What is a net zero home?
Net-zero-energy homes combine energy saving techniques with renewable energy generation so that they produce as much energy as they consume over the course of a year. These ultra-efficient homes usually add energy to the grid when the sun is out and take energy from the grid at night and during the winter, boasting a net zero-energy consumption on an annualized basis. A net-zero home can be made net positive by adding further solar panels to the south roof, and this additional power can be used to charge an electric car.
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Benefits of Net Zero
Once you experience a net zero home, you’ll never want to go back.
Net zero homes are easy and comfortable to live in. You can say goodbye to cold drafts in the winter and overheated spaces in the summer. The indoor temperature stays steady and delightful, and there is a constant fow of fresh air that has been fltered and preconditioned.
No Power Bills
With your energy generation atop your roof, you will not be paying an electricity bill and will not be concerned by rising energy costs.
A net-zero home is very well daylit to reduce lightbulb energy use. All those windows mean you have great views.
With highly insulated walls and roof, a net-zero house provides shelter against increasing temperature swings.
Reduced Environmental Impact
Housing causes 30% of global carbon emissions. A net-zero house proves that housing can be designed to totally eliminate carbon emissions.
Net-Zero House Design
Designed from the ground up to take advantage of the sun.
A net zero house should face south (in the northern hemisphere) to gather sunlight onto rooftop solar panels, and admit controlled daylight through windows on the south wall.
A simple rectangular footprint is ideal for net-zero design, with the long wall facing south. If a house is larger than 1,500 square feet, then a two-story design is cheaper to build and more energy efficient.
The high occupancy rooms, the kitchen, dining, and living rooms, are located to the south, where the daylight is strong. Occasional spaces, like stairs, bathrooms, utility rooms, and entrances, are located at the north.
A house should have a first-floor bedroom so occupants can have the choice to age in place. Additionally, there should be an accessible first-floor bathroom.
Everything must be optimized to achieve the net-zero goal.
Structural insulated wall and roof panels are manufactured off site, reducing construction times, increasing quality, decreasing air leakage, and providing vaulted ceilings.
Under-slab and foundation-edge insulation decrease energy loss and place the concrete floor slab within the insulated envelope, which keeps internal temperatures constant and eliminates the need to turn down your thermostat at night.
HRV units are fitted as standard. These heat exchangers reduce ventilation energy loss by 80 percent and ensure a wonderful quality of fresh, filtered air delivered at room temperature.
Electric heat pumps provide both cooling and heating, ensuring excessive summertime overheating can be avoided. No fossil fuels need to be burnt to heat or cool the house.
Rooftop solar panels produce more than enough clean, renewable electricity to offset the modest energy needs of the house. Most of our designs have enough south-facing roof space to install enough extra PV to charge one or more electric cars.
Is net zero possible in my cold/hot/cloudy location?
Yes. We build net-zero houses in the Pacifc Northwest, which is cloudy and yields 3.5 hours of sunshine per day on average. With this level of cloudiness, we spec between 3.1 watts of solar per square foot (for a 2,500-square-foot house) to 4.8 watts per square foot (for a 1,000-square-foot house) to achieve net zero.
Does a net-zero house have batteries?
Not necessarily. A net-zero house does not need batteries because the house is tied to the electricity grid. Because net-zero houses are often all electric, a battery is a good idea if your area has power outages. You can also keep a generator for these eventualities.
Does a net-zero home cost more to build?
Yes. A net-zero house has to include solar panels to generate energy.
Why isn’t every home net zero?
A net-zero house is very, very well insulated to ensure that only a small amount of energy is needed to heat or cool the house. Not many houses are well enough insulated to be cost-effectively net zero, although you can always add more solar panels. Importantly, a net-zero house must have the means to produce energy, which is often solar panels. There must be enough roof space to locate solar panels, and the panels need to be installed.
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