Luke Theivagt, EEI 2017 Intern
Imagine a house independent of outside support. A house which does not require water from a treatment plant, or electricity from a power plant to support comfortable living because it contains the capacity to produce everything that it needs on its own. A house like this was built by UNT with the help of several donors, and in the years since, professors and graduate students at UNT have been testing and developing the technology used within the home to produce a cheaper and more efficient zero energy home. On Thursday June 22nd as an EEI intern, I was able to visit the home and was given an extensive tour explaining how a zero footprint home is possible. `
Figure 1. The Zero Energy House Research Laboratory at University Park, UNT.
The front of the house contains small flat containing a bed, small kitchen with a refrigerator and sink, a card table to sit at, and a bathroom. This room was made to comfortably fit four people and is used to test the practicality of these energy and water saving devices in a normal house environment.
To produce its own self sustainable energy, the house draws from two vertical windmills, which produce around 3.6 kilowatts and catch air from all directions, greatly increasing efficiency, while producing little to no sound. Also producing great amounts of energy, large solar panels lay along the inside of the oddly “V” shaped roof, producing an average of 5.6 kilowatts from the hot Texas
Figure 2. The house produces its own clean energy with windmills and solar panels on the roof
Shaped in a “V” formation, the roof easily collects large amounts of rainfall in a massive 3,000 gallon storage tank underneath the house. After being collected, the house automatically pumps the water through several carbon filters and UV lasers, a process which purifies and cleans the rainwater. By cleaning it’s own water, the house can supply all systems in the house from the shower to the faucet with it’s own water.
Another amazing instalment which enables the house’s self sufficiency is the method in which it maintains a comfortable temperature throughout the building. First, to mitigate the large energy drain experienced in most homes, the zero energy house utilizes sensors to determine the location of each parson and how many people there are in the building, allowing it to not waste power on maintaining the temperature for an area of the house with no one in it. To maintain the temperature, the zero energy house pumps cold water from an underground spring into several pipes directly under the floorboard, allowing the cold in the water to radiate throughout the house when the temperature rises above a certain point.
Figure 3. On the left, the rainwater is collected and later cleaned for its usage in the house. On the right, a look of the indoor of the house
Continued development in these various energy efficient processes are required for a greener, cleaner future. The work done at this facility paves way for more efficient and cost effective techniques which, with proper development could eventually become cheap enough to be placed and utilized in the average home. I learned that not only is water essential to all living life but, with proper techniques it can be used in countless applications, such as a medium to transfer heat across a large space to regulate temperature. In the same way that EEI seeks to conserve water and our natural resources, the research in the zero energy house provides new and expanding ways to conserve electricity and other essential resources.
Figure 4. The interns enjoyed the tour to the Zero Energy House research lab at University Park, UNT.