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Economic Enhancements to a First-Year Net Zero Energy Home Design Project

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Topics in Energy Management

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.448.1 - 23.448.15



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Paper Authors


Andrew Lau Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Andrew Lau is an associate professor of Engineering and coordinator of first-year seminars. He earned his B.S.M.E. from Penn State in 1977, and his M.S.M.E. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1983.

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Economic Enhancements to a First-Year Net Zero Energy Home Design ProjectA half-semester long project has been developed at a major large public university to introducestudents to engineering design. The project focuses on the design of a net zero energy home(NZEH) by four-person teams, and was reported on at the 2012 ASEE meeting in San Antonio.This past summer, a significant effort was undertaken to include cost and engineering economicsinto the design. This paper begins by summarizing that earlier paper, then describes thedevelopment of the cost data and economic analysis. This is followed by some parametric studiesperformed by the authors, and insights into the most viable design features from an economicstandpoint. The last section reports on experiences using the enhanced project in class in fall2012. The plan is to limit each NZEH design to a fixed construction cost budget, and then tohave students do tradeoff analysis considering insulation levels, number and types of windows,type of heating/cooling system, solar water heating, and perhaps most importantly, overall size ofthe house. Construction cost data was developed from RSMeans along with consultations withcontractors and equipment suppliers. Parametric studies have shown that by constraining theproject to be NZEH, the efficiency levels that are economically justified are measurably higherthan a more typical house design where current electricity prices are the basis for energytradeoffs. Another way of saying this is that putting in more insulation in the wall, for example,and reducing the electricity needed for heating and cooling is less expensive than purchasing alarger solar electric system to provide that electricity. Looking at the bigger picture, it is sayingthat if designers were to include the cost of providing renewable electricity into their designs,they would design differently.

Lau, A. (2013, June), Economic Enhancements to a First-Year Net Zero Energy Home Design Project Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19462

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