So why do we design zero energy home plans that are Built Green® and incorporate Universal Design accessibility features? Because we care. We care for home owners and for the earth we share. Mankind has not been very kind to the planet lately. How we live, and the homes we build, must be done in a more sustainable fashion.
We get a kick from hearing customers stories about no energy costs; we hear how some homes have excess solar production and are “fueling” their electric cars; they tell us how they love the floorplan, and the way the house “lives”. This helps affirm that we are providing real value in our home designs.
To build Green, one must take what is known in Green Building circles as the “Whole House Approach”; each system or assembly is recognized as being dependent upon each other system and assembly to achieve a more energy efficient, comfortable, and healthy home, while leaving a smaller footprint on the surrounding environment. Our homes can conserve water as well. Having well planned and located water heating systems can save both water and energy.
To build new homes that use less energy and resources during their lifespan than older homes is an admirable goal. However, as long as our population as a species continues to grow, we will continue to use up more and more resources, with less and less space from which to draw those resources. This is where the true Zero-Energy home comes in; The true Zero-Energy home is designed to put as much energy back into the environment as is used to construct, maintain, and live in the home
Today’s Zero-Energy homes look just like every other home on the block. They are assembled of products readily available in the marketplace, by many of the same suppliers and sub-contractors used for other mainstream homes.
Twelve Simple Steps to Net-Zero-Energy Design:
- Building Orientation. Ridge-line needs to be east-west oriented, with lots of clear, south-facing area at an appropriate roof angle for the latitude.
- Simple Design. Surface area is your enemy, both in terms of cost, and in terms of conductive heat loss. The closer you can keep your design to a cube, the less surface area you will have. “Dress” the house up with covered porches, and other useful outside living areas that will also provide shade when you need shade, and protection from the rain & wind, without needing to be mechanically heated and cooled.
- Window orientation. Window sizes and locations much match the needs of the climate zone. Shading of the windows, with overhangs and covered porches, should match the requirements of the climate zone.
- Thermal Mass. There needs to be sufficient thermal mass to absorb and hold excess daytime energy to be released at night, eliminating day-night temperature swings of more than one or two degrees inside the dwelling. Thermal mass should have direct sunlight exposure where possible in heating climates. Thermal mass needs to be entirely within the building envelope!
- Tight Envelope. The building envelope needs to be tight. Ventilation should be by plan, not by accident. Wall cavities must not be allowed to act as filters for pollutants.
- Balanced Insulation. It is not cost-effective to super-insulate one part of a house while ignoring other parts. Windows and doors are typically the weakest link, so it is usually more cost-effective to specify and use the most energy efficient windows and doors available. Match the insulation level for walls, floors, and ceilings to the climate zone. The vapor profile of the various components of the building envelope needs to be consistent with the requirements of the climate zone.
- Balanced Ventilation. Whether fully balanced, or partially balanced, the ventilation system should be designed to use the least amount of energy to operate, with a heat-recovery factor that is appropriate for the climate zone. HRVs do not always pay off.
- Heat Pump. Where not prohibited by climate zone issues, a heat pump should be used as the primary heating system. Other sources, such as natural gas, should only be used as back-up systems, for the most extreme weather. Ground source heat pumps, in-floor radiant systems, and ductless heat pumps are preferred. Heat with heat, cool with air.
- Solar Hot Water, or Heat Pump Water Heater. Where appropriate by climate zone, solar hot water heating, and heat pump water heating should be used. Water storage tanks should be inside the building envelope, unless the home is in a hot climate. Heat Pump Water Heaters are preferred “outside” the envelope in hot climates, not “inside”.
- Efficient Appliances. Appliances should each be the lowest energy-use of any in their respective categories.
- Efficient Lighting. Most residential lighting should use standard type “A” sockets. LEDs should be used for all but specialty lighting applications such as oven lights. Lighting should be focused on surfaces. Excessive use of redundant lighting systems should be avoided.
- Alternative Energy. PV system size should match intended annual loads. Local climate conditions and shading will be a primary determinate. Powering your electric car with your house is feasible in most climate zones, and should be considered for the greatest long-term financial benefit.
Our plans incorporate Universal Design accessibility features. Smart home plan buyers want a home that can age with them, and a design that can accommodate others that are differently-abled. These design elements seldom cost more, and can be incorporated so that thay blend smoothly into the style of the home. Examples include stepless entries, wider doorways, a low or no threshold shower, and ample maneuvering room in bathrooms and kitchens. Having your home “Future-Proofed” is a smart move.
Most designers and builders only dream of some day building a net-zero-energy home. We went way beyond that several years ago, and are now producing home plans that will also power your electric car. Be sure to review our line of Positive NRG™ Homes, to see what your future can be TODAY!. When the cost of energy for both the house and the car are taken into consideration, these homes can start generating positive cash flow from the first day of operation. How can you afford NOT to have a home like this?