Just in time for Earth Day and only a wee bit late for 2009 tax incentives, one lucky family in Pittsburgh, Pa., will become the owners of the city's first net-zero energy home. According to an article in Pop City Media, the townhouse complex Riverside Mews has built a home that generates as much power as it consumes.
The net-zero house is one of 48 planned energy-efficient homes being built on a former brownfield site in the city's Southside neighborhood. The building depends on an 8,000-watt photovoltaic array, a geothermal heat pump, LED lighting, and "super-insulation methods" among other innovations. According to the article, "Through the EnergyStar HERS rating system, a score of 100 means a home meets energy requirements ... An 85 gets a home EnergyStar status." The net-zero house weighs in at minus 4.
The home takes advantage of orientation to maximize natural lighting, features an efficient design to maximize the use of its 1,850 square feet, and is located within walking distance of downtown, shopping, dining, night life, and other cultural features of the city.
Even though a city like Pittsburgh experiences more than its fair share of cloudy days (making some worry about the solar panels), the home utilizes other sound construction practices such as a tightly sealed building envelope and duct work as well as a reflective roof and insulation underneath the living space to ensure moisture stays out and the house maximizes energy efficiency.