What is a Net-Zero Home?

We’d all like to live a little greener. And why not? Not only is an energy-efficient home better for the environment, it’ll cuts your utility costs as well.

Most of us have bought into a few energy-saving measures here and there: a new water heater, an energy-efficient appliance, or some LED light bulbs. But we aren’t all ready to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle wholeheartedly.

After all, smart technology is expensive. Composting is a mess. And no one likes cold showers.

What if living green was easy? That’s the future promised by net-zero homes. The popularity of these homes is set to grow in the coming years, and they could be coming to a neighbourhood near you.

What is a Net-Zero Home?

A net-zero home is one that produces at least as much energy as it consumes each year. The home does this by producing clean energy via solar panels and other means, and by reducing its energy consumption as much as possible.

In the end, the home offsets it energy costs to the point that its energy consumption is nil — hence the term net-zero.

If you’ve never seen a net-zero home before, you might be picturing a tiny house in the woods or a Hobbit-like hippy hovel. Don’t get the wrong idea. Net-zero living doesn’t necessarily mean off-the-grid, or even living off-the-suburb. Many net-zero homes appear identical to typical homes inside and out. The difference is in the details.

Net-zero homes are built from the ground up with energy efficiency in mind. To start, the builder orients the home so that the triple-pane windows take full advantage of the sun’s light and heat. The house incorporates roof overhangs, good ventilation, and natural vegetation to prevent overheating and reduce the need for air conditioning. The walls are as airtight and packed with insulation to keep cool air in during the summer and out in the winter. The roofs are adorned with solar panels that soak up the sun’s rays.

Inside a net-zero home, you’ll find high efficiency appliances and LED lighting fixtures. The surrounding walls, with their tight construction and heavy insulation, make for a comfortable and quiet environment indoors. Net-zero homes also have great natural lighting.

Why Net-Zero Could Be the Future

Sure, you might be thinking, consuming less energy helps Mother Earth. But what’s in it for me?

Well, just take a look at your energy bill. The appeal of a net-zero home goes beyond green living and environmental protection. The year-to-year energy bill savings significantly offset the upfront costs of choosing a net-zero home over a traditional one.

More home builders are catching onto the net-zero trend. In 2013, Natural Resources Canada funded a project to build 26 net-zero homes across Canada. The project showed that these comes can be built cost-effectively in today’s construction environment.

Additionally, Ontario’s new climate plan, set to launch in 2019, will require an energy audit for any new or existing single-family home that goes on the market. The results of the audit will be included in all real-estate listings. This will give net-zero homes an advantage in the housing market.