Net-zero nation : HVAC and PV systems for residential net-zero energy buildings across the United States

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

62 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-628
Journal / PublicationEnergy Conversion and Management
Online published10 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


This study compared the energy performance and initial cost of photovoltaic (PV) and heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment for a residential net-zero energy building (NZEB) in different climate zones across the United States. We used an experimentally validated building simulation model to evaluate various electrically-powered and commercially-available HVAC technologies. The HVAC accounted for 23.8% to 72.9% of the total building energy depending on the HVAC option and climate zone. Each HVAC configuration was paired with a PV system sized to exactly reach the net-zero energy target, so the economics were compared based on the initial PV + HVAC cost. Mechanical ventilation was considered with and without heat recovery; the heat recovery ventilator (HRV) saved a significant amount of energy in cold winter months and hot summer months, and the energy recovery ventilator (ERV) provided additional benefit for humid zones. The HRV was cost-effective in the cold northern latitudes of Chicago, Minneapolis, Helena, and Duluth, where energy savings reached 17.3% to 19.7%. In other climates, ventilation without recovery was more cost effective, by 1% to 9%, and sometimes even more energy efficient. The ERV was never the lowest cost option. A ground-source heat pump (GSHP) and an air-source heat pump (ASHP) were compared, with the GSHP providing significant energy savings, 24.3% to 39.2%, in heating-dominated climates (Chicago through Duluth). In warmer climates, the GSHP saved little energy or used more energy than the ASHP. The PV + HVAC cost was lower everywhere with the ASHP, though it is possible for colder climates that a carefully sized GSHP and ground loop could be cost-competitive. The energy and cost data as well as the required PV capacity could guide HVAC and PV designs for residential NZEBs in different climate zones.

Research Area(s)

  • Climate zone, Ground-source heat pump, Heat recovery, HVAC, Initial cost, Net-zero energy building