The holy grail of residential renewable energy is to create a home that’s net zero, that is, a home that produces enough clean power to offset its energy needs completely. Any home can reach net zero, but homeowners with less renewable energy experience often find it difficult to figure out where to start.
To make things a bit easier, we’ve gone ahead and compiled this list of the six best changes you can make to your home to reach net zero quickly and easily.
1. Invest in Rooftop Solar Panels
The shortest path to creating a zero-net energy home is to install a rooftop solar panel system. Solar technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, and the current market is saturated with high-efficiency panels that make reaching net zero easier than ever.
Even if you don’t have the ideal roof orientation or live in the perfect climate for maximizing solar panel energy production, you can take a sizable chunk out of your electricity bill with the right solar system.
Unfortunately, solar panels are expensive. The average price of a solar panel installation in the United States is around $20,000, with some systems costing quite a bit more. Such high initial cost begs the question, are solar panels worth it? The short answer is yes, but fitting solar panels into your finances might take some effort.
Most modern solar panel companies offer flexible financing options that make it easier to afford to convert to solar energy. You can also take advantage of the federal solar tax credit to claim 30% of the total cost of your solar system on your federal income tax.
2. Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances
If installing solar panels isn’t enough to push your home into net zero energy, purchasing energy-efficient appliances can help you get a little bit closer. Appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and clothes washers and dryers use a lot of energy, which means you can reduce your energy usage significantly if you buy more efficient versions of them.
Luckily, finding energy-efficient appliances is easy thanks to the Energy Star system, a program that labels appliances that meet federal energy guidelines with a helpful sticker. You can compare Energy Star appliances based on convenient metrics like estimated yearly operating costs and estimated annual electricity use right in the store and choose the best option for your energy needs and budget.
3. Use a Smart Thermostat
Many homeowners overlook smart thermostats when they’re trying to make their home more energy efficient, but they’re one of the best ways to reduce the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home.
Smart thermostats learn your heating and cooling habits, adjusting your home’s HVAC system to predict what temperature you want at certain times of the day. This means you won’t use extra energy overcorrecting your thermostat manually when it gets too hot or too cold.
Smart thermostats are also very affordable compared to solar panels and new appliances, making them a great option that most homeowners can take advantage of immediately.
4. Check Your Windows and Doors
Poorly sealed doors and windows are one of the main roadblocks to creating a zero net energy home for homeowners. Experts recommend sealing your windows and doors at least every five years, or sooner if you notice signs that the seals are eroding.
Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to tell when it’s time to re-seal old doors and windows. Common signs that you need to reseal are moisture around door jambs and window sills, rotting wood in the window or door frame, obvious drafts, and streaking between window panes, which indicates moisture intrusion.
5. Install Efficient Light Bulbs
Swapping incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient light bulbs makes an immediate dramatic impact on your home’s energy profile. Energy-efficient light bulbs use a fraction of the energy of traditional light bulbs and last significantly longer, helping you reach net zero and reducing your overall environmental impact.
Replacing all of the lightbulbs in your home isn’t that expensive, and it’s something you can tackle over a weekend, making it one of the easiest improvements you can make in your quest for a zero net energy home.
6. Use a Home Energy Monitor
One final thing you might think about if you’re struggling to reach net zero is installing a home energy monitor. These systems use advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning to help you identify which appliances and home systems are using the most energy. You can then use this knowledge to tweak your energy usage habits to lower your home’s energy requirements and save money on utilities.
A home energy monitor won’t save you money and energy immediately, but having one will help you stay on track and maintain your home’s net-zero status over time, even if your energy needs change.