Net Zero House offsets energy usage

Chief Rasheem Wynn and his wife, Monica, monitor their Net Zero home’s energy generation and usage via computer.

Story and photos by Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

As part of an ongoing effort by Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to promote conservation and energy efficiency, Catlin Park now has what is known as a Net Zero home.

The Net Zero Home concept is based on offsetting how much energy a house uses in the course of one year with energy from a renewable source such as solar panels. If a house uses less energy than the solar panels generates over the course of the year, then it is considered a Net Zero home.

Turning an existing home into a Net Zero home was a team effort between Forest City Military Communities and the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE-funded energy consultants helped to estimate the amount of energy the home would use over the span of 12 months.

“DOE consultants suggested energy efficiency modifications to help make the house a Net Zero home with the smallest possible photovoltaic system,” said Will Boudra, vice-president of development, Forest City Military Communities.

“After factoring in the added energy efficiencies, the consultants figured out how many photovoltaic panels were needed to generate the same amount of power the house was estimated to use for its size,” he said.

The home was outfitted with a 7.2-kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic system to harvest energy from the sun. In addition, to make the house as efficient as possible, the insulation in the attic was doubled and a higher-efficiency central air conditioning system was installed.

Solar panels and a high-efficiency air conditioning system help make this Catlin Park house a Net Zero home.

The Net Zero modifications to the home were completed in November 2010. Over the next 12 months, both the amounts of electricity used and the amounts of electricity generated were tracked. The results were good.

“True to the consultant’s calculations, the home used slightly less energy than the rooftop photo-voltaic system produced,” said Boudra.

The energy generated by a home with solar panels doesn’t just benefit those who live there. The energy feeds into the electrical grid, and since it is generated and not purchased, it helps to lower the overall cost of electricity in the community. By lowering energy costs, there are more funds available to provide more community services to the residents of the neighborhoods.

The residents of the Net Zero home, Chief Rasheem Wynn, Navy Information Operations Command Hawaii, and his spouse, Monica, couldn’t be happier with their energy efficient home.

“When we moved to Catlin Park, we were told we would be in a Net Zero home,” said Monica. “I didn’t even know what that meant.”

Housing representatives explained the Net Zero concept to the Wynns and how the energy efficient appliances and solar panel system worked. More importantly, the family was shown how to monitor both the amount of energy they were generating versus the amount of energy they were using via a program installed on their personal computer.

“The monitoring system is very user friendly. It’s just point and click,” said Monica. “All it took was a five-minute briefing to understand how it works.”

Chief Wynn appreciates being able to monitor his home’s energy usage.

“It’s good to know how much electricity you use,” said Chief Wynn. “It makes you more conscious of your energy consumption.”

The Wynns are so impressed by their solar-powered home, they plan to install a photovoltaic system when it comes time for them to buy their own house.

“Solar is not a luxury; it is a necessity,” said Chief Wynn. “You may have to pay more at first to have it installed, but you will save money in the long run.”

Also impressed by the Net Zero home is Rear Adm. Frank Ponds, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.

“I personally visited the Net Zero home here at Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and I was most impressed-not just with the house, which has some spectacular energy conservation features, but also with the Wynn family, who are enthusiastic, supportive and committed to the ideals of energy security through energy conservation in their home and in their neighborhood,” said Ponds.

“The Net Zero home is part of Hawaii’s Energy Smart Initiative and is in perfect alignment with Department of Defense and Department of the Navy energy conservation actions. These actions and other initiatives will reduce dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels. As we move away from dependence on foreign oil, we preserve our independence and protect our sovereignty,” Ponds said.

“When we do it right, as we’re doing with the Net Zero home, it’s a win-win for all concerned. We will continue to look for innovative ways to achieve energy independence here in Hawaii,” he said.

Efforts to maximize energy conservation and efficiency in military communities will continue with big plans ahead for next year.

“We have contracts in place starting in 2013 to install rooftop photovoltaic systems throughout the Navy neighborhoods,” said Boudra. “It’s very likely we’ll be having a lot more Net Zero homes.”

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Category: News