New Near-Zero Energy Homes Open in California and New Jersey

May 3, 2006


Photo of a light colored building in a desert setting with overhanging tile roofs, some covered with solar panels.

Roof-mounted solar panels and large overhangs that block the hot summer sun are essential energy features of this demonstration home in the Southern California desert.
Credit: Thomas Antel, Ruby Moon Photography/Clarum Homes

New energy-efficient solar homes that use nearly zero net energy over the course of a year opened in California and New Jersey in late April. In California, Clarum Homes offered preview tours of four demonstration homes in Borrego Springs, a desert location about 85 miles northeast of San Diego. The homes are designed to use 90 percent less energy than conventional homes and employ a variety of highly insulating wall systems and high-efficiency cooling systems. All of the homes feature 3.2-kilowatt solar power systems, instantaneous water heaters, and exterior shade screens, and three of the homes are equipped with under-floor radiant heating. The project was developed through a partnership with the DOE's Building America Program, ConSol, and the Davis Energy Group. The homes will be tested for energy efficiency continuously over the next year and the information will be shared with other builders, manufacturers, and municipalities throughout the country. See the Clarum press release (PDF 68 KB) and the Clarum - Borrego Springs Zero Energy Homes Web site. Download Adobe Reader.

In New Jersey, BASF Corporation hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate its new Near-Zero Energy Home in Paterson. The demonstration home is 80 percent more energy efficient than conventionally built homes and is a prototype for the U.S. Green Building Council's newly launched rating system for homes. The home combines energy efficient design and radiant floor heating with 2.5 kilowatts of Ovonic Solar photovoltaic laminates that are bonded to the roof and a 4-kilowatt solar thermal system installed underneath the south roof. As the world's largest chemical company, BASF contributed many products to the demonstration home, including foam insulation and a heat-reflective coating for the home's metal roof. See the BASF press release, and for more information on the home, see BASF's Better Home, Better Planet Web site.

Although Zero Energy Homes are a rarity today, a recent report from the National Association of Home Builders Research Center (NAHBRC) says that the concept could diffuse into the U.S. home market as early as 2012, and could cut U.S. energy use 17 percent by 2050. The report, "The Potential Impact of Zero Energy Homes," was prepared in collaboration with DOE and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. See the NAHBRC press release or download the study from the Zero Energy Home section of NAHBRC's ToolBase Web site.