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What is a Zero Energy Home?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 16, 2024
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The zero energy home is a revolutionary technology that aims to create homes that produce as much energy as they consume. The main idea is to cut energy consumption in the home by at least 50 to 70%. To do this, the zero energy home utilizes solar panels and a low-power appliances.

There are a number of different techniques used by the zero energy home in order to cut power consumption. Spectrally selective windows block solar heat in the summer and retain indoor heat in cold weather. A tankless, gas-powered water heater will save energy by only warming the water when the tap is turned on.

The implementation of fluorescent bulbs throughout the zero energy home uses only two thirds of the power of normal bulbs. Solar units in the zero energy home account for a huge chunk of the energy savings. The solar panels are set flush with roof tiles and use two-kilowatt photovoltaic panels. With the help of an inverter in the garage, they unobtrusively turn the sun’s rays into AC power. A display gives the system’s electrical output.

The solar power from these panels doesn’t just feed the zero energy home; it also serves it. If the panels generate more power than the home can use, the excess flows into the utility’s power grid. If the home supplies more energy in a month than it uses, then the bill for that month is zero. The monthly utility bill for a zero energy home is calculated by subtracting the amount of kilowatts the home itself has supplied from the amount of power that the home used from the power grid. It is usually over 50% less than traditional energy bills, and can go down to zero.

The addition of features to convert your residence into a zero energy home can add up to 25,000 US dollars (USD) to the value of your house. There are special rebates and tax breaks available, especially in California, where these homes are becoming more popular. Zero energy homeowners say that the features pay for themselves in around 12 years.

Cutting energy cost is the main aim of these homes. By 2020, the Department of Energy plans to have cut energy costs to zero by building homes that will use around 70% less energy. With global warming and fuel shortages occurring around the world, solar technology may become a necessity rather than a wishful idea.

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Discussion Comments

By David09 — On May 16, 2011

Solar panels can do more than just deliver electric current to the home. They can also serve as water heaters as well. I hear that in some parts of Europe they have systems set up to do just that.

About the only energy efficient thing I have going on right now in my house is thermal windows. They came with the house when I bought it so there was no direct cost to me.

By SkyWhisperer — On May 14, 2011

@Mammmood - I think alternative energy is already mainstream. In the area where I live there are a number of zero energy home builders who are advertising the service to build completely zero-energy homes from the ground up at varying pricing options.

I’ve already sent in a request to get information on some of their prefabricated designs. If they can keep the overall costs within my budget (no more than $250,000) I may go ahead and get my next house built this way. I understand that the cost savings will pay for themselves in a little over 10 years.

By Mammmood — On May 11, 2011

Sometimes I hear survivalists talk of living “off the grid” when discussing energy efficiency. This basically means that they have built a completely zero-energy home using a combination of energy-saving and cost cutting features.

Of course these same people usually grow their own vegetable gardens as well. In effect, they are trying to build a self-sustaining environment. However, I think that soon this kind of thing will go mainstream as more people become aware of the money they can save.

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