Can you actually build a net zero home or is it a political pipe dream?

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Joe Biden announced in 2021 that he wanted the American economy to become net zero by 2050. That’s still more than a quarter century away, but it is something that we need to think about collectively if we’re going to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

What’s more, it’s dependent on certain technologies coming onboard between now and then to make it happen. Renewables and batteries need to come down in price further. And there needs to be a serious discussion about nuclear, since hydro probably won’t be able to provide enough energy for base load requirements. 

For homeowners like us, all this political talk can be a little confusing. That’s why we thought it would be interesting to take a look in this post at whether building a net zero home is feasible. 

What Is A Net Zero Home?

A net zero home is not a property that consumes zero energy. That would be a throwback to the stone age. Instead, it’s a house that doesn’t emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it takes out of it. Unlike conventional homes, for instance, it doesn’t burn fossil fuels. Or in the unlikely situation that it does, it offsets this with carbon capture projects elsewhere. 

Net zero homes tend to be made of higher quality materials than conventional properties. That’s because architects design them to last for hundreds of years to reduce the need to rebuild (and therefore emit CO2) in the future.

Are Green Homes And Net Zero Homes The Same?

Most of today’s green homes are not net zero. While they emit less carbon dioxide than most properties, they’re still adding to atmospheric concentrations. 

Green homes are, in effect, a stop-gap measure. In fact, you could argue that practically all contemporary homes are green because they have far more insulation than their predecessors.

Green homes are also sometimes old homes that have been upgraded. For instance, a family might add solar panels, insulation and a heat exchanger to a Victorian property to improve its energy efficiency profile. Owners may also have considered Renewal by Andersen window replacement, adding double glazing. 

Although green homes offer many of the same features and concepts as net zero homes, they are not the same. Net zero properties must adhere to strict standards that ensure that the amount of CO2 they emit into the atmosphere is close to zero. They make much greater use of ventilation, solar heating and heavy insulation, and they place an emphasis on eliminating leaks. 

Are Net Zero Homes Too Costly?

Green homes already fall outside of the budget of most regular homeowners. Net zero properties are even more expensive. 

However, the cost differentials aren’t as much as you might imagine. The average run-of-the-mill property costs families $240,000. The cost of a net zero property is about 10 percent higher, at $263,000. It’s a sizable difference, but one that many homeowners will be able to absorb. 

Is It Worth Investing In Net Zero Homes? 

Of course, you have to balance the upfront costs with the ongoing benefits. Even if homeowners aren’t motivated by environmental concerns, there are other reasons to consider investing in a net zero home. For example, net zero helps to reduce your bills. Solar panels and, perhaps, wind turbines, cut energy costs significantly. You can also sell excess electricity you generate back to the grid for a profit. 

How To Build A Net Zero Home

Putting solar panels on the roof is just one aspect of constructing a net zero home. However, as you might imagine, it goes well beyond that. 

Top of the list of priorities is effective insulation. This reduces energy costs by preventing heat from escaping through either the walls and roof. 

Net zero homeowners are encouraged to use environmentally-friendly home insulation options where possible. Thanks to modern innovations, these are now available and will, when the time comes, break down naturally in the ground.

Another priority is to invest in Energy Star appliances. While all appliances in your home require some sort of energy to power them, freezers, dishwashers and dryers with this rating use considerably less. 

Allied to this, you’ll want to invest in LED lights. Again, these use far less energy than their conventional counterparts. 

On the water side of the equation, there are two major ways that you can cut consumption in your home. The first is to install low-flow showerheads, which we mentioned above. These reduce the amount of water that you consume whenever you take a shower, sometimes by up to 50 percent. 

The other big water-saver is low-flow toilets. These are often able to save their owners more than 5 gallons per flush. 

Dome-Shaped Roofs

Most residential properties have pitched roofs. They’re the cheapest to construct and they deal well with rain water. 

However, they aren’t necessarily the most energy-efficient. Many net zero homes actually have dome roofs since this cuts down on the amount of energy that they lose in the winter. Moreover, they may be more effective at protecting properties against storm damage, again reducing the long-term burden on the environment.

The Two “R’s”

Net zero homes focus on implementing the two “R’s”: reduce and rebate. Reduce concerns the idea of actually making the structure smaller so that people don’t have to use so much energy heating their homes. It encourages people to simply consider how much space they need. 

Rebates refer to the savings that you can make by using energy-efficient appliances. Utility companies and manufacturers will often give you a kickback thanks to various government schemes and subsidies. 

Can You Make An Existing Home Net Zero?

You can theoretically make an existing home net zero, but you’ll need to make some substantial investments. These might include actually physically removing rooms or redoing how the home gets its energy from the ground up.

You can also make financial adjustments. For instance, you could choose an energy-efficient mortgage which provides low rates for people trying to make their homes net zero.

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