Should You Consider A Net-Zero Home? A Complete Guide

10 Min Read
Published July 12, 2023
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Off grid stone house in rolling hills with solar panels.
Written By Kaitlin Davis

With the cost of utilities continuously rising each year, you may be thinking of ways you can start conserving energy. Maybe you’re being extra cautious about leaving the AC running when you’re not home or making sure that every light is off before you head to bed. However, there are further steps you could take to be protected from the rapid rise in energy prices – like purchasing or building a net-zero home.

By going net-zero, you’re able to conserve energy while also living in a home that is sound, durable, carbon free and climate friendly – a win for your pockets and the planet.

What Is A Net-Zero Home?

A net-zero home is a house that combines energy-efficient design, construction and appliances with the ability to be powered exclusively by renewable energy. The result? A sustainable home that has no long-term energy costs.

While both save energy, there is a difference between a net-zero home and an energy-efficient home. Net-zero homes are a step-up due to their unique ability to produce as much energy as they consume. While other energy-efficient homes may reduce energy consumption through various technologies and practices, net-zero homes take it a step further by actively generating their own energy. This makes them a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option.

Net-Zero Homes Vs. Other Energy-Efficient Homes

The differences between net-zero energy homes and energy-efficient homes are marginal but make a big difference. To simplify things, here are the factors that separate these types of homes:

  • Off-grid homes: Off-grid homes are completely disconnected from the traditional power grid and rely solely on renewable energy sources for their energy needs. On the other hand, net-zero homes are still connected to the grid. While net-zero homes are designed to produce all the energy they need on-site, they can export excess energy back to the grid when they produce more than they consume. This allows the homes to contribute to the overall energy supply and potentially earn credits for the surplus energy they produce.
  • Passive homes: Passive homes are designed to minimize energy consumption through exceptional insulation, airtight construction and efficient ventilation systems. While they may achieve a high level of energy-efficiency, passive homes do not necessarily generate their own energy. Net-zero homes, on the other hand, combine energy-efficient design principles with renewable energy generation to achieve both energy-efficiency and self-sufficiency.

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What Are The Key Elements Of A Net-Zero Home?

As you consider living in or building a net-zero home, here are the characteristics you should keep in mind:

Appropriate Location

The location of a net-zero home plays a critical role in its energy-efficiency. Ideally, these houses should be situated in areas with ample access to renewable energy sources – such as direct sunlight for solar panels, proximity to water for hydropower and strong winds for wind turbines. Furthermore, the orientation of the home and the positioning of windows and shading should be optimized to maximize natural lighting and minimize heat gain or loss.

Renewable-Ready

A net-zero home should be designed and built with the necessary infrastructure to accommodate renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, wind turbines and hydropower systems. This includes ensuring that the roof is structurally capable of supporting solar panels, and that the electrical system is capable of handling the energy generated by these systems. By being “renewable-ready,” a net-zero home can easily integrate renewable energy sources for optimal energy production.

Intelligent Design

Just like the location, the overall architectural layouts of these homes play a crucial role in energy optimization. Ideally, a net-zero home is designed with the focus of maximizing energy-efficiency and minimizing energy waste. This includes strategic placement of windows to maximize natural light and ventilation, as well as the use of energy-efficient appliances and fixtures.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

It’s partially thanks to the rapidly advancing world of technology that net-zero homes could be built. After all, a key component of this type of house is energy-efficient appliances, such as ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerators, washing machines and HVAC systems. Incorporating these appliances can significantly reduce energy consumption, thus contributing to the overall energy-efficiency of a home.

However, it’s also due to their energy-efficiency that these appliances will run you a pretty penny compared to their less efficient counterparts. If you don’t have tens-of-thousands of dollars lying around to pay for them upfront, a personal loan could help you finance your needs and help you save big on energy bills down the line.

High-Quality Insulation

As well as maintaining a comfortable indoor living environment, proper insulation is crucial in minimizing heat gain or loss. Net-zero homes need high-quality insulation materials which can effectively reduce energy loss through walls, floors and roofs. This helps to create an airtight and well-insulated building envelope, resulting in reduced energy consumption and increased energy-efficiency.

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’ll reduce the amount of energy needed to be produced for your net-zero energy home.

Water Management

Water management aims to preserve natural water resources and reduce the potential for water damage. A net-zero home can reduce your hot water usage by including low flow water fixtures, stacked plumbing, drain water heat recovery and hot water recirculation.

Smart Home Monitoring

Smart home monitoring systems are becoming increasingly popular in net-zero homes, as they allow homeowners to track and optimize their energy usage in real-time. These systems can provide valuable insights into energy consumption patterns, identify areas of improvement and help homeowners make informed decisions about their energy usage. By utilizing smart home monitoring technology, homeowners can actively manage and reduce their energy consumption, further enhancing the energy-efficiency of their net-zero home.

Home Energy Certification

Obtaining a home energy certification, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or ENERGY STAR, is a testament to the energy-efficiency and sustainability of a net-zero home. These certifications provide an independent verification of a home’s energy performance and environmental impact, giving homeowners confidence in their investment and contributing to the overall promotion of net-zero homes as a viable solution for combating climate change.

What Are The Benefits Of A Net-Zero House?

There are many good reasons to consider a net-zero home. As you’re making your decision, here are a few to keep in mind.

Environmental Benefits

One of the most significant benefits of a net-zero home is its positive impact on the environment. By generating clean and renewable energy on-site, these homes reduce reliance on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Solar panels are commonly used to harness the power of the sun, providing electricity for the home while reducing carbon footprints.

Healthier Homes

On top of doing something good for the planet, you’ll also be doing something to support the health and safety of your family. Because these homes are built to be airtight and well-insulated, preventing drafts and reducing the infiltration of pollutants from outside, net-zero homes have amazingly clean air quality. This airtight construction also helps maintain a consistent temperature, reducing the need for excessive heating or cooling. Furthermore, net-zero homes often utilize advanced ventilation systems, which continuously exchange fresh air and filter out contaminants, creating a healthier living environment for occupants.

Energy Cost Savings

As the name suggests, net-zero homes are intended to generate their own electricity through renewable sources. And, unlike other green options, these homes are built to only generate as much energy as they consume over the course of a year. This means that you can save big on energy costs – or even potentially eliminate your monthly utility bills. Additionally, net-zero homes are designed to be highly energy-efficient, minimizing energy waste and optimizing energy usage. Less energy is needed to heat, cool and power the home, resulting in lower energy costs and long-term savings for homeowners.

Green Tax Credits

In today’s world, where climate change and energy-efficiency are at the forefront of our minds, certain lawmakers are taking strides to push citizens to adapt to green living. One of the methods of doing so is by providing energy credits that can help eligible homeowners lower future tax bills.

Increased Resale Value

Net-zero homes typically have a higher resale value compared to conventional homes. As awareness and demand for energy-efficient and sustainable housing continues to grow, these homes are becoming increasingly sought after in the real estate market.

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What Are Potential Problems With Net-Zero Homes?

Like all things good, there are drawbacks associated with owning a net-zero home. One of the greatest factors is the upfront cost. Although you could save big on energy bills, the incorporation of energy-efficient features and renewable energy systems can be expensive upfront.

If you’re looking to build a net-zero home rather than purchasing one, another challenge you may face is the level of difficulty in finding skilled professionals and contractors experienced in net-zero home construction. Building a net-zero home requires specialized knowledge and expertise to ensure that the home is well-designed, energy-efficient and meets the necessary performance standards. This is why interested parties should research and seek out professionals who have a proven track record in sustainable building practices.

How Can You Get A Mortgage For A Net-Zero Home?

Obtaining a mortgage for a net-zero home is similar to securing financing for a conventional home. However, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. It’s important to work with a lender who is familiar with net-zero homes and understands the value they offer, as some lenders specialize in providing mortgages for energy-efficient homes and may offer more favorable terms and rates.

Another crucial aspect is demonstrating the energy-efficiency and sustainability features of the home to the lender. This can include providing documentation such as energy performance ratings, certifications and energy modeling reports. These documents help lenders assess the long-term cost savings and value of the home, increasing the likelihood of loan approval.

What If You Want To Build A Net-Zero Home?

Depending on your situation, you might want to build a net-zero home from scratch rather than purchasing one. It’s important to take your time, crunch the numbers and connect with professionals who specialize in the construction of these unique green homes. It’s important to note that building a new home is generally more expensive than purchasing an existing residence, but it can be done. If you’re looking to finance the building of your new home, you may want to consider a construction loan to make your dreams a reality. Keep in mind, some lenders do not offer construction loans.

Also, if you’re looking to build a net-zero home on a budget, there are modular home floor plans designed to fit this way of living. This essentially means that rather than outsourcing all of your building supplies, you could have everything built and shipped directly to a plot of land. Just be sure that your chosen retailer builds with the durable, sustainable materials that separate net-zero homes from a standard house.  

The Bottom Line: Going Green With A Net-Zero Home May Save You Money

While it may be more expensive up front, there are many long-term benefits to living in a net-zero home. Whether you’re purchasing or building, the investment in energy-efficiency and sustainability is a step toward a greener and more sustainable future. If you’re looking to lower your greenhouse gas emissions while living in a safe, comfortable durable space, one of these homes could be a perfect fit for you.

Think you’re ready to start your journey to a greener future? Take a moment to to see what kind of home loan you might qualify for. There are options that make it possible for you to save money, reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy a healthier living environment.

Take the first step toward buying a house.

Get approved to see what you qualify for.

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