The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) net-zero sustainable test house has exceeded its designer’s goals so far this year.
Despite a particularly cold winter that necessitated higher-than-average energy use, researchers calculated that the house’s virtual “residents” saved $364 a month in energy costs, and even earned a credit for exporting surplus energy to a local utility.
However, any real-life savings would be offset by the cost of adding the solar panels, insulation, triple-paned windows, and other features of the test house to the design of a typical suburban home. All of that would add an average $162,700 up-front cost to the price of a new house in the same area.
The 2,700-square foot test house is located in suburban Washington, D.C., and was built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards–the highest for a sustainable structure. It’s estimated to be about 70 percent more energy efficient than a comparable home in the area.
In addition to an array of 32 solar panels, the house features a vastly-improved thermal envelope compared to a conventional design. Air infiltration was virtually eliminated, and insulation in the walls and roof was doubled, resulting in much lower heating and cooling loads.