In today’s market, would you ever consider buying a car that gets 12 miles to the gallon? Would you even consider designing, building or selling a car that gets 12 mpg? I believe 100% of us would respond with a resounding NO. Why? Because we all know there is a great selection of stylish, comfortable, reliable, and safe cars that are reasonably priced, and get up to 30 miles to the gallon, and others like hybrids that exceed 50 miles per gallon, and electric vehicles that approach 100 miles per charge. This generation of fuel-efficient cars offers great performance and is fun to drive. Even if you do a modest amount of driving, the money will favor a very fuel-efficient car, and the payback will be even faster if you drive a lot. Buying a very fuel-efficient car makes good financial sense.
Does it not stand to reason then that homes should be designed and built to be beautiful, durable, functional, and very fuel-efficient? Shouldn’t they be healthy and comfortable to live in, and be as economical to operate as the latest greatest hybrid or plug in electric vehicle? How about a home that does even better? How about a home that produces as much energy from renewable energy sources as it consumes from the utility provider in the course of a year and over the life span of the home!
These homes, called Zero Net Energy Homes (ZNEH) or Zero Energy Homes (ZEH), are being built today across the United States, by pioneers in the building industry who have developed a strong business case for a way of building that provides immediate and long-term benefits to the health, comfort, and financial security of the homeowner – all of this, while benefiting the environment through zero net carbon emissions.
Wouldn’t we all want to have an exceedingly low or zero monthly home energy bill, forever? That makes great financial sense to me! Wouldn’t it be a great bonus, that such a home is also healthier and more comfortable to live in and helps protect the environment during our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children and their children’s children? That sounds great to me!
Making the Case for Zero Energy Homes Becoming the Norm in Home Construction
The mission of this blog and website is to provide education and outreach to all stakeholders in the home building industry so that affordable, market comparable, ZEHs and near zero energy homes become the norm for home buyers, designers, lenders, realtors and home builders. Below, I have formulated a partial list of the benefits and advantages of building, owning, and/or living in a Zero Net Energy home. We will be exploring these and other benefits of Zero Net Energy Homes in much greater detail during future weekly blog posts, not only from a potential homebuyer perspective, but also from the perspective of builders, designers, lenders, and realtors with the purpose of confirming that there is a strong business case, as well as a strong health, comfort and environmental case, for the rapid increase of ZEH construction and sales.
The Benefits of Zero Net Energy Home Construction
- Comfort: Zero Energy Homes provide a high degree of thermal comfort by maintaining stable interior temperature and eliminating drafts by employing airtight, but breathable construction, by using high insulation levels, and by using high performance windows and doors.
- Health: Fresh filtered air is continuously supplied while stale air is expelled through a high performance ventilation system, providing optimum indoor air quality compared to traditional ventilation systems. This is very important for people who suffer from allergies and chemical sensitivities. Living in a ZEH with a highly effective ventilation system allows both the adults and children to breath air that is healthier, resulting in fewer missed work or school days due to respiratory issues.
- Quiet: A well designed ZEH is very quiet thanks to thicker walls and better insulated and air-tight windows and doors, providing a more relaxing home environment.
- No Net Energy Bills: ZEHs provide protection against future energy price increases and inflation. Money that you would have spent on heating, cooling, and lighting a conventionally built home can be redirected to your personal well-being and financial savings plan. Therefore, ZEHs not only promote energy independence, but also provide for a sense of personal and financial empowerment.
- Solid Investment: The market demand and resale value of truly high-performance green homes and Zero Net Energy Homes have a great return on investment. First of all, they are very well built, comfortable and healthy to live in. Secondly, as the price of energy goes up potential buyers will place a high value on having a home that has no energy bills.
- Affordable: ZEHs cost no more than comparable homes built to code based upon the total cost of ownership. In a well planned and executed ZEH, the “perceived” extra initial costs for construction and energy systems can be rolled into the mortgage. The resulting small increase in the monthly mortgage payments are balanced out by having little or no energy bills. If the added cost is not rolled into the mortgage, the pay back on the extra costs can be as short as 5 to 8 years depending on your energy use, local energy costs, available state tax credits, rebates and incentives. After the payback period, your monthly cost of living will be significantly lower and considerably more affordable for the long term than a conventionally built home.
- No Carbon Emissions: ZEHs are “legacy” buildings that are healthy for the planet, for your family, and for the generations to come. The excess electricity your ZNEH produces from renewable sources supplies your neighbors’ traditionally built homes with energy from a clean renewable source instead of from a carbon producing electric utility.
- The New Normal: ZEHs look like any other home, are easy to operate and live in, and use standard building techniques and materials that have proven reliability. While ZNEH owners usually make a point of using energy conservatively, life in a ZEH is like living in any other home, except that it is healthier, more comfortable and less expensive to operate. Look to ZEHs becoming the new “normal” in home construction in the decades ahead.
It is important that this discussion engages all stakeholders in the industry; therefore our intent is to reach out to lenders, realtors, and appraisers, in addition to designers, builders and homebuyers, with regards to the financial value-added ZEH construction offers compared to traditional code minimum homes.
As I bring this to a close, I hope you will join us here, like us on Facebook, follow our tweets, and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. We appreciate in advance your input and perspectives, and recognize there are many paths for achieving the ZNEH goal.
We hope to convince you, and inspire you to share with friends, colleagues and potential homebuyers that….The Zero Net Energy Home Building Revolution is underway! It’s time to jump on board!
Glenn Haupt is the owner of Solar Craft Design located in Bend, Oregon. His work focuses on the design of low energy, healthy green homes. He is a Certified Passive House Design Consultant, Certified Sustainable Building Advisor, Energy Consultant, and blogger.