If zero-energy homes become commonplace in future, it’s likely that the owners of those homes will look to four sites in Florida as the cradle of zero energy.

The four sites that make up the Zero Energy America (ZEA) project are located in the Tampa Bay area. ZEA 1 and 2, which represent phase 1 of the project, are located in Palm Harbor. ZEA 3 is located in Odessa, and ZEA 4 is located in Trinity.

The central focus of the ZEA project is to construct four homes with net zero grid energy. The homes were constructed using the latest in green and energy-efficient products. They have the potential to leave homeowners without power bills and also provide a model of sustainable construction.

Homebuilder Marc Rutenberg, president of Marc Rutenberg Homes, Tarpon Springs, FL, took the lead in the ZEA project with a big helping hand from his daughter, Ashley, who is a LEED AP, and also from LG Electronics, which supplied many of the products required to enable the homes to meet their lofty zero-energy goals. Blair’s A/C & Heating Clearwater, FL, participated as the project’s air conditioning contractor.

“Not only were we looking to build exceptionally efficient homes, we were able to provide a model for sustainable home construction and keep it upscale, fashion-forward, and real,” says Marc Rutenberg. “Thanks in part to LG’s energy efficient technologies, we're giving our clients in the Tampa Bay area the potential for electric-bill-free living and a tangible way to visualize what it means to live in a sustainable world.”

To conquer the daunting task of cooling the large square footage of the Florida homes (ZEA 1 in Palm Harbor, for example, is 4,522 sq.ft.) Rutenberg turned to LG’s innovative variable refrigerant flow (VRF) solutions, constructing a system with a single outdoor unit and five indoor zones to help provide the optimal temperature control and efficiency throughout the space. Because they use optimized scroll or rotary compressors, specially designed heat exchangers and inverter technology, LG’s VRF systems are able to minimize energy use to levels unattainable by traditional HVAC systems.

Rutenberg also drove the net zero capabilities with LG’s technologically advanced photovoltaic modules, Mono X, which are designed to exceed the home’s energy requirements. While conventional products run at 240W, MonoX solar modules operate at 260W.

The two 30-panel PV arrays at ZEA 1 produce 15,600 kW of electricity. With a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index of negative 12, the NET meter installed by Duke Energy displayed energy returning to the grid when activated at the grueling end of a Florida summer, where average summer temperatures reach 90F with 90%+ humidity. The ZEA homes are designed to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program “LEED for Homes” Platinum certification, as well as other green building standards set by the National Association of Home Builders’ National Green Building Standard and the Florida Green Building Coalition.

The first two of the net-zero ZEA homes were completed in September. ZEA 3 will be complete near the end of 2012, while ZEA 4, the upcoming second-generation home of ZEA, is expected to be completed in May 2013.

For more information, visit www.LG-VRF.com and www.LG-Solar.com.