There is more and more talk about “Net-Zero Energy” Homes and “Zero Energy Buildings” (or ZEB). While this is great is many ways that “Zero is the new Black”, it also comes with the downside of some using these terms incorrectly and applying them to projects that are in fact not Net-Zero Energy. Typically, ZEB and Net-Zero Energy are terms that apply to buildings with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. Some buildings achieve this while being completely off-grid, some by having alternative energy and still connecting to the power grid, and some do it by producing alternative energy off-site.
In the home that Kevin and I live in, which is 3 bedrooms and 1566sf, Kevin and I chose to go with a 4.5kw PV solar array on our roof for producing electricity. What we are experiencing, is that we designed and built the house with a high performance envelope, radiant heating system, Energy Star appliances, CFL and LED lights and smart design for washing surfaces with light and building a small house that feels big, that we actually produce TWICE as much electricity as we use.
This might make our house “net-positive energy”, however, there is a lot about energy that most definitions do not take into account which is the energy used to create the building, and the embodied energy over time.
We built our house using SIPS panels to minimize waste (this is before I found out about the amazing world of Modular which saves even more waste), and we chose materials that are long-lasting and do not require maintenance. One of my favorite choices is our Cor-ten steel siding that has a beautiful velvet color, and since it is a rusted metal, we are never going to have to paint it, seal it, or replace it (which all would require energy and add to one’s carbon footprint).
What we are finding is that living in a net-zero energy home means that we have all the luxuries and usage that we want, yet ZERO guilt. And, ZERO electric bills. With energy costs being as unpredictable and volatile as they are, a predictable zero electric bill is a big bonus.
And we are considering selling our extra energy that we are producing to neighbors to have money for champagne. Zero cost for champange? Now that is something.
Michelle Kaufmann and Kevin Cullen designed this home prior to founding Michelle Kaufmann Designs, and it inspired a design that became a part of Michelle Kaufmann Designs.