Tests Now Begins for Experimental Net-Zero Energy Home
The principle of a net-zero home is simple. You simply need to produce the amount of energy that you use in a single year. However the calculations needed to accurately do this is quite difficult, given that our use of energy is never constant throughout the day. Get your results off by a few watt-hours each day, and it will accumulate throughout the entire year.
This is perhaps why it is a good idea to first set up a test run to improve the chances of making energy calculations even. Incidentally, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have the exact same idea. They have just revealed their new laboratory that is made to show the feasibility of regular net-zero homes using modern strategies and ideas.
Although it is officially classified as a laboratory, from the outside, it looks like your typical suburban home that could accommodate four people. In fact it is named as the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility. The original report states that it has two stories, four bedrooms, three-bathrooms, and incorporates various energy efficient technologies to keep energy consumption at a minimum. The facility has been built to pass the LEED Platinum standards, the highest standard for green homes. No people would actually live on it though, but the appliances and other electric devices would turn on and off to simulate how people would use energy throughout the day.
As for its energy source, it would primarily use a solar PV system. However depending on the weather, it might have to use energy from the local grid, although it would be heavily monitored and regulated by a smart electric meter. But even if it draws grid energy from time to time, over the course of a year it would eventually produce enough energy to stand on its own and pay back the energy that it has used (thus fulfilling its net-zero energy design).
The experiment is already set for a one-year data collection period. So it would seem that during this time they would simply collect data and process calculation of input and output power. After the first year though, they would then move to the testing phase, where they would try to develop and design cost effective standards that can greatly help future energy-efficient homes. The data collected from the first year would of course be incorporated into this next step. In addition, the report also states that they are also planning to recalibrate their green home testing methods using this experiment.
The idea of net-zero energy homes is already well known to the public. However interest in it has been at most lukewarm, because of the perceived impracticalities of the concept in comparison to mainstream residential energy standards. The Net-Zero Residential Test Facility may not really change the minds of people, but we could at least take inspiration from it. We can at least hope that the ideas that would spring forth from the experiment could help us improve our own strategies building greener homes.
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