Net Zero Houses

There has been considerable buzz in the media recently about “net zero” houses which are houses that consume net zero energy and emit zero carbon. Building a net zero home might seem really expensive at first, but after crunching the numbers you should find that in the long run, the work will pay for itself several times over. Think about it for a minute; when you use no energy, your energy costs will be literally nothing. If you are interested in gradually working towards a net zero home, you can work towards it incrementally. There are so many ways that you can make your home more energy efficient. Here are some simple and practical tips to get you started.

Build only what you need.

If you are going to build, or have a hand in designing the layout of your home, remember modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s motto: “Less is more.” For everything that you don’t build, there are wind generators and solar panels that you don’t need to purchase and install, saving your even more money. Focus on building small, multi-purpose spaces in your home.

The envelope, please…

Whether you’ve built your property from scratch or not, you want to build the most efficient envelope that your budget will allow (an ‘envelope’ is a highly insulated barrier between the inside of your home and the outside). Creating this envelope means that you’ll have better heat retention in the winter months, and less excess heat entering your home over the summer months. By doing this you are maximizing the efficiency of your heating/cooling system by demanding less out of it. However, if you want to pull of such a feat, you’ll need walls in the ballpark of 18” thick, which could be beyond the scope of what you’re willing to pay. Thankfully, you can achieve quite a bit by installing foam insulations within your walls and rooftop.

Jeremy Levine Design

You also want to be mindful of your windows and doors. Placement is, of course, one important consideration. In addition to acting as a barrier, some windows also allow energy to pass when it is beneficial. You want to set everything up so that windows with southern exposure filter in heat during the winter, and very few windows are placed on the east or west.

New appliances.

If you’ve got a smaller home with a formidable envelope now, then you’re off to a promising start. The next step towards further reducing your energy consumption is to reduce the number of electronic appliances you use down to the bare essentials, and favor the most energy efficient products on the market. For instance use fluorescent lights that have been color-adjusted, and not incandescent lighting. Also check for any Energy Star certified appliances, which are certified as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Choosing the right electricity provider

As you work toward being net zero, another step in the right direction is to try to get your electricity from renewable sources. Obviously the greenest and most cost effective option in the long run is for you to use your own solar panels or wind generators for energy. With solar panels not only do you harness the awesome power of photovoltaics, but the panels can also be used to heat your entire house and even keep the water hot in your water tank.

However, for some using their own renewable sources of energy isn’t an option. Luckily, there are an increasing number of electricity providers who rely on renewable sources of energy to provide for their customers. There are some websites that will let you find these options for some parts of Canada, Connecticut, and New York.

There are many steps you can take over the course of the next year towards making your home a net zero home and remember, whatever your immediate expenses are, ultimately, you are saving money.

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