Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

An Introduction to Net-Zero Energy Homes

by Martell Home Builders – May 30, 2011 – “Green Living Series”

Do you know what a net-zero energy home (NZEH) is or what the benefits of building/owning a NZEH are?

NZEH … with emphasis on the “EH”

Eh? So you’ve heard people talk about net-zero energy homes, NZEH for short, but you’re still left scratching your head wondering what the heck these homes are. Sure, you can make some sort of assumption based on its name, but if you’re still wondering what exactly the term means, here’s an explanation from

“Zero Energy Housing (ZEH) is a term applied to a house or residential development that produces as much energy from renewable sources at it consumes on an annualized basis. The Zero Energy Housing project focuses on grid-tied developments that both draw energy as required and feed excess energy back into the grid for others to use.”

In other words, net-zero energy homes are built to utilize green technologies which make it possible to harvest energy on location which can then be distributed to others to use.

What are these green technologies?

The technologies that a net-zero energy home incorporates include:

  • Passive solar
  • Solar domestic hot water
  • Solar electricity, also called photovoltaic (PV)
  • GeoExchange technology

For a detailed look at these technologies, check out the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition website.

The benefits

Although net-zero energy homes have a higher initial cost of building, there are numerous advantages to building/owning a NZEH. According to Wikipedia, these benefits include:

  • isolation for building owners from future energy price increases
  • increased comfort due to more-uniform interior temperatures (this can be demonstrated with comparative isotherm maps)
  • reduced requirement for energy austerity
  • reduced total cost of ownership due to improved energy efficiency
  • reduced total net monthly cost of living
  • improved reliability – photovoltaic systems have 25-year warranties – seldom fail during weather problems – the 1982 photovoltaic systems on the Walt Disney World EPCOT Energy Pavilion are still working fine today, after going through 3 recent hurricanes
  • extra cost is minimized for new construction compared to an afterthought retrofit
  • higher resale value as potential owners demand more ZEBs than available supply
  • the value of a ZEB building relative to similar conventional building should increase every time energy costs increase
  • future legislative restrictions, and carbon emission taxes/penalties may force expensive retrofits to inefficient buildings

Would you pay to save?

 Click here to read about the “Net Zero Energy Home Coalition”.

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