- Associated Press - Thursday, September 25, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Knoxville real estate market is about to get three new houses listed for sale after the homes sat for several years with only simulated families living in them.

The utility fitted the West Knoxville houses with electrical and mechanical equipment to simulate someone living there, earning the houses the nickname “robo” houses, said David Dinse, the Tennessee Valley Authority executive in charge of the project.

The project allowed TVA to test a range of energy efficiency measures as part of a research project with Electric Power Research Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1qvXISP) reported Wednesday.

TVA leased the homes from developer Michael Rhodes, and with the project finishing up this month, the houses will be offered for sale.

The demand for energy efficient homes has increased since the project began in 2009, Rhodes said.



“It has grown by leaps and bounds,” he said. “Customers have become more and more aware of all the energy efficiency features available and want them in their homes.”

Builder John Kerr says many of the energy efficiency measures that TVA tried out on the houses are now incorporated in building codes.

“This gives us a great competitive edge,” he said.

The houses were built to TVA specs, Dinse said. One was a typical home, one an upgraded version with energy efficiency improvements and the last a “near zero energy” home built from the ground up for energy efficiency.

Sensors and devices were wired into the homes to monitor energy use. Lights, dishwashers and other appliances were programmed to turn off and on to simulate a family’s power use. Refrigerators were fitted with robotic arms to open and close doors.

Measurements were made of energy use, and the research showed that compared to the standard home, the upgraded home used 37 percent less energy and the “near zero energy” home used about 55 percent less after extra electricity produced by a built-in solar system was factored in, Dinse said.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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