How Do You Build A Net Zero House?
Basil D Soufi / CC BY-SA (
7 Steps to Building a “Net Zero” Energy Home
In simple terms, an NZE (net-zero energy) home is a super-efficient structure that uses less energy than a typical home, and when it has more than it needs, "returns" energy to the grid. In order to gain its energy-efficient mark, an NZE house must be smartly designed and constructed with high-quality materials and be affordable, sustainable, and highly beneficial for the environment.
With regard to its construction, the blueprint of an NZE home is created in conjunction with software for energy modeling that calculates how much it will use once completed. This enables the builder to make design decisions with the goal of building an energy-efficient home while retaining the lowest possible cost of construction.
The elements listed below represent the key steps required to build an authentic NZE house once the design has been established:
1. Sealing and Insulating
The first step in crafting a net-zero home that is secured against infiltration of air and moisture is to thoroughly seal the envelope. Based on your unique budget and environment, a range of time-tested methods of envelope-sealing are available.
Hand in hand with sealing, it's completely important to insulate the floors, walls, and ceilings of the house. The energy modeling program that we described earlier enables you and your builder to choose the best insulation materials for the envelope of your house.
When sealing/insulating around doors and windows, which are especially vulnerable spots, special care should be taken. Your builder will assist you in choosing the correct sizes of doors and windows and positioning them appropriately to align minimum energy loss with passive energy gain.
Once the envelope has been sealed and insulated, it is important to check its airtightness level with a "blower door" test. The ACH (climate change rate per hour) of an NZE home should preferably be one or less, compared to the 2.5 or more air changes per hour of a normal home.
2. Continuous Ventilation
Since it's so airtight, to keep it safe, healthy, and comfortable, an NZE home needs a continuous supply of clean air. In order to meet this challenge, ERV (energy recovery ventilation) and HRV (heat recovery ventilation) systems are constructed by expelling old air while extracting heat from it, and then recycling the heat energy back into the home.
3. Solar Energy
The orientation of the lot and window of an NZE home should make full use of the sun, which will significantly reduce the energy needs of the home for indoor heat and lighting. For instance, during the winter, south-facing windows may tap into this free energy to minimize heating expenses. The positioning of overhanging roof eaves and other shade-providing structures during the summer would keep the home from overheating and reduce the cost of indoor cooling.
The most cost-efficient renewable energy collectors available today for net-zero energy homes are well-placed solar PV ( photovoltaic) panels, as they can power anything from lighting and heating to appliances and cooling systems.
4. Efficient HVAC
When building a net-zero powerhouse, installing a super-efficient, money-saving HVAC ( heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system is your next goal. Ductless heat pump systems are highly economical, do not bear the pressure of central or forced air systems, and are much easier to run than configurations of geothermal heat pumps.
In addition, heat recovery systems for air and drain water will effectively harvest and reuse energy typically lost by air and wastewater exhausts.
5. Energy-Conservative Water Heater
Usually, following closely behind its HVAC system, the water heating setup of an NZE home usually demands a large portion of its energy budget. For that reason, it is critical that builders install an effective device from the range of water heating technologies currently available to ensure that the energy needs of the home remain within the "net zero" range.
6. High-Efficiency Appliances
Almost half of its energy consumption goes to heating and cooling the air and water in the average NZE household, and appliances usually make up around 60 percent of that amount.
7. An Energy Dashboard
Many NZE homes have a special dashboard or control panel that allows owners to gauge the energy use and generation of their land. They can make any adjustments they need to keep the energy input and output of their home balanced using this useful tool.
The advantages of building a net-zero home and owning it are vast. They are simply safer for homeowners and the climate than traditional homes all over the board, with their lower energy prices, safer indoor air quality, steadier temperatures, excellent insulation from outside sounds, and lower emission levels. Following the above measures will ensure that your new home has all the necessary components that it needs to be certified as a genuine NZE house.
Are You Looking for an Architecture Firm Specializing in Zero-Net Energy Building Envelope Designs?
Ecobuild Architects provides exceptional design and construction administration services for residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects throughout California with an eye towards sustainable/ high-performance building solutions. We are experts in suggesting Cost-Effective/ Sustainable Solutions for any size project. If you are searching for an architect that specializes in Zero-Net Energy Building Envelope Design, Water Reuse, Healthy Indoor Air Quality, & Fire Resilient/ New Home Construction Practices, look no further than Ecobuild Architects in Oakland, California. Contact us today for your free consultation!