The idea of a Net Zero Energy (NZE) home is that it produces at least as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. It is this far reaching milestone that CanmetENERGY and its partners are shooting for in the new home market.
CanmetENERGY has developed the technical approach for evaluating the NZE aspects of the 12 homes across Canada being constructed as part of the CMHC led EQuilibrium Project. Monitoring data is likely to show which of these homes will make the NZE milestone. This will be a great achievement and prove that we can get there today – at least technically.
While NZE is not yet market feasible, due to the large first cost of achieving it ($100,000 to $150,000), CanmetENERGY’s goal is to drastically reduce the risk and cost of NZE housing technologies so that they can become readily available in the marketplace. To this end, we are working on both the whole house performance analysis and some of the new and innovative technologies required for NZE housing.
CanmetENERGY works on a 4 year research cycle. Some NZE research projects that are just getting started include the following:
- The development of a modified home energy rating scale that can accommodate energy load reductions and renewable energy supply to assess how close a home is to achieving the NZE target. (A first iteration was successfully used in the EQuilibrium Initiative.)
- A new whole house energy analysis software engine that can make use of the small time step weather data required to better analyze the contribution that technologies such as active solar thermal and renewable electric generation can provide.
- A technology assessment of the most promising emerging technologies for both Near and Net ZE housing. This will include emerging technologies being used in both Canada and Internationally.
- A feasibility study that will look at what technologies appear to be most promising based upon differences in regional weather patterns.
- Research on mechanisms to enable the building industry to more readily adopt emerging energy efficient and renewable technologies.
- Development of computer energy models for promising technologies so that product developers can consider the impact of changing different components of their designs, and so that the impacts of using the technology can be estimated on the annual energy consumption of individual homes.
- Development of initial design guidelines for Net ZE Homes.
- Field evaluation of particularly promising technologies.
Clearly, the development of Net Zero Energy (NZE) housing is most promising within the context of sustainable neighborhoods and communities where energy production mechanisms can be shared and where transportation energy can be minimized through location.