June 11, 2024
Filed Under: Sustainability

What is the EcoSmart Solution in Whisper Valley? Innovative Design, Zero Energy Capable Homes

When the idea for Whisper Valley in East Austin was first conceived, developer Taurus Investment Holdings, LLC knew it was going to create a paradigm shift in the housing industry by addressing how to build better homes. Although it was not the first-time communities used geothermal and solar energy to drastically reduce energy consumption, it would be the first time to use these renewable energy sources on a mass-scale and at an affordable price point for Austin homebuyers.

This is where the EcoSmart Solution came in. An affiliate of Taurus Investments Holdings, EcoSmart is a green energy services provider designing and delivering an innovative geothermal infrastructure combined with a comprehensive suite of distributed energy resources.

In Whisper Valley, EcoSmart introduced the revolutionary GeoGrid™, a first-of-its-kind hybrid loop system delivering geothermal heating, cooling and hot water to homes in the community, reducing energy consumption by up to 80 percent. In place of a conventional HVAC system, every home is connected to the GeoGrid with a ground source heat pump. The geothermal system stores thermal energy in the Earth during the hot months and uses the stored energy in the winter to heat homes much more efficiently than traditional systems.

Along with geothermal exchange, every home also utilizes rooftop solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. To further optimize performance and reduce overall energy consumption, EcoSmart includes a suite of smart home devices including a smart thermostat and an energy monitoring system that provides real-time information about energy usage and solar production to provide visibility on personal energy behaviors. All homes are pre-wired for Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, and homeowners have the ability to add an optional home battery upgrade for energy storage and resiliency against potential power outages.

The EcoSmart program can reduce energy usage to zero based upon individual energy behavior. This helps homeowners save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their average utility bills per year.

“Everyone wants to save on monthly energy bills and live in environmentally sustainable homes,” said Douglas Gilliland, president of Taurus of Texas and managing director of Taurus Investment Holdings, the developer of Whisper Valley. “The EcoSmart program helps builders achieve extremely low Home Energy Ratings, or HERS ratings, which translates into big annual savings. The lower the rating, the more energy efficient your home is. Today, most new construction homes receive a HERS rating of around 60-65 out of 100, but in Whisper Valley, our HERS ratings are targeting 25 or lower – and some homes have been rated as low as 7. Homebuyers are surprised to find this technology so affordable when shopping for a new home.”

EcoSmart homes are even more affordable following Congress’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes thousands of dollars in tax credits for consumers who buy homes with energy-efficient features. The current incentive allows Whisper Valley homeowners to write off 30 percent of the value on their home’s solar PV system, geothermal equipment in the home and a home battery storage system.

“For a long time, I thought that kind of technology was unattainable to people like me who are in the entry-level home market,” said Michael Wilt, a Whisper Valley homeowner. “It’s refreshing that you have builders and developers who were willing to try new things. It not only saves on monthly bills, but really pays off in the long-term value of your house.”

The EcoSmart Solution will one day power 7,500 single-family and multifamily residences in Whisper Valley. This sustainable, renewable energy program greatly reduces energy consumption when implemented in new residential and commercial developments across the country, helping to offset the energy requirements needed for future climate-related grid constraints and carbon emission reduction.

Homebuyer Benefits

  • Drastically reduces energy consumption
  • Saves money on energy bills
  • Quiet, noiseless system
  • Protects the environment by using renewable energy
  • Reduces your carbon footprint
  • Provides resiliency by reducing stress on the electric grid in extreme weather conditions