By: Emily Newton
To build a net zero home is to embrace efficiency and care for the Earth. It’s awareness of every detail that could change internal temperatures and comfort. It’s noticing places where Technology could reveal information to save the planet. It amounts to cost savings for homeowners and greater resilience during extreme weather.
Whether building or buying to retrofit, crafting the net zero home of everyone’s dreams only requires several steps.
1. Get an Energy Audit
The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions (NZE) Scenario outlines what must happen to achieve global climate goals. One of the most notable is a 40% increase in efficiency for residential buildings. That’s where net zero dreams and energy audits come into the picture.
Everything starts with an expert’s advice. An environmentalist could do all the research in the world and still miss details that only industry professionals know — which is great because it gives everyone a chance to learn even more. How well does the building envelope regulate temperature? Are appliances pulling more power than they should?
Auditors can reveal the ingredients that make the most delectable net zero home, including:
- Third-party certifications, like the Living Building Challenge or the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready certification
- Offsetting as much energy as the home produces while reducing consumption
- Renewable energy installations
- Sustainable material choices
- Durability and resilience to minimize repairs and withstand adverse impacts of climate change
- Biodiversity and wildlife consideration
Even though net zero focuses on energy, it encapsulates comprehensive environmental wellness. The audit informs owners of how much energy they use and how to reduce it to make every other net zero quality more valuable.
2. Make Electrical Compatible With Renewables
It would be too convenient if every house were ready-made to be compatible with renewable energy generation. Fortunately, everyone who wants to build a net zero home is slowly changing the standard by retrofitting homes with electrical that can support clean power.
What if a family wants an EV charger in their garage? That’s a whole other electrical complication solved by rewiring. Electrical will support renewable peripherals like battery storage and solar inverters as well.
Homeowners can choose solar panels, residential wind turbines, or geothermal energy sources. The options become more affordable and varied by the day as governments incentivize and push homeowners to make the switch.
3. Embrace Technology
Net zero homes are efficient because they’re smart. Reducing energy doesn’t mean anyone has to go back to the stone age — instead, choose data. Improvements like energy-considerate appliances and heat pumps amplify the net zero home mission.
Sensors and smart meters compound these impacts by giving homeowners data about their home’s performance, notifying them if there are unexpected changes in performance. If implemented correctly, they can net 30% savings for homes.
Who wouldn’t love to know their solar battery storage is full, giving peace of mind in case of a bad storm? That’s what energy hubs are for — centralized systems, usually in the form of an app, that helps net zero homeowners keep tabs on their operations.
4. Insulate Everything Possible
Making a home airtight has countless benefits, from improving the house’s aesthetics and increasing the air’s healthiness. Doing this could decrease the number of nine out of ten people that breathe in polluted air. Air barriers and a solid building envelope are paramount.
Fewer air leaks mean less unwelcome mold and cold drafts, among pesky bugs or water damage. How can anyone expect their renewable systems to work optimally when gaps and cracks detract from their wonder?
More than walls need some insulation love, so here are some other nooks and crannies to insulate and methods on how to do so:
- Roofing with roof coatings
- Windows with additional panes, glazes, films, warm edge spacers or caulking
- Doors with weatherstripping
- Pipes and foundation with foam insulation
- Floors with protective coatings
Some say there is too much of a good thing, but the more spray foam, caulking, and sealants protect the home, the easier it will be to manage net-zero aspirations.
5. Perfect Heating and Cooling
Now that renewable energy and top-tier insulation protect the building, nailing down ideal temperatures will keep energy use reasonable while maximizing comfort. Efficient HVAC systems are the cornerstone of net-zero-inspired ventilation, water cooling and temperature control.
New builds might consider passive solar design, which optimizes heating and cooling by considering windows and building orientation. If homeowners are retrofitting, they could still bank on radiant floor heating by changing the floor materials and window exposure throughout the home. Having flooring that captures and gradually releases heat during cold months and keeps houses cool during summers helps save HVACs from unnecessary pressure.
6. Improve Over Time
Not everything can happen simultaneously, depending on the budget — this is normal. Over time, the house can reach closer and closer to net zero. So long as the home is making an effort, then it will be worth it no matter how long it takes. Structural overhauls like electrical and insulation work take time and resources, so it’s essential to make minor, manageable changes that involve habits and cheaper home edits to supplement extensive efforts, such as:
- Install LED light bulbs.
- Increase awareness of vampire energy and unplug devices when not in use
- Turn off lights when not in use
- Install low-flow water peripherals
- Use ceiling fans to keep air flowing
Build a Net Zero Home Within Your Means
New homes must have net zero-inspired blueprints. It’s just as vital for current homeowners to renovate to make them net zero-ready. Making green homes a reality requires time and patience, but the steps are relatively easy to follow, especially when so many experts and resources are available for dedicated environmentalists.
There’s no time to waste if households have considered it for a long time. The planet needs to change to sustain the population and reduce the carbon emissions of construction and building sectors.
Emily Newton is a journalist with over five years covering the environmental sector. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she also covers the many ways technology is changing our world.