A zero energy ready home produces as much energy as it consumes. This leaves residents with a net zero energy bill.
Sounds quite nice, right?
The zero energy concept stems from energy-efficient building designs. Back in the 1970s, when energy efficiency became a greater concern, it was hard to imagine net zero homes were possible. Now they’re going mainstream.
Thanks to investments and advancements in renewable energy technology, from rooftop solar panels and wind turbines to hydroelectric generators to home batteries, net zero homes have become possible. Additionally, improved design, government incentives, and lower costs have now made zero energy ready homes a viable choice for any household.
From California to Florida, folks have opportunities to buy and live in a net zero home. And you can too!
This guide covers all you need to know about these types of homes. That way, you can make informed decisions during the buying process.
What Does It Mean to Be a Zero Energy Ready Home?
As mentioned before, a net zero home generates as much energy as it uses. Some may even produce more energy than they consume (which could result in energy credits for homeowners).
According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), DOE zero energy ready homes are at least 40–50% more energy efficient than the typical home. This generally correlates to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS score) in the low- to mid-50s.
Net zero homes must be inspected and verified by a qualified third-party. Net zero homes have the following characteristics:
• Durable – Net zero homes have higher levels of insulation and air-tight construction.
• Moisture-controlled- Water cannot enter through roofs, walls, the foundation, or anywhere else.
• Comfortable – Advanced heating and cooling systems make sure rooms stay at the desired temperature. Natural lighting boosts the interior atmosphere and reduces energy use.
• Smart (no waste) – Every zero energy ready home features ENERGY STAR-certified equipment. Smart appliances reduce energy use.
• Healthy (high air-quality) – Heating and cooling systems for net zero homes have advanced filters to purify the indoor air.
• Adaptable (renewable energy sources can be added) – If you want to add a green energy source to your residence, zero energy ready homes require less disruption—and less money—to retrofit than a traditional house.
Net zero homes are truly future-ready. For example, Brite Homes, a zero energy home builder in Florida, utilizes solar energy, smart home automation, high-performance windows, foam insulation, LED lighting, and 15-SEER HVAC systems to deliver optimal efficiency, comfort, and sustainability. Each home is designed to withstand the test of time.
For zero energy home builders, the focus must center around not only optimal efficiency, but also the living experience. After all, if the home doesn’t offer comfort and enjoyment, people won’t find net zero homes liveable.
“Developing and building a high-performance, energy-efficient net zero home begins with the design. That’s why our homes are designed for energy efficiency, while providing a spacious and open living environment. We offer five gorgeous solar home models that blend style with net zero efficiency,” describes Robert Kociecki, President of Brite Homes.
How Net Zero Homes Became Possible
Fossil fuels have powered homes from the late 1800s. But starting in the 1970s, governments, energy agencies, and home builders began concerted efforts to improve energy efficiency in homes.
The current trend towards net zero homes has happened for a number of reasons, including:
- Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- The desire for lower energy costs (US households spend $111.67 per month on average)
- The need for clean air and healthy living environments
- More affordable building costs
Since the 1990s, household use of renewable energy has grown exponentially. Check out the chart from the US Energy Information Administration:
Renewable energy now accounts for 11% of US energy consumption. That percent will only rise, considering the current trend.
Early initiatives have played a major role in advancing technologies and design concepts for energy efficient homes. Without such initiatives, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Perhaps the earliest influential initiative is Passive House, a building standard that originated in the late 1980s in Germany. The Passive House design delivers true energy efficiency, along with affordability and comfort. Dr. Wolfgang Feist, co-originator, created the design standard with the intent of making energy efficient homes the norm (not something “exotic”). Today, the Passive House standard is used in designs and builds around the world, from hyper-efficient skyscrapers in China to renewable energy homes in the Mediterranean.
Other internationally influential initiatives that have ignited the trend towards net zero homes include the Canadian R-2000 program. Developed in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association in the early 1980s, the program guides builders on how to construct the most energy efficient homes.
Today, within the United States, the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program issues guidelines for zero energy home builders. This has motivated home builders to construct housing with maximum efficiency and durability in mind.
In some states, like California, legislation necessitates the move towards completely renewable energy homes. In 2018, California passed a bill that sets a goal of 100% clean electric power by 2045. That’s why every homebuilder in the Golden State is taking steps to become a net zero home builder.
Public Policy and the Evolution to Net-Zero Energy Homes
The evolution of energy efficient homes really began with the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. The agency has orchestrated efforts to improve energy efficiency, especially for homebuilders. After all, households account for 40% of total energy use.
Much of the EPA’s legislation has centered around household consumption. Major legislation and events that led to the modern net zero home include:
- Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975: This bill created efficiency standards for appliances.
- Energy Conservation and Production Act (ECPA) of 1976: This bill created incentives for conservation and renewable energy.
- The creation of the Department of Energy in 1977
- Energy Policy Act (EPA) of 1992: This act catalyzed significant progress in energy efficiency, with updated guidelines for appliance efficiency, building design, lighting, and more. It also incentivized builders to make greater use of renewable energy and enhance design efficiency. Additionally, the bill allocated funds for renewable energy R&D.
- Energy Policy Act (EPA) of 2005: This expanded on the EPA act of 1992 and implemented new tax incentives for renewable energy use.
- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009: This stimulus included tax incentives for renewable energy use, weatherization assistance, smart grid grants, appliance rebates, and more. The act also included net zero building directives for federal agencies.
Since the 1970s, energy efficiency in homes has evolved from simply having efficient appliances to a design standard that ensures maximum use of resources. Legislation and initiatives, such as tax incentives and research grants, have propelled technological and design advancements, as well as led to the use of renewable energy in homes. And now it’s possible for homebuilders to construct net zero homes.
Greet the Future in a Net Zero Home
With zero energy ready homes, you no longer have to trade comfort for efficiency. You can have both.
Even better, it now makes financial sense to live in a net zero home. That’s because your investment in a net zero home will save you money on your electric bill and any maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. Net zero homes are durable and designed for continual enhancements.
With costs starting at only $228,000, now is a better time than ever to buy a net zero home. Consider taking the leap.