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BIO Magazine - Net-zero energy test house exceeds goal Δεκέμβριος 2015
Δεκέμβριος 2015 No38

BIO Environment

Net-zero energy test house exceeds goal
Net-zero energy test house exceeds goal
Credit: NIST
The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.*

First year energy use totaled 13,086 kilowatt hours, which was about 3,000 kilowatt hours more than projected usage in a year with typical weather. In a normal year, a comparable home built to meet Maryland's residential energy standard would consume almost 27,000 kilowatt hours of energy.

In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space -- a measure of energy-use intensity -- the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in Washington, D.C., and nearby states.

From July through October, the facility registered monthly surpluses. In November, when space-heating demands increased and the declining angle of the sun reduced the energy output of its 32 solar panels, the NZERTF began running monthly deficits. Through March 31, when the house's net energy deficit plummeted to 1,800 kilowatt hours -- roughly equivalent to the combined amount of energy a refrigerator and clothes dryer would use in a year -- temperatures consistently averaged below normal.

Starting in April, the energy tide began to turn as the house began to export electric power to the grid on most days.

"The most important difference between this home and a Maryland code-compliant home is the improvement in the thermal envelope -- the insulation and air barrier," says NIST mechanical engineer Mark Davis. By nearly eliminating the unintended air infiltration and doubling the insulation level in the walls and roof, the heating and cooling load was decreased dramatically.

In terms of cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable, according to an analysis by NIST economist Joshua Kneifel.

In all, Kneifel estimates that incorporating all of the NZERTF's energy-related technologies and efficiency-enhancing construction improvements would add about $162,700 to the price of a similar house built to comply with Maryland's state building code.

Planned measurement-related research at the NZERTF will yield knowledge and tools to help trim this cost difference. Results also will be helpful in identifying affordable measures that will be most effective in reducing energy consumption. And research will further the development of tests and standards that are reliable benchmarks of energy efficiency and environmental performance overall, providing information useful to builders, home buyers, regulators and others.

Watch the YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJZrOhPk4kg

*An electric car gets 2.94 miles per kilowatt hour, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (2012).


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