Skip to main content

Bye, bye bills! Harvard’s HouseZero produces more energy than it consumes

housezero project harvard harvardhousezero
Harvard Center for Green Cities and Buildings
Anyone who has ever gotten an unexpectedly large heating bill will likely be interested to hear about Harvard University’s ambitious HouseZero project currently taking place in Cambridge, Massachusetts: To create a sustainable building that produces more energy than it consumes.

That may sound impressive enough on its own, but clear your mind of the kind of futuristic architecture that would be more at home as the dazzling headquarters of a Silicon Valley tech giant. Instead, what researchers from Harvard, architectural firm Snohetta and Skanska Technology have done is to retrofit a stick-frame pre-1940s house — which will serve as the new energy-efficient home of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities.

The idea is to demonstrate a transferable model of retrofitting that could be applied to the 14 million-plus residential houses of its type that currently exist in the United States. This stands in contrast to conventional thinking that similar levels of energy efficiency can only be developed as part of a new construction.

The so-called HouseZero project boasts a variety of nifty features. These include reducing the need for electric lighting by creating new, enlarged windows and skylights, designed to protect interior spaces from direct sun in the summer, while also encouraging winter sun. This means minimal cooling necessary in the hot summer months, while minimal heating is required in the cold winter months. Air quality and comfort levels in the house are permanently monitored, with ventilation controlled via smart algorithms and room sensors that are responsible for opening and shutting windows. Then there’s a glazed, solar chimney designed to generate thermal uplift to draw heat from the basement into the main living areas. In addition, expect energy generated by photovoltaic panels and then stored for use — with surplus energy fed back into the city’s power grid.

In terms of materials and design, the house consists of open-plan areas, glass partitions, and lots of exposed wooden beams; which will all contribute to a quiet, undisturbed living experience. Sure, you might feel a bit like you are living in an Apple store at times, but the lack of bills will presumably make up for it!

Should all continue to go to plan, expect more houses like this to pop up around the United States in the not-too-distant future.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
This R2-D2 lookalike is really a smart speaker stand, and it’s $32 for Cyber Monday
A little girl looks at the Impremli Android Rus-T1 smart speaker stand on a set of shelves.

Star Wars lovers may enjoy what this Cyber Monday deal at Amazon has to offer, as it resembles one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe, R2-D2. And while at heart the Impremli Android Rus-T1 is a decorative knick-knack, in actuality it’s a smart speaker stand that works with a wide variety of the best smart speakers. You can currently grab the little robot for $32, which is a $23 Cyber Monday savings from its regular price of $55.

Why you should buy the Impremli Android Rus-T1 smart speaker stand
R2-D2 is one of the most beloved characters Star Wars has turned out, and while this smart speaker stand is in no way an officially licensed R2-D2 replica, it looks enough like Luke Skywalker’s sidekick for me to call it that if it were at my bedside. It has rotatable legs that allow for it to stand in different positions on tables, shelves, kitchen counters, and even around the office. It includes a set of interchangeable blue accessories, but should you want to move the representation away from R2-D2, you can purchase additional colors that are sold separately.

Read more
The best Dyson cordless vacuum Cyber Monday deals right now
The Dyson V15 Detect cordless vacuum with its laser.

The arrival of Cyber Monday deals means that shoppers can get some rare discounts on Dyson products. If you're hoping to get one of the brand's cordless vacuums, we've rounded up the best Dyson cordless vacuum Cyber Monday deals that you can shop right now. You'll no longer have to sniff out these bargains yourself, but you still need to decide quickly on what to buy because the offers may expire at any moment.
The best Dyson cordless vacuum Cyber Monday deal
Dyson V8 Origin+ -- $225, was $420

Without a doubt, the best deal we're seeing is on the Dyson V8 Origin+ Cordless Vacuum. The reasoning? Its price is being cut back by a lot, putting the price into reach for most consumers, while also maintaining a level of quality and features that will feel premium.

Read more
DeWalt Cyber Monday Deals: Save on power tools and accessories
A DeWalt drill being used.

There are lots of tech goodies on sale during Cyber Monday deals, but you shouldn't overlook the chance to get more practical things like power tools with a discount. That oversized TV you purchased from today's Cyber Monday TV deals won't mount itself. We've collected all of the best power tool Cyber Monday deals in one spot for you already, but with power tools it is often best to zoom in on one brand. This is largely because of their batteries, which you can use from one product to the next within the same brand, encouraging you to buy from the same brand again and again.

With this in mind, we look at DeWalt's tools and accessories. Their 20V line of cordless power tools is particularly popular and we're seeing good deals on them for Black Friday. Additionally, we'll be taking a look at some of their accessories, which are also on sale at this time of the year.

Read more