September 14, 2012
Net-Zero Test House Generates Its Own Power
Watch the Video: NIST Net Zero Energy House: Nothing Lost is Everyone´s Gain
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineThe U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled on Wednesday a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home can generate as much energy as it uses in a year.
The unique facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and to develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes.
The laboratory looks and behaves like an actual house, and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards – the highest for sustainable structures. The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility includes energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems.
"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 during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"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 software and mechanical controls to simulate the activities of a family of four living in an energy-efficient home, although no actual humans will be allowed to enter the house during this time. The simulated house will have its lights turn on and off at specified times, while hot water and appliances will run as small devices emit heat and humidity -- just as a typical family would.
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.
NIST said it plans to make data from the net-zero experiment available online so that researchers and the public can follow its progress.