When it comes to energy-efficient homes, there are two main classifications: net-zero homes and passive homes. While they may appear similar initially, it’s important to delve deeper and understand their key differences, as they significantly affect cost, comfort and your home’s energy efficiency.
Today, we’ll uncover both the shared and unique features of net-zero and passive houses. By gaining a clear understanding of these energy-efficient housing options, you’ll be better equipped to confidently compare them and make a choice that best suits your needs.
What Is a Net-Zero House?
A net-zero home is a sustainable home designed to produce as much energy as (or more than) it consumes, resulting in a net-zero energy balance — in other words, virtually no grid-produced power. This is determined by a home’s rating on the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) scale, which ranges from 0 to 150. Any net-zero home will have a HERS score of zero or less, meaning that the home generates as much (or more) energy as it uses. Consequently, net-zero homes not only help you benefit the environment but also result in little to no energy bills and big annual savings.
What Is a Passive House?
A passive house significantly minimizes energy consumption while maximizing comfort and affordability for its occupants. This is achieved through innovative design principles, efficient construction techniques and advanced technologies. However, while prioritizing energy efficiency and comfort, passive homes do not generate energy themselves but rely on intelligent design and technologies to significantly reduce energy consumption.
Similarities Between Net-Zero and Passive Homes
Net-zero and passive homes take energy efficiency to a whole new level compared to the average, non-energy-efficient home. While each has its own unique characteristics, they both share the ability to reduce energy consumption. Here are some of the similarities between the two:
- Energy Efficiency: Both strive to significantly reduce energy consumption relative to standard homes.
- Insulation and Airtightness: Both improve energy efficiency by prioritizing insulation and airtightness to minimize heat loss and gain.
- High-Performance Windows: Both commonly feature windows designed to improve energy efficiency and provide better insulation.
- Indoor Comfort: Both prioritize occupant comfort by maintaining stable home temperatures, optimizing air quality and implementing noise reduction.
- Reduced Environmental Impact: Both offer a sustainable way of living and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Differences Between Net-Zero and Passive Homes
Net-zero and passive homes differ in their approaches to achieving energy efficiency despite their shared goal of reducing energy consumption. While net-zero and passive houses share many similarities, it’s also important to note their distinctions. Here are some of the differences that set them apart:
- Energy Production vs. Energy Efficiency: The primary objective of net-zero homes is to produce as much energy as they consume. Conversely, passive houses pursue energy efficiency through rigid design principles instead of generating renewable energy.
- Energy Sources: Net-zero homes typically leverage renewable energy sources like solar panels to achieve energy efficiency. Instead of relying on renewable energy sources, passive houses reduce energy consumption through design concepts like insulation, airtightness and more.
- Design Approach: Net-zero homes take a holistic approach to achieving energy neutrality, combining sustainable building materials, appliances, lighting and renewable energy systems to ensure energy efficiency. Passive houses focus more on the physical construction of the home, using design guidelines such as passive solar gains, natural ventilation and efficient heat recovery systems.
- Energy Balance: Net-zero homes reduce monthly energy bills by achieving a neutral or superior energy balance. In contrast, passive houses aim to reduce their energy consumption but may not necessarily reach net zero. Passive homes focus on energy efficiency within strict standards for occupant comfort.
Other Types of Energy-Efficient Homes To Consider
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED homes, is a widely recognized green building certification developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED-certified homes must meet various environmental standards regarding energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, materials selection and site sustainability.
Like net-zero homes, LEED-certified homes are based on a numeric scale to achieve certification, with levels certified, silver, gold or platinum correlating to a home’s total points earned. LEED-certified homes share similar environmental goals to net-zero and passive houses, can lower your electricity bill and increase your property value. Here are the most common criteria homes must meet to achieve LEED certification:
- Sustainable Sites: LEED-certified homes are most commonly placed in areas that reduce environmental impact and promote sustainability, such as infill locations or locations near public transportation.
- Water Efficiency: LEED-certified homes generally must include water-efficient fixtures and appliances and have efficient irrigation systems installed to minimize water consumption.
- Energy Reduction: LEED-certified homes take an extensive approach to energy efficiency, with specific construction standards that emphasize proper insulation, efficient windows, and airtightness. Many LEED-certified homes also use renewable energy sources like solar panels to generate electricity.
- Materials and Resources: LEED-certified homes must use sustainable and often locally sourced materials with a low environmental impact.
- Indoor Environmental Quality: LEED-certified homes aim to limit artificial lighting and incorporate low-emitting indoor materials.
ENERGY STAR-Certified Homes
ENERGY STAR-certified homes are energy-efficient homes built to meet energy standards set forth by the EPA. Most ENERGY-STAR homes feature many of the same constructional techniques as net-zero and passive homes. Homeowners can save significant energy costs and improve property values with an ENERGY-STAR certification.
- Design: Homeowners or builders collaborate with ENERGY STAR to incorporate energy-saving features tailored towards a building’s climate and location.
- Construction Standards: ENERGY STAR-certified buildings follow sustainable construction practices, including proper insulation, windows and airtightness to promote energy efficiency.
- Testing and Verification: ENERGY STAR certifiers conduct a series of evaluations to measure the home’s energy efficiency.
Zero-Energy Ready Home (ZERH)
Zero-Energy Ready Home (ZERH) is the U.S. Department of Energy certification to promote highly energy-efficient homes that produce renewable energy. These homes follow similar design guidelines as passive, net-zero, and ENERGY STAR homes. ZERH homes are known to improve air quality and comfort, improve property value and reduce energy costs. They generally share these characteristics:
- Low-Energy Consumption: ZERH homes must meet certain energy efficiency criteria and have a low reliance on external energy sources.
- Design Standards: ZERH homes follow strict design guidelines, including stringent insulation levels, efficient HVAC symptoms and advanced appliance specifications.
- Renewable Energy Sources: ZERH homes are constructed specifically to implement renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
- Water Efficiency: ZERH generally features water-saving technologies like rainwater harvesting systems to complement overall sustainability goals.
NGBS (National Green Building Standard)
National Green Building Standard (NGBS) homes are certified by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in collaboration with the International Code Council (ICC) and must adhere to a stringent set of guidelines for sustainable construction practices.
NGBS buildings are evaluated based on different sustainability categories, including energy efficiency, water conservation, resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality and site development. Each type has different standards that NGBS must meet for certification. The key components of the NGBS certification are:
- Energy Efficiency Measurements: NGBS buildings must meet specific measurements of energy efficiency, which are usually accomplished through precise insulation, high-performance windows, efficient HVAC systems and advanced lighting technologies.
- Water Conservation: NGBS homes generally must feature water-conserving fixtures, appliances, and landscape irrigation systems to meet certification standards.
- Indoor Environmental Quality: NGBS places a significant emphasis on the indoor environment with strict criteria for proper ventilation systems, air quality management, moisture control and more.
- Waste Management: NGBS homes leverage sustainable materials and encourage waste reduction through recycling and salvage practices.
Deciding Which Energy-Efficient Home Is Right For You
Choosing an energy-efficient home opens the door to numerous benefits, including notable financial savings, positive environmental contributions, boosted resale value and improved comfort for you and your family.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that passive homes, while offering significant advantages, may not reach the same level of energy efficiency as net-zero homes. As a result, they may still rely on the conventional power grid for electricity services more frequently compared to their net-zero counterparts.
Why Pursue a Net Zero Home in Florida?
Florida is a premier destination for net-zero homeowners thanks to its consistently warm climate. Florida’s abundant sunshine makes the state ideal for renewable energy sources (specifically solar panels) that most net-zero homes rely on to achieve energy efficiency. In addition, design techniques like shading and strategic window installation allow homes to maximize the sun’s heating effects in the winter and minimize them in the summer to reduce energy consumption.
Florida’s leadership in the net-zero real estate industry also means a high concentration of sustainability experts in the area, meaning net-zero homeowners in Florida have access to the latest and most innovative energy-efficient techniques to build highly comfortable, energy-efficient and economically beneficial homes.
Ready to Experience the Benefits of Net-Zero Living With Brite Homes?
Are you looking to upgrade to an energy-efficient, net-zero home that supports a sustainable lifestyle and saves you on energy costs? Look no further — we’re here to help you build the perfect home that fits your unique needs.
Whether you’re looking to build a home in Palm Bay, Palm Coast, Ocala, Wedgefield, North Port or Cape Coral, contact us today to get started on building your net-zero dream home with the number one builder for net-zero homes in Florida.