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Green Living: What Makes a Net-Zero Home?

So, just what is a “net-zero” home? Native, Green Builders and Renewable Energy Providers in Austin, Texas are here to explain to readers.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is a residence that uses about two-thirds less energy than a regular, conventional home. It also fulfills its energy needs through renewable sources like wind, solar, or geo-thermal.

A net-zero residence may still make use of energy purchased from a local utility. However, it will usually have the capacity to sell energy back to the utility through what is called “net-meeting.” For example, a solar energy installation on the roof of the home may at times produce more electricity than the property requires. At such times, the extra electricity flows back through the meter and onto the electric grid. In a net-zero home, the amount of electricity purchased from the local utility will be fully offset by the amount of electricity sold to the utility.

Green Living: What Makes a Net-Zero Home?

Smart Use of Space

Architects often observe that one of the greenest building decisions is the decision about what not to build. In general, living spaces are kept to a minimum, and there is a relentless search for various ways to make spaces multi-functional. Since the construction of solar, wind and geo-thermal systems can include significant up-front costs, minimizing the demands placed upon such systems can be prudent.

The Newer Solar Leasing Option

At the same time, solar energy systems are now offered in some parts of the country on a lease basis. In such an arrangement, a utility or other solar energy company pays for the purchase and installation of the system, and the homeowner is merely responsible for a monthly lease payment for a period that averages about 15 years. In many such installations, the monthly utility is reduced by so much that the lease payment is fully offset by the energy savings.

Energy Efficient Systems

The advances in the development of energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and hot water heaters have been truly impressive. Today, LED lighting will often consume 80-90 percent less electricity than traditional incandescent lighting. The use of Energy Star certified appliances will also move a home toward net zero status.

Reduced Demand

Many devices and appliances in use around the home generate heat, and this heat must then be removed when home cooling is required in the summer. The proper purchase and placement of such equipment can significantly reduce this phenomenon. The importance of so-called “ghost loads” has grown in the new century. The term refers to all electricity used by TVs, computers, printers, LED displays, and appliances when they are not actually in use. Estimates of the added electricity that ghost loads consumer run as high as 25-percent. The intelligent purchase and use of such devices can greatly minimize energy waste.

Insulation and Design

A net zero home will usually accomplish much of its energy savings from the use of heavily insulated walls and roofs. Triple pane windows and insulated exterior doors also reduce energy usage. Finally, intelligent placement of windows, skylights and solar tubes can warm and light the home with passive solar to a significant degree. To accomplish this, net zero homes often feature a maximized use of south-facing windows.

Sustainable Building Products

Much of the time, the “net-zero” concept includes an effort to utilize building materials from renewable sources. For example, lumber may only be used that comes from stands of renewable timber on tree farms. New trees are planted and grown at the pace at which the timber is harvested.

Broader Benefits

Net-zero homes also have the potential to have a broader effect on the environment and the economy, Because they rely so little on fossil fuels for their operation, such houses help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They also help to reduce a nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Native builds net-zero home in Texas. For more information, please visit the Native website.

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