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TVA's energy efficient home project marks successful first year

July marked the first full year of data collection at TVA's energy efficient homes project at Campbell Creek subdivision in Knox County. And despite a year of temperature extremes, the project has seen significant energy savings, according to the utility.

The first year data showed that in hotter periods such as this June, the advanced house uses only about half the energy of the retrofit house and less than a third compared to the standard house.

"Power bills for the most energy efficient of the three houses totaled less than $450 for the entire year," Project Manager David Dinse said. "That averages out to about $37 per month for a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house."

The upgraded homes use products including solar panels, super-efficient materials and better insulation.

The research project is measuring energy consumption in three, two-story homes of similar size (2,400 to 2,500 square feet) on similar lots with similar solar and wind exposure. Inside, automated mechanisms replicate the occupancy of a family of four, regularly opening and closing the refrigerator, using the oven, running the clothes dryer or taking a shower.

The difference is that one home is an advanced house with energy efficient features, including solar electricity and hot water, installed during construction. A second house was retrofitted with aftermarket efficiency upgrades, including a heat-pump water heater. The third house is a standard, code-certified home that serves as a control.

"In recent hot weather, the power meter on the advanced house has actually spun backward," Dinse said. "On what would ordinarily have been hot, energy intensive days, the solar generation was actually creating a credit toward the power bill."

"The retrofit house demonstrates that good insulation, efficient appliances and routing air ducts through conditioned space produce very good results for a moderate investment. The advanced house features cost about $30,000 extra during construction and the retrofit upgrades were added for about $10,000."

Using data collected from the project, TVA hopes to create a basis for introducing more energy efficient appliances, better insulation techniques and advanced construction materials

Partners in the TVA project include Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute.

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