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New homeowner moves into North Carolina’s first Zero Energy Home; celebration to be held Oct. 6

HICKORY – The public is invited to celebrate with homeowner Frances Thompson Oct. 6 as she prepares to move into North Carolina’s first Zero Energy Home (ZEH), constructed by Catawba Valley Habitat for Humanity with the help of the Appalachian State University Energy Center and N.C. State Energy Office.

The housewarming event at 446 S. Center St. begins at noon, followed by a workshop on Zero Energy Homes at 1 p.m. The public is invited to both events.

Completed in Fall 2005, the home has served as both a research facility and as the local office for Habitat for Humanity. Appalachian students regularly conduct research on the home to monitor its energy usage, and systems performance.

The home combines state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction and appliances with commercially available, renewable energy systems. With its reduced energy needs and solar energy systems, a ZEH can return as much energy as it takes from the utility grid on an annual basis.

Like many homeowners, Thompson will immediately see the difference a ZEH can make to her power bills. She currently pays around $300 a month for electricity.

“The ZEH in Hickory could run for over half a year on that amount,” says Jeff Tiller, coordinator of Building Sciences at Appalachian’s Department of Technology and technical director of the Energy Center. Tiller has been monitoring the energy usage and production of the ZEH as part of the university’s ongoing research into high performance homes.

The home is currently selling power produced by its solar panels back to the North Carolina GreenPower program, a statewide incentive program that pays a premium for energy produced from renewable sources.

The home boasts some impressive features, including a photovoltaic array that produces electricity directly from the sun’s energy, a solar water heating system, and a fresh air ventilation system.

This home includes energy efficient construction practices such as advanced framing and spray foam insulation in the walls.

The ZEH utilizes passive solar design to take advantage of the sun’s warmth in the winter as well as shade from the sun in the summer.

Another feature of the home is a geothermal heat pump which exchanges the air temperature with the constant underground temperature in order to heat and cool the home. In addition to the state-of-the-art features, the home also has recycled tile, high performance windows and the most energy efficient appliances available.

All of these energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies add up to a house that can produce more energy than it uses.

The NC State Energy Office funded the project through the Appalachian State University Energy Center. This special project shows the potential for a variety of technologies in the affordable housing industry in North Carolina.

For more information, contact the Appalachian State University Energy Center at (828) 262-7289 or visit