They’ll call anything a laboratory these days. The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) last week unveiled its new “house,” which will serve as a testbed to demonstrated that a stereotypical suburban home can generate as much energy as it needs to run in a year.
The facility has already undergone a year-long experimental phase and will now continue to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that will eventually see a reduction in overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, not to mention saving families money on their monthly utility bills.
The house is a two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath home, and it incorporates energy-efficient construction, appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems.
Now it just needs a windmill out the back.
“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 their adoption.”
There won’t be actual people living in the house, but, to simulate regular living situations, NIST researchers will use computer software and mechanical controls to mirror a family of four living regularly in the house. 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.
The lights and appliances will be powered by the solar photovoltaic system and any excess energy will be sent back to the local utility grid by means of a smart electric meter. On days when the weather prevents conventional use of the photovoltaic system, the house will draw energy from the grid. Combined, however, the house will still create more energy than it uses.