The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s newest laboratory, the Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF), is designed to demonstrate that a typical looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath NZERTF looks and behaves like a house, while incorporating energy efficient construction and appliances as well as energy generating technologies such as solar water heating, higher-than-standard levels of insulation and solar photovoltaic systems.
In a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on
September 12, 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department’s NIST unveiled a new
laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a
family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an
initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods
for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards
for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and
harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills.
The facility looks and behaves like
an actual house, and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED
Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. The two-story,
four-bedroom, three-bath Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility incorporates
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. “It will also allow development of new design standards and
test methods for emerging energy-efficient technologies and, we hope, speed
Funded by the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act of 2009, which included green technologies among its
priorities, the facility was built almost entirely with U.S.-made materials and
equipment. Through its Building America effort, the U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE) provided architectural design, training, and management support for this
project. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan
represented DOE during the ribbon-cutting.
For the first year of its operation,
the laboratory will be used to demonstrate net-zero energy usage. NIST
researchers will use computer software and mechanical controls to simulate the
activities of a family of four living in an energy-efficient home. No actual
humans will be allowed to enter the house during this time so that researchers
can monitor how the house performs, but 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.
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.