January 18, 2001
Scanning the Horizon for Housing Technology
Did you know that you may soon be able to install a power plant in your own home? PATH technology scanning recently identified automotive fuel cell technology as an efficient method to convert fuel energy to electrical energy in the housing industry. Imagine a new energy source that will be affordable, lower current emissions, and minimize weather-related power outages.
PATH understands that technology breakthroughs in one industry may have a direct spillover effect on another. PATH technology scanning looks for new and existing technologies in other industries that have potential future applications in the housing industry. The idea behind technology scanning is simple. Examine the similarities in different industry applications and see how they can be applied to improve new and existing construction practices. By researching technology advances in other industries, PATH can then apply the same advances to housing. Technology scanning also draws on university research, government labs, and international research organizations as sources for new technologies. PATH's technology scanning recently identified automotive fuel cell technology as an efficient method to convert fuel energy to electrical energy in the housing industry.
A fuel cell is a device that converts the energy of fuel into direct current (DC) electrical energy without the need for combustion. A conventional power plant produces electricity by burning a fossil fuel that turns a generator. Fuel cells bypass the combustion and generating processes by simply converting hydrogen to electricity, in a similar way as a battery.
A 5 to 7 kW residential fuel cell prototype is about the size of a freezer chest and can provide enough electricity for a typical 2,000 square foot home. Waste heat from the fuel cell could be used to produce hot water or space heat for a home, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of the fuel cell system. Fuel cells not only offer an efficient means of generating electricity, but also have very low emissions. Up to 80 percent of the energy obtained from fuel can be converted to usable electric power and heat (compared with about 35 percent from a central power plant).
Visit PATH Technology Scanning web page to learn more about other technologies identified for adaptation to the housing industry.
Content updated on 7/10/2003