Built by researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the two-storey, 252-square-metre home is located in Washington, DC. On the outside it looks like a regular house, but on the inside it’s a laboratory for clean and sustainable energy research, with geothermal systems and double insulation to create a ‘thermal envelope’ to minimise the need for internal heating and cooling.
The experiment started midway through last year, when the research team moved a virtual family of four in.
“A computer simulator syndicated the energy consumption with that of a typical American family of four, the inhabitants going about everyday activities such as taking showers, watching TV and charging laptops,” says Nick Lavars at Gizmag. “There was more at play than a life-sized game of The Sims, however, with the researchers able to gain realistic insights into the energy efficiency and how viable planting such a home into a real-life American neighbourhood could be.”
An unexpected stint of bad weather really put the house to the test – for 38 of the 365 days in the year, its solar panels were largely covered in snow and ice, which meant they couldn’t harvest nearly as much energy as they could without obstruction. But despite that, the house still managed to generate some 13,577 kWh of energy. This amount exceeded the virtual family’s energy usage by 491 kWh, which could either power their electric car, or be fed back into the grid.