Updated: Mar 14
A boon in new and updated home energy rebates has made a net-zero lifestyle more accessible than ever before, but what is a net-zero home?
When home is "net-zero" it's generating as much energy on its own that it will use in one year. In other words, whatever energy your home takes from the power grid will be returned. Net-zero homes aren't always brand new, they aren't "off the grid," overly expensive or lacking in everyday home comforts. Actually, homeowners can expect an increase in comfortability and even greater return on their investment.
Creating a net-zero home doesn't call for dramatic lifestyle changes and sacrifices — it's the exact opposite. Energy efficient home upgrades deliver better comfort and more convenience, energy efficiency is now just a standard feature. A cooler home in the summer, a warmer home in the winter, and exponential savings in annual energy costs has more homeowners considering what net-zero could look like for them than ever before.
Whether new or old, net-zero homes share some common characteristics. There are many different ways a home can achieve net-zero, but preventing passive air leakage, home electrification, and energy generation are are the most common themes. Net-zero homes often have thorough insulation, efficient mechanical ventilation systems and high efficiency appliances, high performance windows and skylights, and renewable energy systems, along with an endless variety of other energy-saving upgrades.
Producing renewable energy is arguably the most important part of a net-zero home, and the most divisive. Solar panels, geothermal and wind turbine systems were very expensive, and often restricted by HOAs and historical districts. Now, a wealth of incentives for residential renewable systems can offset a tremendous amount of the cost, and with rooftop, ground level and underground options, there are a variety of systems to suit your home.
There are some simple themes to follow while you navigate the market, like preventing passive air leakage, system and appliance electrification, and energy generation. If a product or service checks one of those boxes it can help your home get closer to net-zero.
The energy impact (and cost) of energy efficient upgrades vary greatly. In a Zero Energy Project case study, achieving net-zero was as simple as adding more solar panels to the home, which cost less than upgrading the entire HVAC system. Your path to net-zero is also influenced by your house, where you live, your utility provider and more — all of which dictate how much you're currently spending on energy, and what it would take to achieve net-zero.
Net-zero is really just a goal, there is no one way to get there. Even if you can't get all the way to net-zero, the same home upgrades will deliver more comfort and longterm savings. More home comfort and sustainable savings — that's what a net-zero home looks like!