Monday, September 24, 2012

Researchers testing zero-net energy home

The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has come up with a very interesting concept after unveiling brand  new laboratory designed to prove that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year.

After an initial year-long experiment, this prototype of a home should serve to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and help develop economically viable design standards for energy-efficient homes. The main idea of these homes is to reduce overall energy consumption and help decrease the total level of emitted greenhouse gases, as well as achieve significant money savings on families' monthly utility bills.

This specific facility looks like an actual house (two stories, four bedrooms), and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards, which is the highest standard for sustainable structures in United States. We are talking here about the latest energy-efficient construction technologies, as well as well known clean energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar panels.
The goal is to identify existing and new energy technologies that work best and most affordably in a home-environment.
The researchers hope this facility will show that net-zero home design and technologies are ready to be used in many communities, both urban and local. If that would be the case then they hope this would speed up nation's transition to clean energy economy and account for reduced foreign fuel import.

The actual family won't live in this facility during the testing period, instead researchers will use different computer software and mechanical controls that should simulate the activities of an average family of four living in an energy-efficient home. However, in order to simulate human behavior as much as possible the 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.

Solar energy will be the most utilized renewable energy source in this facility as solar panels will generate electricity to power lights and appliances (of course when there would be enough available sunshine), and excess energy will be sent back to the local utility grid by means of a smart electric meter. In days with inadequate supply of sunlight this facility will draw energy from the grid. The majority of scientists hope that, over the year, this facility will be able to produce enough to make up for that used energy from the grid, which would mean a net-zero energy usage.

The additional good news is the fact that the data from this interesting experiment will be available online so that researchers and the public can monitor its progress.

The Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher said that the "results from this lab will show if net-zero home design and technologies are ready for a neighborhood near you." And hopefully, it will.

No comments: