BENTON HARBOR — An energy-inefficient, late 1920’s vintage bungalow in West Lafayette, Ind., will become a living laboratory for appliance and resource efficiency research under a partnership of Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp. and Purdue University.
Whirlpool engineers are working with Purdue to transform an off-campus house into a net-zero energy, water and waste structure. Called the ReNEWW house — for Retrofitted Net-zero Energy, Water and Waste — the structure will be renovated to include energy-saving features, solar panels, a system to reuse “gray” water from sinks and showers, and other technologies that promote resource efficiency.
“Net-zero energy means that over a certain timeline, usually an entire year, energy production equals energy consumption,” said Eckhard Groll, project sponsor, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Office of Professional Practice at Purdue University. “It’s going to be a super-efficient home.”
Over the next three years, Whirlpool engineers that participate in the Whirlpool Engineering Rotational Leadership Development (WERLD) Program and are enrolled in the engineering graduate program at Purdue will have the option to live and work in the house, which Whirlpool is leasing from the university. After initial collection of baseline data, such as how much energy and water the home consumes, Groll said the students will work on converting the house into a net-zero home. Improvements will include replacing windows, insulating and air sealing the building envelope, installing a solar power system and installing a more efficient HVAC system.
Plans for the home also call for finishing the large basement into a laboratory environment. Engineers will install an instrumentation system that monitors key data and employ the lab and data collected to help develop a next-generation, high-efficiency appliance suite in conjunction with Purdue.
“The goal of this project is not only to learn more about resource sustainability, but also to demonstrate how any home can become resource efficient when the right kind of modifications are made,” said Bob Bergeth, Whirlpool’s general manager of builder sales. “After we’ve compiled this valuable research, we plan to share it with our homebuilder partners interested in the benefits of sustainable building. The project will also provide valuable insights which inform our engineers on future product design.”
Ron Voglewede, Whirlpool’s Global Sustainability Lead, added that the residential remodeling sector is an area that is particularly ripe for efficiency improvements, considering that a majority of the nation’s housing stock was built before the first energy crisis and with little regard for resource efficiency.
“We want to focus on ways to dramatically improve the existing residential stock in the United States, which is why the project research will stress integrated appliance design that seamlessly increases resource efficiency,” Voglewede said. “By creating products that perform better while significantly lowering operating costs and environmental impacts, we’re able to give consumers more choice, not compromises.”
More about Whirlpool’s sustainability practices and builder and contract channel products at www.InsideAdvantage.com.