A computerized house that generates as much energy as it uses
September 18, 2012
The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has unveiled a laboratory in the form of a typical suburban home, designed to demonstrate that a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year.
The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath “Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility“ was built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards — the highest standard for sustainable structures.
It incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems.
A solar photovoltaic system will generate electricity to power lights and appliances when weather permits, and excess energy will be sent back to the local utility grid by means of a smart electric meter.
The house will draw energy from the grid on days it cannot generate enough on its own, but over the course of a year it will produce enough to make up for that purchased energy, for a net-zero energy usage.
New design guidelines and standards
The facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills.
“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.”
For the first year of its operation, the lab will be used to demonstrate net-zero energy usage. NIST researchers will use computer software and mechanical controls to simulate the activities of a family of four living in an energy-efficient home. No actual humans will be allowed to enter the house during this time so that researchers can monitor how the house performs, but lights will turn on and off at specified times, hot water and appliances will run — and small devices will emit heat and humidity just as people would.
NIST researchers plan to make data from the net-zero experiment available online so that researchers and the public can follow its progress.