Net-zero homes have been available for over thirty years, but only recently have they emerged into the mainstream.
Once relegated to the domain of ‘tree-hugging’ environmentalists, net-zero homes are now gaining popularity with every passing year, with their financial, ecological, and health benefits finally getting the recognition they deserve.
The rapidly falling prices of ecofriendly LED lighting and rooftop solar photovoltaic systems might be another reason for the growing popularity of net-zero homes. These homes are also promoted by the federal, state, and local governments through various tax rebates and low-interest loan schemes.
This is because there are many important benefits associated with living in a net-zero home. But before you can learn about those, you first need to understand what exactly a net-zero home is, and what its components are.
An Overview of Net-Zero Homes
In short, a net-zero home is one that produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, during a given period of time. This renewable energy usually comes from the solar photovoltaic system (or solar panels) installed on the roof of the net-zero home. Therefore, some of the key components of a net-zero home are as follows:
- Rooftop solar panels for the generation of renewable energy.
- Heavy insulation to prevent unnecessary heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the summer.
- Energy-efficient home appliances, to minimize the wastage of energy.
- Large, well-placed windows and skylights to maximize natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day.
Usually, net-zero homes are built according to a custom design provided by the homeowner or developer. They are not typically available on the mass market, as they’ve yet to be fully integrated into the mainstream. However, the American Association of Architects is aiming to ensure that all homes are built to produce as much energy as they consume, by the year 2030.
Benefits of Living in a Net-Zero Home
The reason why net-zero homes are being promoted by governments, nonprofits, and professional organizations alike is that they offer a number of advantages, both to the homeowner and to society at large. Some of these benefits are listed below:
1. Enhanced Savings
A net-zero home helps you save money as well as energy, from the very first day you start living in it. These homes are especially designed to conserve as much energy as possible, apart from producing their own energy from renewable sources, such as sunlight. Therefore, net-zero homes usually do not need to buy any extra energy from the energy grid.
Some net-zero homes are even able to produce more energy than they can consume within a certain amount of time. In such situations, they feed this extra energy back to the electrical grid. The city then compensates the homeowners for the clean energy that they have provided.
Increased energy efficiency can be achieved through the installation of energy-saving LED lighting, double- or triple-pane windows, leak-proof insulation, and other, standard net-zero features in your home.
Furthermore, as you’re producing all your energy through renewable resources like wind and sunlight, fluctuations in the prices of electricity, coal, or natural gas will not affect your monthly expenses in any way. The one-time investment on a net-zero home will generate a life-long benefit, in the form of non-existent energy bills for as long as you choose to live in that house.
2. Environmental Impact
Most of the electricity produced in the US is still generated through the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. In 2020, natural gas was the largest source of electricity generation, accounting for about 40 percent of all electricity produced in the country. Coal-fired power plants, on the other hand, produced a little over 19 percent of the electricity used in the US last year.
By building a net-zero home, or upgrading your current home to ensure that it produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, you will be helping reduce the burning of fossil fuels, and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions. Net-zero homes also minimize the need for resource extraction, thus saving the planet in more ways than one.
A reduction in mining activities and the emission of greenhouse gases will also help improve the air quality in most parts of the country. As a result, many of the systemic health issues caused by polluted air will become more manageable. Apart from reducing your household carbon footprint, your new net-zero home may even help you qualify for some of the eco-conscious home design awards offered by your state, city, or province.
3. Health and Comfort
Net-zero homes are extremely well-insulated, to minimize the need for constant heating or air-conditioning. As a result, the temperature is uniformly comfortable throughout the house, and cold drafts are hardly ever a problem.
Due to the excellent insulation, the heating system would need to run less frequently to keep the house warm. As a result, there will be less noise, giving your home an atmosphere of warmth and tranquility.
Net-zero homes do not have cracks, gaps, and leaks through which external air can enter the house. Fresh air only enters the house through mechanical ventilation, after being properly filtered. As a result, very little dust can enter a net-zero home, and the opportunities for mold growth are almost non-existent.
The improved indoor air quality naturally results in better health, for the people living in the house. This is especially beneficial if you (or any of your family members) suffer from asthma, allergies, or any respiratory conditions.
4. Higher Resale Value
The popularity of net-zero homes is growing with every passing year, but they have yet to become completely mainstream. By building a net-zero home now, or upgrading your existing house to include the components of a net-zero construction, you will put yourself at the forefront of a major market shift toward ecofriendly, energy-efficient housing.
In the upcoming years, more and more home buyers will be seeking net-zero properties, in order to enjoy the comfort and cost savings associated with such homes. Not everyone has the time or patience to construct a net-zero home from scratch, however, and many people would prefer to simply buy a lightly-used property with all the net-zero components already installed.
This will naturally increase the resale value of your net-zero home, as an ever-growing pool of potential buyers would be competing to purchase the limited number of pre-built net-zero homes on the market. The market inevitably gravitates towards trends, and net-zero is currently one of the hottest trends in the real-estate space.
Check our this article we wrote up on solar home value and resale figures as well, the numbers may surprise you!
Our Own Net-Zero Home Renovation
As part of the company, we wanted to tackle building our own affordable net-zero home to prove that it was possible and not some huge pie-in-the-sky unattainable project. Through the pandemic in 2020, we did a bit of research and calculated all the energy efficiency and power (solar) needs, then combined a regular fix-and-flip type of renovation with the efficiency and renewable goals.
For a first-time experiment, things turned out pretty good! Ultimately a regular 1984 3 bed 2 bathroom home turned into a (basically) brand new, net-positive (the house produces more power than it uses) home, which includes enough solar to power the EV (Tesla Model 3). Between utility and gas savings, it saves a total of around $2,500 per year. If you’d like to see how we did it, you can check out our full write up here.
A net-zero home will allow you to improve the environment by reducing your household carbon footprint, safeguard your family’s health and comfort, and increase the resale value of your residence. Therefore, the benefits of investing in such a home are self-evident.
Before making an investment, however, you should do your own research, and decide on which net-zero features or components would be the most beneficial for your home.