solar electric PV panels with a unique solar thermal technology that captures the heat from the PV panels. Echo generates not only electricity, but also hot water for washing and bathing, and thermal energy for home heating and home cooling. EchoFirst headquarters are in Fremont, California.
About Southern Energy Management
Southern Energy Management (southern-energy.com) is a North Carolina-based sustainable energy company offering energy efficiency, green building and turn-key solar services for homeowners, builders, companies, government and military clients across the country. A certified B Corp, SEM's mission is to have a measurable impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and to build a sustainable triple-bottom-line company. SEM was founded in a living room in Raleigh in 2001, and now employs a team of more than 100 sustainable energy professionals. SEM is consistently recognized as an industry leader both locally and nationally, and is among a small handful of companies in the U.S. to earn the national 2012 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award for being named Partner of the Year six consecutive times. SEM also received the 2011 City of Raleigh Environmental Stewardship Award and the 2010 Green Jobs Award from SJF Institute & Green For All.