Net Zero Homes & New Energy Homes - The Benefits and Differences
In today’s world, we hear a lot of discussion on glocal warming, recycling, energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and many other terms centered on “going green.”
From appliances to geothermal heat, from solar panels to wind turbines, many homeowners want to do their part in having an energy-efficient home and becoming energy independent.
So, when is the best time to think about building a home that is energy efficient or completely energy independent?
The best time is when you are building a new house!
Building a new home gives you complete control over the energy components, integrating efficient building materials, and designing a home that helps create a greener world.
In this article, we look at the benefits and differences of a New Energy Home and a Net Zero Home. We also look at some of the challenges in reaching a home that is truly energy independent.
Alright, let’s dig in!
What Is A New Energy Home?
A New Energy Home is a home designed to use 50% or less energy than a typical American home.
In 2018, the average American home used 10,972 kWh in the year (this doesn’t include heating gas or oil). In the past 20 years, it is calculated that American homes were responsible for over 20% of U.S. carbon emissions.
What do these numbers tell us?
They show that the average American home has a long way to go to be a cleaner and more sustainable model. It also shows that homes play a large role in the energy usage and carbon emissions for the United States.
Imagine if all American homes were New Energy Homes by next year - that would reduce the overall United States energy consumption by over 10%!
Benefits Of A New Energy Home
Having a New Energy Home is the first step in creating a home that is truly energy efficient. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of having an energy-efficient home.
There is no questioning or doubting it - New Energy Home’s commitment to reducing energy by 50% makes them eco-friendly.
Reducing carbon emissions is important, no matter the form it takes - electricity, heating oil, propane, natural gas, or some other energy form.
Not only are New Energy Homes eco-friendly, they are also more sustainable than traditional home construction.
Because of the focus on energy savings and efficient designs, building materials used in New Energy Homes are typically greener and made with more sustainable methods than normal home building supplies.
Low Carbon Footprint
New Energy Homes do their part in reducing the carbon footprint of the United States residential sector. It really is pretty simple - the less energy you need for your home, the lower your carbon emissions and footprint will be!
One of the things not often discussed with energy efficiency is the rise of grid efficiency and stability. The less energy that homes or businesses need on any given power grid or circuit, the more stable and efficient the circuit becomes.
If your home is needing less energy to function, especially during peak hours of the day (usually late afternoon and early evening), then your home is helping the stability of your local power grid.
The focus of New Energy Homes is definitely how green and eco-friendly they are, but it comes with a financial benefit: Lower utility and energy bills.
And while it is true that a New Energy Home may cost more to build initially, over time you will see that value being returned in your monthly budget as you save on your heating, cooling, and electric bills.
Also, depending on your state and the materials you use, you may also be eligible for government rebates or tax credits for using energy-efficient building materials.
Increased Home Value
Along with the energy savings, you will see a financial return in your increased home value. Buyers are quicker to purchase a home or pay a higher price if they know the home is energy-efficient, eco-friendly, and has lower energy bills.
Ways To Design A New Energy Home
To achieve this 50% or more drop in energy usage, designers and contractors have to be very specific in the way they design and build the home.
The main goal with a New Energy Home is to control the temperature and heat transfer. The more a home transfers heat, either into our out of the home, the less efficient it is.
The goal in the summer is to keep the warm outside air from coming into the home. In the winter, the opposite is true - the cold air needs to stay outside the home.
How do builders eliminate this heat transfer and build a New Energy Home?
The insulation is one of the most critical elements in maintaining a consistent home temperature. New Energy Homes use a hybrid insulation package to maximize energy efficiency while minimizing heat loss.
Choosing the right materials is an essential part of reducing the energy usage of any building, including a home. The windows, doors, siding, and other construction materials and methods need to all be chosen with peak efficiency in mind.
Although materials play a large part in saving energy, the structural design also plays a critical role. Different parts of the structure, such as the foundation, basement, wall cavities, and other elements play a role in making a New Energy Home.
Energy Star Appliances
Choosing appliances that use little energy also plays an important part of your home saving energy. While it is not as critical as the heat transfer or controlling the temperature, appliances still play a role in a home’s energy savings.
Click here for a list of appliances that meet or exceed Energy Star’s rating.
At K. Graber Construction, we work hard to do our part to make Northcentral Indiana part of this mission. We build New Energy Homes in many parts of Indiana, and we would love to talk with you about taking this step in your next home!
What Is A Net Zero Home?
Now that we have discussed New Energy Homes, let’s take a look at Net Zero Homes. Net Zero Homes take the New Energy Home concept to the next level!
So, what is a Net Zero home?
A Net Zero Home has the goal of reaching a net energy usage of zero. Through extreme energy efficiency, reducing heat transfer, and energy creation on the home, a Net Zero Home is able to eliminate its carbon footprint!
By using solar power or wind power, Net Zero Homes even have the potential to inject power into the grid. This power injection means that a Net Zero Home is not only carbon neutral - the home is actually becoming carbon negative.
Benefits Of A Net Zero Home
The largest benefit by far of a Net Zero Home is the fact that it is carbon neutral or possibly carbon negative. Even though it might be a single home in a neighborhood, it still has a tremendous impact on the environment and local utility grid!
Many of the benefits are similar to a New Energy Home, but they come with greater benefits.
Let’s take a look…
Zero Carbon Footprint
Forget about contributing to global warming. You can have full peace of mind knowing your home is not contributing to the world’s carbon footprint.
Instead, there is a good possibility that you are helping to reduce the overall carbon footprint!
As already mentioned, nothing is more eco-friendly than a building that has a carbon footprint of net zero. And if they are adding energy to the grid and becoming carbon negative, then the environmental impact is truly amazing.
Net Zero Homes take sustainability to the next level. Not only is the home energy independent, but many of the construction materials are often LCCA (Life Cycle Cost Analysis) efficient as well.
LCCA efficient means the building products themselves are also sustainable and produced in eco-friendly and efficient ways. So not only is your home efficient, but the building materials were manufactured efficiently as well!
With either solar or wind generation, there will probably be times that you will actually be putting energy back onto the grid. This further helps with grid stability and efficiency, especially with modern electronics in the solar and wind equipment.
Yes, a Net Zero Home will have a higher initial cost. However, the energy savings over a home’s lifetime is also a large number, and many homeowners find they pay off the difference sooner than they thought.
Depending on your area’s energy prices, especially with utility costs continuing to rise, you will see an even greater payback.
Plus, solar and wind generation currently has tax incentives from the federal government, and many states also provide financial incentives for installing solar or wind.
Also, if you produce more power than you use, some states require the utility company to write you a check for your kWh production!
Increased Home Value
There is no doubt about it - having a home with no utility bill is a big seller!
Not only are you selling a home with no carbon footprint, but it also comes with no utility bill.
Ways To Design A Net Zero Home
Achieving a Net Zero Home begins the same way as a New Energy Home: the designer and contractor need to take special care in the building materials, methods, and appliances used on your home.
However, the materials and construction methods only get you partway there - basically the 50% energy savings.
To eliminate the other 50%, you need to install something that actually generates power, and we are not talking a diesel or propane home generator.
What are the most common natural power generators for homes?
Solar is the most popular, and wind is second.
Solar is more popular for several reasons.
First, depending on your home’s roof, it fits flush on the roof and is almost invisible from the ground.
Second, solar doesn’t take extra room or become obtrusive. Most wind generators require additional space and need to be higher than the home, meaning they can impede views and are not always permitted in urban areas.
Challenges In Reaching A Net Zero Home
The Net Zero Home concept is well on its way to achieving great things, and the idea of homes being either carbon neutral or carbon negative is becoming more attainable with new energy equipment.
However, Net Zero Homes do have some challenges.
They Cost More Than A Traditional Home
We’ve already discussed the fact that most homeowners see the financial difference paid off with the energy savings, but it is still a real fact: Net Zero Homes will usually cost more money upfront.
They Still Need To Be Connected To A Utility Grid
While it is tempting to think that Net Zero means not being connected to a utility grid, this is not usually true.
Because solar and wind power fluctuate based on the sun and wind, you still want your home to be connected to the utility grid. If you want to be truly off-grid, then a battery pack or AC generator will need to be installed, but most homeowners will save money long-term by remaining on the grid.
However, as solar, wind, and battery technology continues increasing and getting better, this could easily begin to change in the near future!
How Does K. Graber Construction Help?
At K. Graber Construction, we work hard to help homeowners be green, sustainable, and energy-conscious in North-central Indiana.
To help with this mission, we build custom New Energy and Net Zero Homes for our valued clients.