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5 Cost-Saving Features of a Net Zero Energy Home

Sep 30, 2021

It’s agreed that climate change is a critical issue across the world. In an effort to reduce the building sector’s massive contributions to global carbon emissions, new buildings are incorporating energy-saving designs. Furthermore, core building systems and components are becoming more efficient every year.

For homeowners, the benefits of a net zero energy home are not limited to the environment. Going green also saves money. Plus, energy-efficient homes are appraised nearly 10% higher than standard homes. The advantages are clear and worth it.

What Is a Net Zero Energy Home?

In simple terms, a net zero energy building is designed to produce as much energy as it uses. This is achieved through a combination of passive and active strategies. High-efficiency appliances and improving insulation are considered passive strategies. These improvements reduce the energy a home requires. 

Active strategies, on the other hand, actually produce energy by incorporating renewable energy sources as you build or remodel your home. Solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal energy are common residential renewable energy sources. Renewable energy has the added advantage of making a house net zero plus; that is, such homes make more energy than they need

Homeowners should use both strategies for the greatest impact. In fact, there are five major changes a homeowner can make to maximize their home’s efficiency and save money along the way.

Robust Insulation

All homeowners should address leaks and gaps in their home’s insulation. To achieve net zero energy, a home’s envelope must be completely sealed. Otherwise, insulation gaps allow energy to escape in the form of heated or cooled air. As a result, heating and cooling the home requires more energy, thereby increasing emissions.

An efficient home will consider every aspect of its envelope. For example, new homes can be built atop foam insulation and designed with efficient framing made to trap insulating air. There are also several steps that existing homeowners can take. For example, weather barriers can be wrapped around the house. Roofing shingles can be replaced with cooling materials, such as slate and clay. And, insulation throughout the house can be replaced.

Proper insulation is one of the most essential facets of an efficient home. Properly installed, continuous insulation is known as Grade I insulation installation and increases a home’s R-value, or insulating effectiveness. The higher the value, the higher the efficiency, and the greater the savings on energy bills. 

Retrofitting Existing Buildings

New Windows

High-efficiency windows work to keep a stable temperature inside the home, no matter the weather outside. Old windows without proper installation can bleed energy. If the rest of the house is well-insulated, this is counterproductive. That’s why upgrading the windows is a crucial step in achieving net zero.

Modern high-efficiency windows are multi-paned, allowing them to trap gas and increase insulation. The glazing can also be tinted, chambered, and coated to increase efficiency

Many manufacturers are now incorporating insulating film between layers of glass. These films trap extra air between the panes of glass. However, they are much lighter than adding more glass. Because they are lighter, suspended film windows don’t need extra framing. As well, they are easier to ship and handle, thereby saving money at every step!

Low-Energy Automated HVAC Systems

Once the home is sealed, it’s time to look at its key systems. Standard HVAC systems account for 40%-45% of a home’s energy needs. Most systems are designed to run until conditions are met. This includes reaching a certain temperature, or running for a set amount of time even if no one is home. Automating these systems to account for unnecessary energy expenditures can make the home’s energy usage more efficient.

Start by installing a smart thermostat. These can be programmed to more exact temperatures than older models. They can also be set up to only run when there are occupants in the home or room. This helps meet the core goal of energy avoidance when not needed. 

Of course, there are more involved options. For instance, savvy homeowners can add sensors to windows. These alert the home when windows are open to ensure systems don’t run. Or, occupancy sensors can keep lights from staying on when the room is empty. Automating the home is a growing trend that will help maximize energy efficiency.  

High-Efficiency Products

Going net zero means making high-impact changes to a home. Fixing the issues of an existing home can be a long, involved process that requires a big budget. However, homeowners have several energy-saving options well within their immediate reach.

Replacing appliances, lighting, and fixtures with Energy Star-rated substitutes is a great start. These items have been proven to be efficient, thus saving money and energy. Almost every replaceable item and appliance has an Energy Star choice, including dishwashers, ceiling fans, and water heaters. Energy Star even rates building materials and HVAC systems. So, be sure to use Energy Star when repairing or updating any part of the home.

One of the most accessible changes a homeowner can make is using LED light bulbs. These use 90% less energy than traditional bulbs, and they last 25 times longer. LED bulbs are available for any lighting need, both indoors and out. They can even be used with solar-powered systems, making for a seamless transition when it’s time to install renewable energy sources.

Renewable Energy Sources

Ultimately, all net zero homes must incorporate renewable energy sources in order to produce enough power to offset energy usage. Most often, this is through solar power technology. Residential solar panels can produce enough energy to power the entire home. This includes electricity, climate control, and powering all systems. Often, net zero homes can send energy back to the grid. This energy can be stored for later use, and it helps reduce the total grid load.

Net metering allows power companies to watch the energy usage of a home. As mentioned, homes with renewable sources send excess energy back to the grid. In that case, homeowners then receive credit toward their next energy bill. The energy harnessed by the sun during the day offsets the costs of the energy needs at night. This method of offsetting costs is the crux of net zero. It is a total balance of energy in against energy out, and renewables ensure that balance.

A net zero home is designed to save energy. These same measures, though, will also save homeowners money. Proper insulation and automated systems will help ensure efficient energy usage, while high-efficiency products will use less energy in the first place. When combined with renewable energy, the home often creates more energy than it needs. So go ahead and jump on board the net zero energy trend. The world – and your wallet – will thank you.


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