Net-zero homes are as much as 80% more energy-efficient than the average modern home built to conventional standards simply because they produce as much energy as they consume. Not only are they eco-friendly, they are also more comfortable and provide remarkably good air quality for healthier living. Better still, net-zero homes offer exceptional value for money.
Benefits of a Net-Zero House
Let’s start with the financial benefits.
Because net-zero houses are built to higher energy standards than conventional houses, they are more durable. More specifically, net-zero houses are designed with a thermal envelope that shields the indoor living space from the outside environment, incorporating superior insulation that helps to keep it airtight. This helps to ensure that it is warm in winter and cool in summer. The financial implications of this are that utility bills are kept to a minimum all year round, and because the house is designed to generate its own energy, you are protected from future increases in energy prices.
Additionally, in some countries, you can get rebates on your home if it is considered net-zero or carbon neutral. For example, in Canada, you can get a 25% rebate on mortgage insurance. In the U.S. builders and taxpayers are eligible for a 30% residential renewable energy tax credit that covers solar electric and solar thermal hot water systems. There are also residential energy efficiency tax credits that offer as much as $500 when energy efficiency upgrades are carried out in existing homes.
So whether you are single, have a family, or are a DINKS (dual or double income no kids) couple, you’re going to benefit financially.
In terms of health and comfort, the fact that net-zero homes are so well insulated and air-tight means they are also quieter and temperatures are consistent during all seasons and weather conditions. Properly designed, the quality of the indoor air is exceptionally good which minimizes allergen and asthma triggers including dust and pollen, as well as outdoor air pollution that might otherwise find it’s way into the house.
You will need the assistance of an engineer who has experience with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), so be sure to shop around for the best HVAC engineering services in Chicago, New York, Toronto, or wherever you live.
Then there’s the issue of environmental responsibility. By opting for a net-zero house, you’re doing the right thing! Not only do net-zero homes run on clean, renewable energy, they also rely on energy-efficient water systems and utilize eco-friendly appliances. So, you’ll be helping to preserve natural resources by minimizing your environmental footprint.
Costs & Savings of Net-Zero Homes
It is an accepted fact that net-zero homes do cost more than conventional homes their benefits, including financial benefits, making them a no-brainer for most people. As an increasing number of people – and builders – embrace the challenges and opportunities associated with net-zero homes, costs are starting to come down, albeit relatively slowly.
In California, according to a recent CNBC article, the costs of going zero-carbon adds about $40 to monthly mortgage payments over 30 years. But with estimated returns on lighting, heating, and cooling costs, an initial cost of $9,500 for a single-family house will result in savings of $19,000.
While there is no proven absolute in terms of costs and savings, estimates by a builder specializing in zero-energy homes make sense.
If new home construction for a standard home is $100 per square foot, you can expect to pay $109.80 per square foot for a net-zero energy home. So for a 2,400 square foot net-zero energy home, you would pay $263,500 vs $240,000 (excluding the cost of the land).
The upgrades include:
- A photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system costing around $21,000
- Extra insulation costing $1,000
- Wall framing that will cost about $1,500
But there is currently a 30% federal tax credit for PV and while energy costs for conventional homes every month amount to $125-$200, there are none of these costs for net-zero homes.
This means it will take 10 to 16 years to recoup the additional costs of building a net-zero home.
Surely that makes financial sense?
Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of New York Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of more than 30 mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City, and has led numerous projects in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.