The age of eco-friendly living is here. Municipalities are now offering environmental incentives for green housing through grants & incentives. But, even with additional funding for a green home project, the modifications necessary to create a truly sustainable home have long been considered tedious to implement and just too expensive for the average homebuyer. However, that is not the whole story.
Yes, sometimes green options are extremely pricy, but expensive is not necessarily synonymous with environmentally friendly when it comes to building a home. In fact, homebuilders are listening to market demands and implementing building strategies to create more affordable, “net-zero” homes to make green living within reach for the average homebuyer.
Net Zero Homes Defined
Like most other properties, net-zero homes are tied to the grid. However, unlike other homes, several modifications enable them to produce as much energy locally as they consume from the grid. By generating as much power as they consume, the net electricity purchased from your hydro provider is zero—hence the name, “net-zero” homes.
It takes more than green building materials or a solar panel installation to create a net-zero home.
Creating Zero Energy Housing
A zero-net home can fit any desired lifestyle or design preference. They come in sizes that suit single occupants or even large families. A net-zero home can look like any other house on your street or be designed to fit your unique tastes. Essentially, you won’t be making any design compromises when it comes to building your net-zero home. The only features that will be fundamentally different than the average structure are that a net-zero home is designed to have a minimal impact on the environment.
Here are some of those elements:
Exterior walls, the attic, and the foundation are all sealed to prevent any gaps that leak regulated air, making net-zero homes airtight. Windows and doors, which are typically significant sources of energy loss, are also designed to be airtight when closed. When a home is airtight, it requires less heating and cooling, effectively lowering its energy intake.
Supplemental insulation maximizes low-energy temperature regulation. Builders use prefabricated systems of high-grade insulation to create a layer that encases the house from top to bottom. This layer is what builders refer to as a “building envelope.”
Net-zero homes are airtight, but they still require ventilation to provide occupants with clean, healthy air. Uncycled air could lead to built-up condensation, which can be damaging to the home and promote the growth of mold. Heat-recovery ventilators (HRV) are a popular method for net-zero home filtration. These units collect heat energy during air intake and use it to condition inbound air. HRVs both condition and dehumidify your air at a fraction of the energy costs of a traditional HVAC system.
In addition to advanced design techniques, net-zero home builders install one or more of these systems to provide occupants with on-site energy production.
Solar paneling is a popular method to provide net-zero homes with renewable energy. Photovoltaic panels collect thermal energy and convert it into electricity for lighting, appliances, hot water, and high-efficiency HVAC systems. Connecting solar panels to the grid allows excess energy to be sent to the local power distribution system and sold to the hydro provider. Alternatively, homeowners can choose to store this energy in a backup battery for later use.
Passive Solar Design
Solar energy can also help keep monthly heating and cooling costs low. Builders design net-zero homes in a way that allows the energy of the sun to heat their interior. South-facing windows are used to obtain optimal solar gain, while components like floors and walls are designed to collect and evenly distribute solar energy even when the sun is absent, significantly reducing heating costs during the winter.
Also known as ground-source heat pumps, geothermal systems use heat energy from the ground to warm net-zero homes in cold seasons and pump heat back into the earth during the summer months. Compared to traditional home conditioning systems, geothermal systems can save homeowners up to sixty percent on their heating costs, and up to fifty percent on their cooling costs, annually.
Living in a Net Zero Home
There are many benefits that come with net-zero living. People with net-zero homes enjoy cleaner indoor air, devoid of allergens or pollutants. Non-toxic construction materials also promote an overall healthier environment.
Net-zero homes are comfortable—passive solar design and solid insulation offer occupants evenly-dispersed heat, as well as plenty of natural lighting. These same systems make net-zero homes enjoyable to live in all year long. Improved insulation and airtight building design also keep net-zero homes devoid of any noise from the outside.
And you can’t forget the money net-zero homeowners save in maintenance and hydro costs. With no monthly energy bills to pay each month, net-zero living is money back into your pocket.
Do you want to learn more about how to build a net-zero home of your own? GenCorp Homes has the resources and experience necessary to help you get started on a net-zero build. Contact our team today.