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Should You Buy Or Build A Net Zero Energy Home?

5-Minute Read
Published on May 4, 2021

A net zero energy home may be your dream come true. Instead of relying on traditional sources of energy, you can build your home to produce enough energy to sustain itself.

A net zero energy home is an enticing idea. But should you actually buy or build one? Let’s take a closer look at what these homes can offer you in terms of your personal carbon footprint before you decide.

What Is A Net Zero Home?

Net zero homes are conscientiously designed to produce at least as much electricity as they consume in a year. They are connected to the grid, so they can tap into conventional power sources if needed but will produce enough energy to pay it back in kind.

With a growing interest among homeowners to lower their carbon footprint, you’ve likely run into other terms that can be easily confused with a net zero home. Here are the most common ones to watch out for.

A net zero home is not a zero energy or off-grid home. Unlike a net zero home, these types of homes are not connected to the power grid at all. Another common source of confusion is with energy efficient homes. Although net zero homes may be energy efficient, they don’t necessarily need to be energy efficient, as long as the home is producing enough energy to cover its needs.

What Are The Characteristics Of Net Zero Energy Homes?

As you consider living in a net zero home, here are the characteristics you should keep in mind.

Renewable Energy Production

The hallmark feature of a net zero energy home is that it has to produce its own energy to offset its energy usage. The production of renewable energy can be sourced from solar, wind, or hydropower. But the energy will need to be created on-site.

With that, it is not surprising that solar energy production panels are often considered an essential feature.

Smart Designs

Net zero energy homes are often designed with smart floor plans that minimize energy usage. The placement of the building, the floor plan it uses, and the window placement are all components of a smart design process.

Beyond the design features that minimize the energy usage, most net zero energy homes consider the health of the occupants living within them. You’ll find that the majority of net zero energy homes are designed to support a healthy lifestyle for the owners through a healthy indoor environment.

High-Quality Insulation

A net zero home will often need high-quality insulation as a part of its design. The goal of this high-quality insulation is to seal the interior of the home completely from the outdoor elements. With that, the energy produced will be effectively used throughout the home with minimal leakage.

In addition to high-quality insulation, most net zero homes will need to consider highly energy-efficient windows. As you improve the home’s energy efficiency, you will reduce the amount of energy needed to be produced for your net zero energy home.

Efficient Outdoor Water Use

When you think of homeownership in America, you often think of the maintenance of a lush green lawn. But net zero energy homes often choose to forgo the traditional look for a more practical approach to water usage.

Instead of opting for the more lush grass available, net zero energy homes often go with drought-resistant landscapes. Typically, the homeowners embrace rainwater collection methods as a solution for keeping their outdoor landscape alive.

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Why Consider A Net Zero House?

Luckily, there are many good reasons to consider a net zero home. Here are some to keep in mind.

Environmental Concerns

Unfortunately, the environment has been suffering at the cost of energy production for decades. Currently, cooling, heating, and power usage of the residential sector accounts for approximately 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions for the U.S.

Imagine if that number could be slashed! A net zero energy home allows you to make a direct impact on the greenhouse gas emissions that occur every day.

Healthier Homes

Net zero energy homes provide a high-quality indoor living environment. The improved air quality can have a positive impact on their occupants’ health.

The airtight nature of net zero energy homes leads to fewer pollutants making their way into your home. But if they make it in, most net zero energy homes have built-in air filtration systems to draw out any contaminants that make it into your indoor environment.

Reduced Energy Costs

A net zero home should be able to slash your annual energy cost to zero. Plus, your home may overproduce energy, which can create energy credits you can use in the future.

Imagine what your budget would look like without your monthly power bill!

Lower Purchase And Build Prices

You may have realized that net zero homes are becoming more popular. With that increased demand, construction techniques in this space are evolving to become cheaper to purchase and build.

For example, net zero energy homes start at around $254,900 in Cape Coral. According to Zillow, this is less than the typical home value of $266,279. So, it is possible to stay on budget while seeking out a net zero energy home.

Increased Resale Value

You’ll find an increased resale value associated with net zero energy homes. On average, a net zero energy home will add 3% – 5% more in value than conventional homes.

How Can I Be Sure My Home Will Use Net Zero Energy?

Standards are important to prevent “greenwashing,” which means to present a product as more environmentally friendly than it really is. With that, savvy home buyers – and their lenders – are asking for third-party proof that the homes they are buying are what builders and sellers say they are.

Here’s what to ask for.

LEED Certification

LEED certification is a recognized symbol to help you determine the sustainability of a building. As an unbiased third party, a LEED certification can help you ensure that you’re getting the home you want.

Builders and sellers can obtain a LEED certification to help reassure you and your lender that the home will perform as a sustainable building.

Home Energy Rating System – HERS Index

An additional method of confirming that a home will operate efficiently is with the Home Energy Rating System. Through this system, you can determine how efficiently it is operating through the course of a thorough inspection.

Once you calculate the home’s energy performance, you can determine if it is possible for it to be a net zero energy home based on the energy production options available.

Where Can I Build My Net Zero Home?

A net zero home won’t function well in all climates. Although you can make adaptations based on your surroundings, you may not achieve your goal of net zero energy in extremely cold or extremely hot climates.

However, you should explore the options in your area to determine if it is a possibility. You may be able to alleviate some of the problems that come with certain climates through the appropriate placement of the building.

The Bottom Line: Green, Healthy And Sustainable Homes Are Within Reach

A net zero energy home could be the solution you have been looking for to make an effort to lower your own greenhouse gas emissions. Want to learn more about energy-efficient homes? Check out our Learning Center.

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Call our Home Loans Experts at (800) 251-9080 to begin your mortgage application, or apply online to review your loan options.

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Sarah Sharkey

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer that enjoys helping readers learn more about their finances. She has an MS in Business Management from the University of Florida. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram @adventurousadulting.