People are starting to build more eco-conscious residences, and zero-net-energy homes are becoming increasingly popular. They can be designed in any style or size, connect to a traditional power grid, and are suitable in all climates. Their versatility makes them incredibly attractive, especially to those looking to save on their utility bills.

Designing a zero-net-energy home is all about building into the local environment. From the house’s orientation to the preferred type of renewable energy, creating a zero-net-energy home is a holistic process that involves builders, architects, and engineers alike. Here is how they are designed for maximum power savings.

1. Energy

Zero-net-energy homes are defined as houses that produce the same amount of energy they use in a year. To accomplish this, they need to practice passive heating and cooling, which relies on proper orientation to absorb the most energy at the right time. Most sustainable homes are constructed on the East-West axis with south-facing windows.

Then, power is supplied with renewable energy resources, with solar being the most prominent choice. Many zero-net-energy homes incorporate the use of photovoltaic solar panels, which can be used to produce electricity or power a water heater. Solar energy can be somewhat expensive upfront, but the savings over the lifetime of the system make the initial cost negligible.

Zero-net-energy home
Zero-net-energy homes are defined as houses that produce the same amount of energy they use in a year. Image source: PXHere

2. Envelope

Sustainable home builders talk a lot about a building’s envelope. This to the possible energy loss due to a lack of sealing or insulation. By ensuring the structure is properly sealed, homeowners know their house is maximizing the cooling and heating capacity they can generate on-premises.

When testing your home’s insulation levels, make sure to optimize efficiency for walls, floors and ceilings. While most people consider doors and windows to be the major loss of energy, a significant amount is also lost in spaces we don’t often expect.

3. Material

Zero-net-energy homes require the most efficient materials to maximize power usage. While it is possible to incorporate these goals into any house, some elements may be more energy-efficient than others. Most zero-net-energy homes are built with a wood frame, though this can vary.

The most important feature when it comes to choosing materials is insulation. Many builders select foam insulation, fiberglass, or cellulose.

When choosing materials, it is important to consider the lifecycle impact. This refers to the environmental costs of items used, from manufacturing to disposal. Designing a zero-net-energy home requires builders to contemplate the long-term effects of the resources they use, in addition to the energy benefits they provide.

4. Shape

You can design a zero-net-energy home in nearly any architectural style, but it is ideal to pay attention to your home’s main shape to maximize efficiency. When first drawing out house concepts, think about keeping the general shape of the home simple. Rectangular designs are most common, as they are more cost-effective to build and easier to insulate.

When it comes to techniques like daylighting and passive solar, shape plays an integral role in the success of the zero-net-energy design. The building should be practical, blending energy efficiency with a comfortable and functional living space.

Designing a Zero-Impact Home

The environmental cost of single-family homes is astounding. According to the U.S Department of Energy, houses will account for 56 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 1985 and 2035.

Designing a zero-net-energy home can result in incredible savings for homeowners and a significantly reduced carbon footprint. There are several features to incorporate during the design process. Orientation, envelope, materials and shape all play a vital part in constructing a successful zero-net-energy home, something you can feel good about for many years to come.

Holly Welles
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