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Robustness of Energy Performance of Zero-Net-Energy (ZNE) Homes

Authors: Theo Picard, Tianzhen Hong, Na Luo, Sang Hoon Lee, Kaiyu Sun

Publication: Science Direct

Date: 2020

Zero-net-energy (ZNE) homes produce an adequate amount of energy on-site to meet their energy demand based on source energy for an entire year. California building energy efficiency standards require new residential buildings started in 2020 to be ZNE. For various reasons, a home designed as ZNE may not achieve ZNE performance in real operation. This study aimed to quantify the robustness of the energy performance of ZNE homes due to weather variability, climate change, and the uncertainty of occupant behavior. A single-family ZNE house, based on the optimal cost-effective design in three California climate zones, was used to develop the EnergyPlus simulation models. Weather variations were considered from a combination of the historical 30 years’ actual meteorological year (AMY) weather data, typical year weather data in TMY3, and future weather data based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios. Three scenarios of occupant behavior from the energy perspective were defined to represent the uncertainty about occupants’ activities, comfort requirements, and their adaptive interactions with buildings and systems. In terms of annual source energy, the simulation results of the ZNE homes showed: (1) a decrease of 23–38 percent for occupants with energy austerity behavior and an increase of 120–130 percent for occupants with energy wasteful behavior, compared with the baseline assumption of normal occupants; (2) a variation range of −15 percent to +14 percent for the results using 30-year AMY weather data compared with the baseline results using TMY3 weather data; (3) an increase of 10–13 percent with future weather in Fresno and Riverside and a decrease of 15 percent with San Francisco; and (4) climate change can reduce the gap between the austerity and wasteful consumption. These findings provide insights into how ZNE homes may perform in reality and inform architects, engineers, occupants, and policymakers to pay more attention to occupant behavior on design, operation, and regulations of ZNE homes to ensure energy performance robustness.

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