A Deep Energy Retrofit Brings ReNEWW House HERS Score to Near Zero

The first phase of the ambitious ReNEWW House project has slashed this home’s HERS score to near zero.
Feb 12, 2016 7:00 AM ET

IN JULY 2013, Whirlpool Corporation partnered with Purdue University on a retrofit of a late 1920s bungalow in West Lafayette, Indiana. The goal: to create more livable spaces while lowering operational costs and environmental impacts.

Called the ReNEWW House, for Retrofitted Net-zero Energy, Water and Waste, the structure will be renovated in three phases, with each phase lasting roughly a year. Phase one, a deep-energy retrofit, was completed in the summer of 2014.

On Sept. 12, 2014, the house officially opened as a “living lab.” “Originally, we partnered with Whirlpool to establish a graduate co-op program where four engineering students would split their time between six-month rotations at Whirlpool and two semesters at Purdue,” says Eckhard Groll, the Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Office of Professional Practice at Purdue University. “This was the foundation for the ReNEWW House, as it provided a living dynamic in which to get real world data.”

Up to three graduate students participating in the Whirlpool Engineering Rotational Leadership Development (WERLD) program will live there throughout the project. They and Purdue researchers will monitor more than 70 data points inside and outside the home to evaluate its performance.

Answering a Need

One goal of the ReNEWW project is to demonstrate the feasibility of renovating a 1920s home to meet or exceed new home efficiencies, while maintaining all the charm and character of an older home.

“There are a lot of examples of net-zero energy homes; almost all of them are new builds,” says Eric Bowler, senior engineer and ReNEWW House project manager for Whirlpool Corporation. “The fact is, this country’s inventory of building stock stands at approximately 130 million units. If we really want to reduce the dependence on foreign energy resources, we need to look at retrofits.”

While there are several academic programs in the U.S. that utilize net-zero energy homes for research purposes, these homes are typically new builds and vacant, says Groll. Living in the home allows students to realistically replicate the impacts residents have on their homes.