smart grid washing machineGrid-smart appliances are the future in sustainable design and efficiency. They are able to monitor and measure your electrical use in an effort to save on costs and manage the stress on the local energy grid. This will work well if your house is on the grid exclusively or if you use solar panels to lower your use of community power.

The goal of grid-aware appliance use is to be carbon neutral with  zero net-energy growth. To get there this involves new technology for refrigerators and freezers that use natural refrigerants, such as hydrocarbons in place of hydroflurocarbons which are thought to have an affect on global warming.

When it comes to laundry, clothing will be washed and dried faster with grid-smart appliances. Flat screen televisions will use less energy than the old CRT sets and modern thermostats will be better at regulating room temperatures.

Some of the new grid-smart appliances can even be controlled on your smart phone or tablet. You can be notitifed when your home reaches a certain temperature or when the wash cycle is over and it’s time for your clothes to be dried.

Here at Trilogy Partners in Breckenridge we incorporate grid-aware appliances into our sustainable designs and construction philosophy. Feel free to visit our Facebook page for more on green building.

Image: engadget

Zero Net Energy (ZNE) structures use only as much power as they are able to produce. For instance most structures use electricity. A ZNE building might have photovoltaic solar cells on the roof to produce that electricity.

During the summer months, when the panels produce more electricity than the structure requires, the excess is sold back to the utility grid. During the winter months, when the solar panels are less efficient or even covered with snow, electrical energy that was originally sold to the grid would be purchased providing the needed electrical energy. In this manner, the net consumption of grid tied energy is zero. And because most electrical utility grids rely on carbon based fuels, the carbon energy footprint of the structure approaches zero, something most would agree is good for the environment.

Oftentimes a variety of different systems power and support the ZNE structure. Take for example a zero net energy residential structure. Many decisions about what systems to incorporate into the home will be decided during the design phase often many months before construction actually begins. One focus of the design process is concerned with energy management and conservation while another focus of the design process is energy production and harvest. For instance, conservation focuses on developing super insulated wall and roof systems to prevent the loss of heat energy or to reduce cooling needs. To further recude the homes energy requirements, energy control systems such as automated lighting controls, occupancy sensors, and consumption monitoring systems, are designed. For energy production and harvest, passive and active solar systems are often utilized. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels may occupy much of the south facing roof surfaces. Geothermal, which harvest heat from the earth, may also be employed to heat the structure. Solar panels may also be used to heat water for domestic use or heating purposes. Small wind turbines may also be used to help power the structure.

One of the most important aspects of creating the ZNE structure is energy modeling. This takes place early in the design phase. It’s important to estimate accurately the energy requirements of the finished structure. An energy census is completed and sophisticated computer modeling is employed. Once the energy needs of the structure are estimated, systems can then be employed to provide enough energy to the structure so that it consumes no more than it produces and can indeed be called a ZNE building.

At Trilogy, we not only believe strongly in sustainable or green building practices, but we lead by example and encourage our clients to embrace these philosophies.  This year we built the first Zero Net Energy home every constructed in Breckenridge, Colorado and are excited to see other architects doing the same across the country.

Project FROG, a green-building company founded in San Francisco in 2006, is leading the way by building energy-efficient modular systems, primarily in schools.  The best part is that Project FROG can build these schools more quickly and with a cost of about 25% less than permanent structured schools.

According to, “A two million dollar budget got Watkinson School 3,500 square feet of classroom space built from 50 percent recycled material. The building is outfitted with 60 solar panels that reduce the electricity costs to zero (in fact it produces more energy than the building uses). And because of the modular design, the project took only six months to complete.”

Project FROG was recently featured on Anderson Cooper’s 360.  Click here take a look at this short clip and see why Zero Net Energy is leading the way.

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