Suburban house to demonstrate net-zero energy usage

The front and west side of completed Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility that will be used to test various high-efficiency and alternative energy systems, materials and designs

Darren Quick: The opening of a suburban house doesn’t usually warrant a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but a new house constructed in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is special. Built for the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the typical-looking suburban home is designed to provide researchers with a place to test various high-efficiency and alternative energy systems, materials and designs. As a result, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF), as it is known, is expected, over the course of a year, to generate as much energy as a family of four living in it would consume in that period.

Built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards using almost entirely U.S.-made materials and equipment, the NZERTF is a two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath facility that incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems for energy generation.

No people will actually be allowed to enter the house during its first year of operation, which is intended to demonstrate net-zero energy usage. However, lights will turn on and off at specified times and hot water and appliances will be run. Small devices will also emit heat and humidity to replicate conditions if humans were present.

Weather permitting, the solar PV systems will be used to power the house’s lighting and appliances, with excess energy fed back into the local utility grid via a smart electric meter. At times when the energy from the solar PV systems doesn’t meet the demands of the house, electricity will be drawn from the grid. However, it is expected that this will be more than offset over the course of the year by the energy fed into the grid on sunny days.

The facility was opened this week and NIST researchers will make data from the net-zero experiment available online to allow researchers and the public to track its progress.

“Results from this lab will show if net-zero home design and technologies are ready for a neighborhood near you,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. “It will also allow development of new design standards and test methods for emerging energy-efficient technologies and, we hope, speed their adoption.”

Comments

This idea is amazing! It as well could go further down the great ecology slide by: whatever extra (based on a monthly use estimate) energy it produces being fed into the grid. Instead of that energy being stored for you it could be given to the grid that everyone uses. You could then be given a voucher of some sort from an energy company that would allow reimbursement of that energy for free later. If everyone had homes like this then one could constantly be feeding into the grid and helping to create power for those who may not be in areas with as much of an ability to create their own ie less sunny areas. This could help eliminate the large scale energy operations that we use and instead each of us would become part of a larger social energy manufacturing ability based more in ecology.

It does not mention how the home is heated and cooled. Electric heat is not efficient enough and Air conditioning units for a home of this size will suck A LOT of electrons.

The alternative to natural gas heating is to produce hydrogen instead. You get a lot of hydrogen energy for the amount of electricity used to make the hydrogen. YEAH! No more natural gas!

Other than that... for 5000 dollars you can get enough solar panels, controllers, inverters and golf car batteries to power a large home AND at night... as long as you washing, dry, clean on sunny days as the batteries may get over worked.

Moreover, you need to make all electronics electricity efficient as possible. Most appliances (washer,dryer,dishwasher and a/c) are vampires.

Houses can be built using materials that automatically keep the internal temperature (in the house) on constant/comfortable 22 degrees C. There are phase changing materials for one thing, along with metamaterials (invented a long time ago). At any rate, its not far fetched to imagine a house that keeps the internal areas at comfortable levels for Humans at all times regardless of outside weather conditions.

Built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards using almost entirely U.S.-made materials and equipment, the NZERTF is a two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath facility that incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems for energy generation apartment rentals