AS RISING ENERGY COSTS continue to make headlines, builders and home buyers have become more aware of the need to reduce energy consumption. Granted, many builders include at least some power-conserving features in homes, such as energy-rated appliances and windows. But overall, the production of highly efficient homes with advanced energy-saving features hasn't yet saturated the mainstream production home building market.

The NAHB Research Center is working with production builder Bob Ward Cos. of Edge-wood, Md., to help change this by developing the PowerHouse, a concept production home that will demonstrate the design and implementation of advanced energy-saving technologies.

Funded by the DOE and the Maryland Energy Administration, the PowerHouse will serve as an educational model for builders by displaying a systems approach to energy efficiency. Combining state-of-the-art, energy-efficient features with solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies, the PowerHouse will be one of the first energy-efficient production homes built in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is expected to perform about 50 percent better than a standard code-compliant home of similar size. And though it will not boast 100 percent net-zero annual energy consumption, the Power-House will be a significant step beyond the builder's current Energy Star–qualified home designs.

Reducing the energy required to provide homeowner-desired comfort and convenience is the first step in improving a home's performance. The PowerHouse, a 2,900-square-foot, two-story colonial, is a typical new home built in the Baltimore-Washington area. Affordable and effective energy enhancements will be made throughout the house—building envelope, space conditioning systems, water heating, lighting, and appliances. The few exterior features that will distinguish the PowerHouse from its conventional counterparts are an array of photovoltaic panels and two solar thermal panels on the roof. These systems will generate electricity that can either be used in the home directly or fed back to the utility company when excess power is produced.

Builders and designers will have the opportunity to tour the PowerHouse beginning in late spring 2006. For more information on the PowerHouse project and its featured technologies, go to

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Baltimore, MD.