Home Energy Usage

Published on May 21st, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


DOE Shows The South How To Save Energy

Tennessee has the second highest energy consumption in the nation due to its lack of energy efficiency in state building codes. The DOE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are building a demonstration with the TVA at the Campbell Creek subdivision near Knoxville, Tennessee to show the cost advantages of energy efficiency.

For the test, three houses that look identical were built next to each other, and remotely controlled appliances operate identically in each house. The first one was built to the building code used in Tennessee. The middle house was built to California energy efficiency standards. The last house was a zero (fossil) energy house powered by a solar roof.

The cost to run each proves to be dramatically different.

Image: Citizen-Times: Ashville Efficiency_Test

The three houses are identical, except for the solar on the roof of the third

Inside the three houses, identical activity performed by robotic actions gives a side by side comparison of energy use. Each day, in the three houses, three fridge doors open and close at the same time. TVs in the three houses all go on and off at identical times. Dishwashers and clothes dryers, computers and microwaves, all the identical appliances in the three turn off and off at the same moment.

The resulting electricity bills range from $2,555 a year ($7 a day) to run the lax building code type style home, down to almost half ($4 a day) or $1,460 for the California-level retrofit home, and a mere $365 a year ($1 a day) to run the super efficient and solar home.

The largest savings of the retrofit house over the first simply came from having the heating and air conditioning ducts and system inside the house. Putting heating and cooling outside is still legal in some states in the South.

Homes in the South use 44% of US energy, with only 37% of the population. The South has the lowest rates of market penetration of Energy Star appliances and per capita spending on electric utility energy efficiency programs is just one fifth the national average.

“We should just make it illegal in new homes to put heating and cooling systems anywhere outside the envelope,” said Jeff Christian, building researcher with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a partner in the project along with the U.S. Department of Energy. “Why would we waste 35-45 percent of the energy?”

The local builder who built the three 2,400 square foot houses called the project eye opening. “Every house built today has insulation installed, but it only takes a little gap in the insulation and it’s like a window’s open all the time,” said Kerr with Michael Rhodes Construction.

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