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The 411 on Zero Net Energy Homes

To save energy at home, you may start small by unplugging countertop appliances and turning off all the lights before you leave. Over time, you could seal any air leaks and install a programmable thermostat. Eventually, you might end up with solar panels on your roof. This natural progression toward a more cost-saving home is not as radical as you may think. In fact, you could reach a whole new level of energy efficiency known as a “zero net energy” home.

What does zero net energy mean?

What does zero net energy meanA zero net energy building must produce as much or more energy than it needs to maintain. This entails a renewable energy system and various energy efficiency measures that will offset the home’s annual energy consumption.  

 

How do I achieve zero net energy?

How do I achieve zero net energyTaking small steps and implementing a few energy-saving tactics at a time is perhaps a smart way to go about it, especially if you’re working with an older home. Dan and Christine Fisher of Tampa, Florida did exactly that. Their 20-year-old home was built with some efficient characteristics, but this “green” couple took it all the way to the top.

If you, too, seek the ultimate in energy efficiency, the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program has guidelines. They include:

  • Having an Energy Star-approved HVAC system in place
  • Meeting the standards for proper water management (as established by Energy Star)
  • Featuring high-performance windows
  • Installing insulation that’s up to par with the International Energy Conservation Code
  • Following the best recommendations for an air duct system
  • Conserving water through an efficient hot water system, typically a tankless water heater
  • Offering indoor air quality that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor airPlus Program standards
  • Potentially using solar energy sources where they comply with the EPA’s solar electric guide

For more details on each of these efforts as they pertain to your home and your state’s policies, consult a Zero Energy Ready Home partner

What are the gains from a zero net energy home?

What are the gains from a zero net energy homeThe Fishers started with insulating the attic and then quickly moved on to their windows. Living in a hurricane-risk state, these Floridians opted for Energy Star certified double-paned windows. Of course, they didn’t stop there. To make their windows more efficient, they covered them with Madico’s Exterior 20 window film. This simple change blocked heat without compromising the performance of the double-paned glass. It was estimated that the window film alone contributed to a 4% reduction in energy usage. Ultimately, this Tampa couple got their electric bill down to $17 per month from $500.

When working toward a zero net energy home, you’ll notice that small improvements, like adding window film, can make a large impact on your overall savings. Energy.gov analyzed various DOE Zero Energy Ready homes to find that they saved up to $101 per month on utility costs. On top of the monetary savings is the value in knowing that you’ve lowered your carbon footprint – and that’s priceless.  

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