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"zero-energy houses"
8 apr 2004
it's darkly amusing to learn that the us doe defines a "zero-energy house"
as "one that consumes no more energy than it puts back into the grid over
a year's time," ie doe only counts electrical energy, and ignores fossil
fuels used for space and water heating. ("pay no attention to the oil
burner in the basement." :-)

a typical "zero-electrical-energy house" can be expensive, with
a $40k pv system. has anyone ever built a true zero-energy house,
if we include fossil fuels and generate an extra 38 kwh of pv energy
for every gallon of oil used for heating, eg an extra 38,000 kwh per
year for a house that uses 1,000 gallons of oil per year for heat?
at $8/peak watt, that might add an extra $300k to the house price.

we might say a true zero-energy house could only generate 1/2 or 1/3
of that extra electrical energy, since efficient utilities can make
1 kwh of electricity with 2 kwh of heat, and efficient heat pumps can
make 3 kwh of heat with 1 kwh of electricity. 


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