LIVERMORE, CA — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the first home in the nation to be built under its new “Zero Energy Homes” program is scheduled to be completed soon. The DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have joined with Davis Energy Group and Centex Homes to construct the home in the Los Olivos development here in Livermore.

A Zero Energy Home is designed to combine solar energy technologies with advanced energy-efficient construction. Like almost all homes, it is connected to the utility grid. But because the goal is to produce as much energy as it consumes, the home is considered to achieve “net-zero” energy consumption. (See related story in The News, July 22, 2002, page 5.)

The house in Livermore “clearly demonstrates that state-of-the-art solar energy features can be incorporated into attractive and practical homes,” said Tim Merrigan, Zero Energy Homes program manager at NREL.

Davis Energy Group, Davis, CA, a company specializing in energy-efficient technology development, and Centex Corp., a residential builder in northern California, will market the new model as the “21st Century Performance Home.” The house features a solar electric system, solar water heater, high efficiency windows, and radiant barriers. The home is also a test bed for a ventilation cooling system developed under a California Energy Commission Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) project.

“Our Livermore residence is the first of many Zero Energy Homes that will reward their owners with low energy bills, improved comfort, and environmental sustainability,” stated David Springer, president, Davis Energy Group. “We have successfully connected Centex with solar electricity, solar water heating, and energy efficiency product providers. And, best of all, the project has already given Centex a significant marketing advantage.”

The house also is a showcase for green building practices. Centex has used the project to develop green building guidelines in cooperation with Alameda County.

Two other Zero Energy Home teams are also at work on California projects.

Building systems consulting firm Steven Winter Associates is working with Beazer Homes to build a demonstration home in The Greens development in Palmdale. Beazer is planning to construct a two-story home using passive solar heating strategies that will also minimize summer heat gains. Other features include a solar hot water system, high efficiency air conditioning, programmable thermostat, high-performance windows, and high efficiency lighting and appliances.

ConSol, an energy consulting firm, is collaborating with six homebuilders in California and Nevada. ConSol previously developed the “Comfortwise” program, which requires participants to build to energy efficiency standards beyond code requirements. The homes from this team will be built to Comfortwise standards and will incorporate solar energy systems. The first home will be completed by Pardee Homes in its Santa Barbara development in San Diego. In addition, Pardee will build a Zero Energy Home as the show home for the 2004 National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, NV.

Elsewhere in the country, the NAHB Research Center is working with homebuilder John Wesley Miller in Arizona on a Zero Energy Home. The project team has selected a design that will be built in the Armory Park del Sol community in Tucson, AZ.

Publication date: 07/29/2002