Sunday, May 3, 2015

What is Net-Zero? - By Emily Mottram

Since the economy has begun to bounce back, people are starting to think about building houses again. But after a few hard years, some homeowners are taking a look at how they can separate themselves from the utility companies and spend less money during those long cold winter months. Building a Net-Zero home requires a carefully planned building envelop. Passive solar design techniques from orientation to shading, along with active renewable energy technologies, and dedicated mechanical systems are a few key elements in a Net-Zero home. 
In simple terms, Net-Zero building is about eliminating energy bills. Every unit of energy needed is produced on site. While the carefully detailed building reduces the energy need, homeowners will have to be careful not to overload their homes with electricity producing equipment. Some days the energy production equipment is producing more than is required for the home, while at other times of the year, it doesn’t produce enough. That doesn’t mean that on a cloudy day you have to do without heat or electricity. It means that you’re capitalizing on the extra energy you produced on the sunnier days of the year to make up the difference. At the end of the year, you want to have made more energy then you used. 

Will it cost more to build? Yes, but a detailed analysis of your home will show how long it will take to pay off the extra expense with the savings you make by not paying for utilities. While some homeowners love the idea, they can’t justify the entire cost of building a Net-Zero home. For those homeowners, building a Net-Zero ready home is a great idea. 

Start with a home that faces the right direction (South) and has the best building envelop possible. Then, when they are ready, add renewable energy resources. The first, and best, thing you can do when you start building a new home, is put some extra money into the building envelop (insulation and air sealing). After that, adding the bells and whistles to make the building Net-Zero becomes something you can chip away at over time.

Emily Mottram is a wife, architect, and world traveler. Between designing beautifully intricate yet stunningly simple energy efficient homes and traveling the world with her husband Emily enjoys taking photographs and exploring the outdoors of Maine. 

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