Whirlpool and Kohler Commit to Net-Zero Research Project

The two companies are joining to create a retrofitted net-zero energy, water, and waste research home near Purdue University in Indiana


By Sara Elliott, Associate Editor | June 26, 2015
Exterior view of the Whirlpool Corp. and Kohler Co. joint research project—the ReNEWW House.
Whirlpool Corp. and Kohler Co. have announced that they will join together on a project known as the ReNEWW House, a retrofitted, net-zero energy, water, and waste research home located near the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Ind.
Whirlpool’s global sustainability director, Ron Voglewede, says that the goal of the ReNEWW House is to drive collaboration between industries, academia, and the public. “We did this by creating a unique environment via a live-in research lab that allows each company to research and develop system approaches to solving and making the home more sustainable, healthy, and efficient,” Voglewede says.
“Our goal at the ReNEWW House is to measure water use at every application point—fixtures, faucets, appliances, and landscape—to gain insights into consumption, available supply for reuse, and usage patterns throughout the day and over the course of the year,” Kohler’s sustainability senior channel manager, Rob Zimmerman, adds when discussing the goals of the ReNEWW House.
Improvements in the water efficiency of plumbing fixtures and appliances in the last 20 years have led to a decrease in water use by Americans. “Both Kohler and Whirlpool believe that getting to the next tier of water efficiency will only happen through systemic water use solutions,” Zimmerman says.
Research for the ReNEWW House started with baseline data and research modeling in 2013 before the completion of the home’s deep energy retrofit in 2014. The retrofit achieved a Home Energy Rating Score (HERS) reduction from 177 to 1, and the home now generates more energy than it uses.
To further increase the home’s efficiency, another retrofit began in June with completion expected in September. “[This part of the project includes] adding rainwater collection and purification for potable use and graywater systems for water recapture and use, driving to net zero water,” Voglewede says. “We will have UV and ozone purification systems along with water sharing and thermal storage and reuse in the home.”
Additional technologies that the two companies plan to use at Purdue Uni­versity’s ReNEWW House include onsite water treatment, rainwater storage, WaterSense-labeled plumbing fix­tures, Energy Star appliances, automated metering, and heat recovery. Zimmerman adds that newer technologies “with the potential to reduce water and energy use even further may be included as they are developed.
The project and associated research are slated to last through 2018. PB


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