Zero Energy Home

A super-efficient solar powered home is a net zero energy home when at the end of the month your power bill is effectively zero. That's right zero! And get this, sometimes the power company may even pay you! It can't get much better than that! And you won't even have to scrimp on your energy usage. And you will be selling excess clean, renewable energy to your neighbors!

              Photo by Allison Cartwright, Twist Art Photography

So just how is a home built to be a net zero energy building? It is usually highly insulated and sealed from the environment. It is like a giant thermos bottle! This keeps out the cold and or hot air and slows the transfer of heat and cold from the outside to the inside. A very insulated and sealed home requires very little if any additional heating and cooling.

                        Photo by Marvin Windows and Doors

If you're building a new home increase the amount of insulation on the foundation, the walls and ceilings. If you're in an older home you can increase the insulation in the walls and ceilings fairly easily.

The windows in a super-efficient solar home are extremely important for both sealing and preventing heat gain or increasing heat gain. In hot climates it is important to prevent the transmission of heat inside the home while still letting in the light. In cold climates you want heat gain and the light but not the cold.

Photo Courtesy of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation(CMHC)

A super efficient home is a tight home. Seal all holes, cracks and any penetrations from the conditioned space to unconditioned spaces. You can use caulk and expanding foam for sealing. Make sure you also seal light switch plates and outlet covers with foam seals that are available at your favorite hardware store. Sealing keeps the hot air out in the summer and the cold air out in the winter.

It is very important that home has plenty of ventilation, especially the kitchen and baths. With a very tight home it is important to remove excess moisture and pollutants that would normally escape through cracks and leaky windows. Air exchangers can bring in fresh air while exhausting old air.

You should buy and use the highest efficient furnace and air conditioner you can afford. If you can use ground-source heat pump technology for both your heater and air conditioner if will be to your benefit. Make sure all your heating and air conditioning ducting is sealed tightly to prevent leaks. If you are building a new home try and have ducting in the conditioned areas of the home. Also clean or replace the air filters in your heating and air conditioning systems monthly as dirty filter cause the systems to work harder and use more energy.

Preheat your hot water with a solar hot water system and an efficient hot water heater. By preheating the water to your hot water heater, the hot water heater will hardly ever have to heat up your water and you will still have a backup hot water system. You'll be pleasantly surprised how much you will save from heating water!

Install super efficient LED lighting. I know it is expensive initially so do it one bulb at a time. LED bulbs last a very long time, put out very little heat and are very bright, but the best part is that they use very little power. For daytime lighting you can use solar fiber optic lighting , no power used what-so-ever!

Of course one of the easiest steps toward a zero energy home is to turn off lights, computers, televisions, and any other appliances when not in use. Buy power strips for your computers, televisions, entertainment centers and turn them off at night before going to bed.

When you're done with all of the above you can then install a properly sized photovoltaic (PV) system. You must look for a knowledgeable solar PV installation company Make sure the installer is a Certified Solar PV Installer. This is a big investment and you want to get it right!

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