Posted: Guest|January 23rd, 2019

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Is a Zero-Net Energy Home Attainable?

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Guest post submitted by Kayla Matthews

Are you getting ready to remodel your home and feeling frustrated by the current high costs of your utility bills? One option may be to change key elements of your living space and turn it into a zero-net energy home.

Understanding what makes a zero-net energy home

A zero-net energy home produces more energy than it consumes, leading to no energy bill. People may think that sounds impossible, but case studies of homes throughout the United States, as well as in places like Canada and Australia, fit that description.

Consider, too, that you don't need to immediately go all-in with a house that leaves you with a nonexistent energy bill if that approach isn't the right fit for you. Instead, you may want to start by taking smaller, but still meaningful, steps that put you closer to a zero-energy home, such as installing solar panels on your roof.

Rising interest in these homes

It's probably not surprising to most people that there's a popularity boost for energy-efficient living. A recent study from Parks Associates revealed a 75 percent increase in the construction of zero-net energy homes from 2016 to 2017.

About half of these homes built in the United States are in California. That's likely because the state has a forward-thinking goal of making all newly constructed houses adhere to zero-net energy standards by 2020, and all commercial new buildings that way by a decade later.

People who live in Rotterdam, New York (or want to relocate there) can get an apartment at netZero Village, a complex that generates all its energy needs from the sun. Units there start at less than $1,500 per month.

There's also a multi-year plan in Japan for builders to construct approximately 1,500 zero-net energy apartment units by 2021. Such initiatives show the push to stop relying on fossil fuels applies to entire housing communities, not only single-family homes.

Transitioning to your zero-net energy home

It takes substantial time to build a house with zero-net energy usage without help, or to remodel your house to achieve a zero-net energy goal. Fortunately, though, it's becoming easier and less time-consuming to make progress.
In one case, a couple in Florida got started by covering their windows with a unique film that blocked heat but didn't compromise the performance of the double-paned glass. By itself, the window film contributed to an estimated 4 percent reduction in energy usage.

Another way to cut energy costs is to install more efficient home insulation that aligns with the International Energy Conservation Code. If your home isn't well-insulated, any energy-generating methods — solar or otherwise — you use won't be as apparent as they would with insulation improvements.

You can also think about installing a zero-energy water heater. Merchants like Home Depot and Amazon sell heaters and kits that allow people to tackle the job themselves. You can find models that generate hot water while your air conditioner runs, allowing you to reduce or eliminate the hot water costs of your energy bill.

Considering a prefab home or working with a builder

If you'd like to go beyond making adjustments to your home to make it more energy-efficient, the best option might be to invest in a prefabricated home built with a zero-energy goal in mind. There are both turnkey homes to peruse, as well as "shell-only" choices that help people embrace zero energy while keeping costs down, plus customize those houses to their preferences.

Otherwise, find a builder near you using the U.S. Department of Energy's partner locator tool. The experience of a company that regularly helps people meet their goal of having a zero-energy home could prove invaluable.

Having a plan in mind

A zero-net energy home is an attainable goal. Indeed, there are many state and national resources to help people learn about how to upgrade their houses and reduce or eliminate costly electric bills.

Any decision to remodel a home or move into a new one comes with substantial changes, though. You can anticipate the best possible results by learning more about all your options and deciding how to proceed in ways that match your objectives and budget.

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