What is a Zero Energy Home?

A Zero Energy Home is a home that its net average energy consumption is zero and its net average zero carbon dioxide emission is zero. Averaging is over a year, so seasonal effects and day/night effects are automatically taken into account. Zero energy buildings are a bit more expensive to construct but the life cycle savings in home energy bills are enormous

In Europe and the US, households energy consumption amounts to 40% of the total national energy consumption

Zero Energy New Homes

It is easier to plan, design and build a zero energy home than to retrofit an existing home. One will find more new homes built to the zero energy concepts than retrofitted homes. However, some of the concepts can be adopted for existing homes making them “near zero energy residencies”

Design of Zero-Energy Homes

Like for any other engineering project the most important phase is the design phase. Energy conscious design is different than traditional designs. It does the following:

  1. Reduce by design the building energy consumption for heating, cooling, lighting and other energy uses

  2. Provide for efficient cost effective solar hot water heaters

  3. The design provides for efficient and cost-effective residential solar power generation system

  4. Make use of other available well proved energy conservation technologies and methods

Building a New Zero-Energy Home

If you consider building a new home with zero energy consumption, you can approach a design company that has ready made designs. Your second alternative is to approach a company that will prepare a custom made design. Either way, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

  • Mitigate the effect of future energy price hikes (unfortunately imminent to happen)

  • The temperature in the house will be evenly distributed (view my energy home audit page)

  • Lower monthly payments (no energy bills to pay)

  • photovoltaic technology is inherently reliable and resilient to The Elements

  • The marginal cost over a legacy design is bearable for a new home, with the recent drop in the price of solar panels the margin has almost diminished.

  • Future legislation trend is to penalize and to tax homes that will not meet carbon emission standards (we’ve seen this trend already in the requirements from cars). If you build the right waytoday, you’ll not need to perform an expensive retrofit in the future

A related topic to Zero Energy Home is Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV), although not all integrated photovoltaic building are zero energy buildings

Cost and Financing

Let’s talk about money, a legitimate concern when it comes to decide on any investment

A typical 2000-3000 square feet US home designed traditionally might need solar panels supplying 10,000 watts.

Another home, same size if designed correctly will need a reasonable size solar panels providing 3,000 Watts

The investment in the traditionally designed home in solar power generation is not economical (around $100,000) and the needed roof area is over 1000 square feet; therefore people installing residential solar power systems in existing homes usually are not trying to get 100% zero-energy home, they compromise on around 50-70% or even less.

On the zero energy home on the other hand, the investment is “only” $30,000 and the panels area is around 400 square feet (One can think of using solar tiles rather than conventional tiles, an approach that is more aesthetically appealing and more cost effective.

Fortunately, the federal and states come to help

  • The IRS code section 1332 “credit for construction of new energy efficient homes”
  • State level tax incentives as applicable (property tax and income tax)
  • Community level tax incentives as applicable
  • Utility incentives and price incentives on electricity you sell to them

  • In most cases you can get a mortgage also on the extra cost related to making the new home energy efficient

  • You can claim tax credits on the investment in solar heating and solar power generation
  • Subsidized loans are available in some states

  • You may expect a premium price when you re-sell the home in the future

You don’t need to really be an expert in efficient energy building, you need however to find a reliable zero-energy home design house that will make the optimum for you.(You may run a WEB search for zero energy home). Look for their record, past portfolio and run comparisons. A good company will listen to your specific needs, go with you through the numbers and will have a good knowledge on the possible tax benefits in your specific region

Zero Energy Homes Educational Gaps

The awareness to green building concepts did not reach the majority of homeowners and to would be homeowners. The economic pressure posed by rising energy cost, the governments commitment to reduce the CO2 footprint and the affluence in information in the media and on the internet caused a higher awareness level. Many architects schools still do not have green building concepts on their curriculum, however there is a rapid change in the curriculum as well as available green building programs for architects, builders and engineers.

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