Building A Net-Zero-Energy Home

What does in mean to build a net-zero-energy home? A net-zero-energy home means that the amount of energy used by the building and its inhabitants equates to the amount of energy generated on site. Say good bye to that nasty electric bill every month!

Green building is becoming the way of the future and a net-zero-energy home takes this to heart. Steven Baczek had the opportunity to do just that for a client in a new home north of Boston. The clients also wanted to utilize recycled materials and products that were manufactured domestically whenever possible, and architecture that expresses a Modernist aesthetic. Perhaps most importantly, they wanted a home that requires little to no annual maintenance, giving them the freedom to travel and pursue other activities as they please.

Bowen_1904_DI1115-600x297The clients wanted to incorporate salvaged or re-purposed materials as well as new materials with recycled content, and substantially reduce construction waste. They also wanted to procure local labor and purchase locally sourced materials and equipment whenever possible.

They decided to focus on the thermal performance of the building envelope; an uncompromising commitment to LED lighting; and the electrical efficiency of equipment and appliances powered with solar PV to achieve net-zero, and likely net-surplus, energy. They were determined to be carbon-free and were therefore unwilling to offset the use of any carbon-based fuel, such as propane, by using a renewable form of energy such as solar PV.

Many decisions were made to optimize the energy efficiency of the home. One of the most important steps may just have been the insulating ratios used in the home. The builder used this formula within the home: 10/20/40/60/5 insulating rule (R-10 underslab; R-20 basement wall; R-40 above-grade wall; R-60 roof; and R-5 windows). This makes the home very airtight and energy efficient. Being that home is so air tight the indoor air quality was optimized by eliminating all combustibles within the conditioned space and used mechanical ventilation.

Bowen_1980_DI1115-600x247The builder Steven Baczek states; “Compared to a code-built house in this area of the same square footage, the energy bills are probably 60 to 70 percent lower. The 14.6 kW solar array supplements the remainder of the clients’ energy needs.” Now that is a true net-zero-energy home. With rising heating and cooling costs new home today are being built with super efficiency and net-zero-homes may just be the future in new construction homes!

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