Getting to Zero Net Energy (ZNE)

with Ann Edminster

What is ZNE and What Are the Benefits? 

ZNE, or Zero Net Energy, is a construction movement centered around optimizing the efficiency of a home, so that the owner’s energy demand is met, typically on-site. As the movement grows, it is sometimes referred to as Zero Net Electricity, or Zero Net Emissions, but it typically revolves around the same ideas. 

Both energy consumption and production are factored into the equation with ZNE homes. 

While the target is to come as close as possible to neutralizing energy consumption, ZNE isn’t always 100 percent achieved. But building with these concepts in mind still carries an environmental benefit and offers tremendous advantages to the homeowner. ZNE principles will bring builders, developers, and homeowners further than simply trying to create something that is energy efficient. 

The Principles of a ZNE Ready Home

ZNE ready homes revolve around four main components: 

  • An efficient form and orientation 
  • A high-performance enclosure
  • Efficient mechanical systems 
  • Best in class electrical devices

The construction process is important for implementing all of these components. It’s important to be attentive with each of these components to achieve ZNE. 

The Benefits of Energy Efficiency

Everybody loves efficiency, but it’s the benefits that it brings that truly register with homeowners. Lower energy use results in lower utility bills and increased comfort. Certain parts of the country, such as Northern California, may remain susceptible to public safety power shut offs. While this would be a problem for climate control in most homes, a ZNE home will have more mechanisms in place for maintaining a comfortable temperature. This is true during the winter or summer and makes it a valuable health and safety benefit. 

Let’s look at a more complete picture of the benefits stemming from reduced energy consumption:

  • Better indoor air quality
  • Quieter interiors
  • Hot water arrives faster
  • Protection from rising utility costs
  • Fighting climate change

How Solar Power Helps ZNE 

Renewable energy production must meet the home’s total annual energy usage to qualify as a Zero Net Energy home. This includes all fuels. A solar energy system adds further benefits. Solar provides the homeowner with free (after the system is paid for) renewable energy any time the sun is shining. 

Batteries have become an increasingly popular part of the solar energy system to be able to continue to utilize that energy around the clock. This has become increasingly important as we have more people working from home, or going to school remotely, who can ill afford to lose power. 

Solar power systems have been shown to add about 4 percent to a home’s resale value, while using natural energy verses non-renewable fossil fuels. When a home receives all its energy from renewable energy, it becomes a zero emissions home and can offer the homeowner significant value. 

A Win for the Builder and Homeowner Alike

For the homeowner, a solar energy system may provide significant monthly savings in the form of reduced, or no utilities. This can add up to several hundred dollars per month, depending on the size of the home, and amount of energy consumed. 

When a builder includes a solar energy system, they may be able to recoup a small amount of that energy savings by increasing the monthly mortgage. The homeowner still sees their savings, and the builder sees profit. It’s a win for both parties. 

Zero Net Energy homes bring a more focused approach to creating energy efficient homes that benefit all parties involved while helping the environment. 

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