Net-Zero Here We Come…

Net-Zero-Program-LogosMany professional organizations and municipalities are setting goals to create a net-zero building stock. That is, buildings that generate at least as much energy as they consume. While the term net-zero has many different interpretations depending on which group you talk to, most home buyers and home builders consider net-zero for a residence to be net-zero with respect to electrical consumption. Until a national definition of new-zero is identified, homeowners have a very real opportunity to, at a minimum, generate as much or more electricity than they consume with strong conservation and the simple addition of solar photovoltaic panels. In order to reach the goals set, there are numerous programs (http://www.dsireusa.org/) available to offset many of these costs and entice homeowners and builders to do their share.

Getting to net-zero should be, at minimum, a two pronged approach. The initial effort should be made to build or renovate houses to a high standard of conservation, efficiency and sustainability. The second effort would be to use renewables to generate power and heat. There are many programs available to guide owners and builders through the initial process such as Energy Star rated homes, LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes, DOE’s ZERH (Dept. of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home) program, and PHIUS (Passiv Haus Institute US). As with all programs, each has their strengths and weaknesses but all are very good programs to follow and learn by.

The use of renewables, in particular, solar photovoltaics are becoming more and more prevalent. It is hard to drive through a neighborhood, or a business district for that matter, and not see at least a few installations of solar PV systems. For now and the foreseeable future, most homes that would be considered net-zero would incorporate PV.

The mindset for this approach though HAS to be conservation first, then generation. It just doesn’t make sense to construct a large home that doesn’t first minimize it’s footprint on the planet THEN add renewables to make that footprint as small as possible!

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