What Is A Net-Zero Energy Home?

Owning a net-zero energy home positively impacts not only the environment, but the homeowners as well.
Net Zero House


Net-zero energy homes are the future of residential construction. At one time these energy efficient buildings, which create as much or more energy than they consume, were limited to the extremely wealthy who wanted the latest technology or those with passionate environmentalist interests. However, with decreasing energy-efficient technology costs, building a net-zero energy home is a possibility these days for just about any potential homeowner.

Required Features Of A Net-Zero Energy Home

A house must meet all these requirements to be considered a net-zero home:

CLEAN POWER SOURCE. Most net-zero energy homes use solar panels on the roof to power the home, although, some owners choose to use wind turbines. If you have more than an acre of land and get consistently strong breezes, this may be an option for you.

ENERGY-EFFICIENT APPLIANCES AND SYSTEMS. A net-zero energy home uses less power because of its advanced technology. You’ll find Energy Star products throughout the house. Every plumbing fixture will also be energy efficient, helping you consume less water. Many of these houses use air or ground-source heat pumps to regulate indoor temperature for heating and cooling. Air-source models pull heat from outside to warm things up and push warm air out to cool your house. Ground-source heat pumps extract warmth from the ground and recirculate warm air from your home.

AIRTIGHT SEAL. With an airtight seal, all your energy-saving tactics will succeed. Small gaps and inadequate insulation allow heating and cooling to seep out of your home, bleeding your wallet and hurting eco-friendly goals. Net-zero energy houses have the best insulation and meet high standards for wall quality. They also undergo rigorous testing and inspections throughout the project.

STRATEGIC HOME PLACEMENT. To create the most energy, you’ll need a lot with plenty of natural light or wind, depending on the source you’re harnessing. You must also situate the home correctly on your land to maximize your natural environmental advantages, such as sun or wind exposure, and take into account local topography and tree cover. The goal is to capture as much direct sunlight in the winter and block it out during the summer.

MANY LARGE WINDOWS. Large windows on the east and west bring in more sunshine, making you less reliant on artificial lights. When paired with curtains, this measure also cuts down significantly on heating and cooling.

Benefits Of Owning A Net-Zero Energy Home

Owning a net-zero energy home positively impacts both you and the environment.

LESS EXPENSIVE TO RUN. While you’ll likely pay more initially for your net-zero energy home, you’ll save significantly across its lifetime. Creating and wisely using your own power will allow you to be independent of the grid. Your utility bills will be reduced to next to nothing — especially if you have a septic system and well. Otherwise, you’ll still have to pay for water and waste management, but your efficient plumbing will help reduce even those bills.

BETTER AIR QUALITY. A net-zero energy home’s tight envelope means no air can get in from the outside except through your filtration system. You’ll notice much less dust and other pollutants, which is perfect for people with allergies or asthma. The air- and water-tight seal also prevents rain from seeping into your home and causing damage, resulting in mold and mildew. You and your family will breathe much better.

MAINTAINS CONSISTENT TEMPERATURE. Improved insulation means you won’t experience unwanted drafts chilling you in winter or have your air conditioning running continually because your cool air is escaping into the summer heat. The tight envelope keeps cold or warm air exactly where it needs to be.

IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH. Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that can help prevent depressive symptoms. The ideal way to raise serotonin levels is by getting outside in the sunshine. However, weather and health conditions don’t always make this easy. Exposure to natural light through windows is enough to boost your body to create more serotonin. The large amount of windows in a net-zero energy home can support this goal.

PREVENTS POWER INTERRUPTIONS. Since a net-zero energy home breaks your reliance on the grid with your solar panels, battery and backup generator, you won’t experience power outages like the rest of your community when the power goes out.

REDUCES YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. With a net-zero home, you’ll drastically reduce your carbon footprint over time. Your solar panels or wind turbine will create clean energy, eliminating your reliance on fossil fuels for electricity. Having energy-efficient appliances and water-saving plumbing fixtures lowers your usage of both resources. If that weren’t enough, many people find they make more energy than they can use each month. They can sell it back to the power company, decreasing their need for fossil fuels. You can also use your surplus to charge an electric mower or car, further reducing your carbon footprint.

INCREASES RESALE VALUE. Over the last several years, interest in net-zero energy homes has increased. Costs for the technology and expertise are lower than ever, and these houses are becoming mainstream. As such, more homeowners are looking specifically for a net-zero home and are willing to pay for it. For example, since solar panels last 25–30 years on average, they’re a real selling feature for potential buyers who want to save money on utilities each month. You can enjoy your home for now and rest easy knowing you can sell it for more down the line.

Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated, and has been writing in the home living industry for over five years. Her work has been featured on The National Association of Realtors, the American Society of Home Inspectors and other reputable publications.

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