Government Test House Hits Net-Zero Target
The experimental house in a Maryland suburb produced a surplus of electricity in a year-long test
An experimental house in Gaithersburg, Maryland, built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) completed its first year of operation July 1 with a surplus of electricity. The house is equipped with a 10.2-kW photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) array.
According to the government agency, which completed the 2,700-square-foot house last year, the surplus amounted to 491 kWh of electricity, which a NIST news release said was enough to power an electric car for 1,440 miles.
"We made it — and by a convincing margin," said Hunter Fanney, who heads the project.
Occupied by a "virtual family"
GreenBuildingAdvisor has published several articles about the NIST test house, including:
- Testing… Testing… Homes as Net-Zero Laboratories,
- Is NIST Serious About Net-Zero-Energy Homes? and
- Experimental House on Track for Net-Zero Operation.
The four-bedroom, three-bathroom house is jammed with hundreds of sensors, but it isn't occupied by people. Instead, researchers are using sophisticated equipment to mimic the behavior of a family of four (nicknamed the "Nisters"). The object is to test materials and systems that increase energy efficiency.
A NIST spokesman said the cost of the project was $2.9 million, but he added that because it was built as a "research testbed," construction costs were higher than they would have been for a similar house in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. NIST is planning to release a report later detailing the cost of building a comparable net-zero house that meets Maryland codes.
As to the future of the experimental house, Fanney said in a prepared statement:
"The residential facility will become a testbed for developing measurement systems and protocols to measure the performance of the residence overall and its associated equipment, including new and experimental technologies, under actual field conditions, which will lead to improved test methods and standards. Research at the facility also will provide real world data that will be used to validate and improve computer models to predict the energy performance of homes."
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