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Campbell Creek Energy Efficient Homes Project


The Campbell Creek research project is a unique test facility that enables TVA and its partners, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), to evaluate the effectiveness of residential construction and efficiency technologies in a controlled environment.

TVA has built three experimental homes at Campbell Creek to evaluate residential building techniques, energy efficiency technologies, and consumer energy-use behaviors.

TVA is using the results to develop the best, most cost-effective residential energy efficiency and demand-response tools to educate builders, developers and consumers. “Demand response” refers to approaches that encourage consumers to reduce their energy use during periods of peak demand.

  • One home serves as a control for the project (called the Builder Home) and represents a typical house currently built in the Tennessee Valley. It incorporates local building codes and serves as a control against which the other homes are being compared. It was projected to use slightly less energy than a new house built to the International Energy Conservation Code.
  • The second home, also built as a typical house, was retrofitted with energy efficiency technologies that an existing homeowner could add to improve efficiency. This home, called the Retrofit Home, was projected to use two-thirds of the energy of a new house built to code.
  • The third home was built using the latest construction technologies to make it as efficient as possible and still provide excellent curb appeal. It employs photovoltaic panels and solar water heating to help make it a near zero-energy house. This house, called the High Performance Home, was projected to use one-third the energy of a "code" house.

TVA, ORNL and EPRI are monitoring the energy use and effectiveness of these new technologies in the Campbell Creek experimental homes. Consistent living conditions are simulated in each home so that comparable data can be gathered. Simulations include opening and closing the refrigerator door, turning showers on and off and washing clothes. TVA will also use the homes to test other new technologies as they are developed.

What did TVA learn?

Data gathering began in Summer 2009, and the latest results through September 2012 show the Retrofit Home has used 40% less energy than the Builder Home. The High Performance Home, which includes the energy produced from photovoltaic panels, realized a 66% savings.

The annual energy cost for the Builder Home was $1,868; the Retrofit home was $1,189 (a savings of 36%); and the High Performance Home was $320 (less than a $1.00 per day) which includes a buyback credit from the TVA Generation Partners Program.

The research indicates using compact fluorescent lights, highly efficient windows, heat pump water heat­ers, Energy Star appliances, and extra insulation contribute to the amount of energy savings that a homeowner can achieve. Also, sealing a home and properly orienting a home on a site can lower power bills. Consider using a Heat Pump Water Heater, as they outperformed the Solar Water Heating System with electric backup. If you are building a new home, advanced framing using 2X6 walls to allow for extra insulation is a cost-effective investment. Placing the heating and cooling ducts within the conditioned space will also help lower your energy costs. Ducts in unconditioned attics or crawl spaces should be avoided if at all possible.

Conventional energy efficiency measures should be completed before adding solar panels for electricity generation. But if you are considering solar generation, your roof should be positioned within 20 de­grees of south to get enough sun exposure for your system to be cost effective over its lifetime.

Find out more about the Campbell Creek project.

If you already own your home, make energy efficiency work for you and start with TVA’s free Home Energy Evaluation.

Construction of the Campbell Creek homes

TVA worked through the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors to identify home size, aesthetics and price points that would be good market performers in the greater Knoxville area. TVA spent about $40,000 in modifications to the homes to cover the builder’s incremental costs, which include building upgrades and provisions to simulate occupancy and monitor performance. In addition, manufacturers and suppliers contributed approximately $54,000 in materials, equipment and labor (see column at right).

In building these three houses, TVA has created a multimillion-dollar research facility for about 10 percent of the cost of creating the testing capacity in a laboratory. This project demonstrates that through the combined expertise of TVA, ORNL and the building industry, it is possible to construct homes that have all the features desired by home buyers yet have less than half the energy needs of homes currently being built.
TVA has not had a residential research project of this type under way since its solar home research in the 1980s.

Home Features

The three Campbell Creek homes have different features reflecting different levels of energy efficiency.

Control house

  • Meets international energy codes
  • All electric upgrade
  • Two SEER 13 heat pumps, total 4.5 tons

(SEER refers to seasonal energy efficiency ratio, a key industry measure of heating and cooling efficiency. Higher numbers denote higher efficiency.)

Retrofit house

  • DuPont weatherization system, roof and walls
  • Spray foam and fiberglass in sealed attic
  • Whole house air- tightening package and mechanical ventilation
  • Programmable thermostat
  • All fluorescent lighting, Energy Star appliances
  • Three-ton SEER 16 heat pump with high-efficiency indoor fan motor and zone dampers

Near zero-energy house

  • Advanced air-tight construction with structural insulating sheathing
  • Triple pane windows
  • Two-ton SEER 16 heat pump with high-efficiency indoor fan motor and variable speed compressor
  • Programmable thermostat
  • Solar photovoltaic system on roof and drainback solar water heating system
  • All fluorescent lighting, Energy Star appliances
  • Heat recovery from gray water, dryer vent, dishwasher


The following manufacturers and suppliers have contributed to the Campbell Creek project:

  • Roof sheathing: Louisiana Pacific
  • Wall sheathing: Dow
  • Energy Star appliances and heat pump water heater: General Electric
  • Foam insulation: BioBased Insulation
  • Fiberglass spider and batt insulation: Johns Manville
  • Solar water heating system: Sustainable Future
  • Super-insulating windows: Serious Materials
  • Two-ton Amana heat pump: Associated Equipment Company
  • Energy recovery ventilator: Fantech
  • Photovoltaic installation labor: Big Frog Mountain

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