Net zero homes produce as much energy as they consume, theoretically leaving their residents with an energy bill of $0. They’re able to do this through high efficiency and producing their own energy, often by installing solar panels.
These homes could play an important role in reducing our impacts on the climate since they use renewable energy and don’t need to use power from fossil fuel plants.
They’re increasing in popularity too. The number of net-zero homes in the United States grew 33 percent from 2015 to 2016. Many of these homes were built new, but it’s also possible to retrofit an existing one to become energy self-sufficient.
If you want to reduce your energy bill and your environmental impact by making your home net zero, here’s how to get started.
#1 Increase efficiency
The first thing you need to do to make your home net zero is to evaluate its current condition.
Conducting an energy audit will help you determine where you might be losing hot or cool air. You can then correct these issues by putting in better insulation or sealing gaps around windows and doors. You can also install more energy efficient windows.
Another audit you can do is one of how much energy your appliances are using. There are a number of devices on the market that can help you do this. You can also check the energy efficiency ratings of the appliances you have in your home and replace those that are older and are more efficient. Look for ones that are ENERGY STAR certified.
#2 Reduce usage
Another step you can take is simply to cut down on the amount of energy you use. The degree to which you want to do this is up to you, but you can make a substantial difference in your consumption without making major changes to your lifestyle.
Even making sure you turn off the lights when you’re not in the room can help. That goes for televisions, computers and other devices as well. Many devices also use power, even if they’re plugged into the wall but aren’t in use. Connecting multiple devices to a power strip and then turning off that power strip can make it easier to “unplug” devices when they’re not being used.
#3 Add clean energy
Once you’ve figured out a way to reduce the amount of energy you need to run your home, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to generate your power. Choose based on your energy needs, the resources you have available and local laws and codes.
For generating electricity, solar is the most popular choice. If you have the right conditions, you may also be able to install a small wind or hydropower system. You can also install a solar water heater.
For heating and cooling, you may also have another — geothermal. This type of system uses the natural heat of the earth to heat and cool your home.
#4 Redesign and reorganize
The design of your home also contributes to how much energy you use, which is why building a new home provides advantages for going net zero. You can design the building to optimize energy use and production.
There are some projects, though, that you can undertake to reduce your energy use further if you’re willing to put some extra time and money. Say, for example, that you have a side of the house that gets a lot of sun but doesn’t have any windows. Remodeling to put in energy-efficient windows there can allow you to use the sun to hear your home, an approach called passive solar heating.
Sometimes the way to get closer to net zero, though, is not to take on a remodeling project. Think twice before adding an expansion. Larger homes, of course, require more energy for heating and cooling.
So, is it possible to make your home net zero? It will take some planning, time and up-front investment, but with the right approach, you can reduce our energy bill to nothing and substantially reduce your environmental impact.
This is a guest post written by Emily Folk.