What Is a Net Zero Home?

A net zero home produces the same amount of energy as it consumes. When you subtract the energy used from the energy created, you get zero (or even a negative number in some cases). It’s called net zero because it uses zero energy once you take into account the energy it creates.

The word net refers to the difference between the energy consumed and the energy created. If you just looked at energy consumption without taking into account generation, it would be called “gross” energy use not net energy use.

Does net zero sound enticing to you? Then, let’s talk. At N.E.T.R. Inc., we offer a variety of energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions that can help you create a net zero home. To learn more, contact us today.

Net Zero Vs. Energy Efficient Homes

These phrases are often used interchangeably, but they are different. An energy-efficient home strives to use as little energy as possible. Net zero homes also tend to be very energy efficient, but they don’t necessarily need to consume low amounts of energy as long as they produce enough energy to offset what they consume.

To give you an extreme example, imagine an off-grid home with no interior lights except for skylights. That is extremely energy efficient but not very comfortable for occupants. Now, imagine a home with interior lights, but all of the energy to run the lights is created by solar panels. The second home uses more energy but it offsets the energy consumption with energy production. That’s net zero.

How to Create a Net Zero Home

To create a net zero home, you have to consider both sides of the equation: energy use and energy creation. First, look for ways that you can stay comfortable while minimizing your energy consumption. Carefully consider all aspects of your home including lights, appliances, and HVAC equipment.

For instance, you may want to integrate highly efficient lights with strategic windows and skylights. For heating and cooling, a lot of people building net-zero homes opt for electric-resistance heat pumps. These systems, as well as all other appliances (fridges, dishwashers, etc), should be energy-efficient models.

Then, think about how you’re going to create the energy to power all of this equipment. The default option tends to be solar panels, but there are also small-scale hydroelectric plants, small wind turbines, or other options.

Critical Features of Net Zero Homes

There are a lot of different options to explore when you’re creating a net zero home. You can also integrate some of these options if you’re trying to get your existing home to be more energy efficient. Here are some critical features:

  • Tight building envelope: Eliminating drafts will keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. If building, you want a design that creates a tight envelope. If improving an existing home, schedule an energy audit to look for leaks.
  • Minimal thermal bridges: A thermal bridge is a part of your home that conducts heat/cold from the outside to the inside. For example, if your windows aren’t energy efficient, they may act as a thermal bridge.
  • Insulation: Think about how an insulated mug or a beer koozie keeps your beverages at target temperatures for a lot longer than without the insulation. Your home’s insulation plays the same role, and it’s a critical part of a net zero design,
  • Mechanical ventilation: A tight home keeps temps consistent, but it also reduces airflow. To deal with this downside, many net zero builders add mechanical ventilation and/or whole home air filters.
  • Correctly sized appliances: Even if you get the most efficient model, it will be inefficient if it’s too big for your home. This rule is critical when choosing HVAC equipment, but you should also consider this same concept in relation to dishwashers, fridges, freezers, and other appliances.
  • Passive solar strategies: Net zero homes use the sun to their advantage for solar panels and passive winter heat, but they also use strategic shading to protect the home from unwanted solar heat gain.

Cost of Net Zero Homes

Making an energy-efficient home will save you money in the long run, but are the upfront costs affordable? Well, you may be surprised. The Rocky Mountain Institute issued a study called The Economics of Zero Energy Homes, and it indicates that it only costs about 6 to 8% more to build a net zero home than a traditional home. The exact cost differences vary from region to region, but these homes offer a lifetime’s worth of savings.

Contact Us About Heat Pumps and More

Thinking about a net zero home? Want to make your current home more efficient? Then, contact us to talk about air source heat pumps today. At N.E.T.R., Inc., we have decades of experience with all kinds of heating solutions, but we really love the potential and efficiency of heat pumps for heating and cooling. Don’t hesitate to reach out today, and let’s talk about improving your home’s comfort.