Playing the Net Zero Game

Here’s a topic that is all to important to the Passive House and Sustainable building world, Net Zero.

Have you heard this term thrown around in a room full of USGBC types, or your builder friends and thought…”huh??”. Well lets dig into and get familiar with it.

First off, net zero is used to describe a building where the energy consumption used is equal to the renewable energy created on site. It’s Source Power vs. Site Power. Tricky tricky. Traditional homes and buildings rely on fossil fuels to provide energy (heating, lights…). The goal of a net zero home is to decrease the amount of dependence on “the grid”; you know that magical line (not really magical)  that connects you to your city’s power supply.

  • Site Power: energy provided on site by renewable sources equals the amount of energy used by the building.
  • Source Power: is the energy used to energize the building…you know the energy coming from your city’s power plant.

So how do you play the game? You take everything into consideration and try to install and design as much in to your building as possible. Your winning home may look something like this:

Daylighting techniques used to optimize heat and light naturally, passive solar design(windows, walls and floor collect, store and distribute solar energy), your appliances (stove, refrigeration, computers, stereos, your own body heat) are modeled into the heating element, you use low flow fixtures to conserve water, you install an ERV system that recycles air, your hot water heater is on demand so that it isn’t running constantly, you use added insulation, you have solar panels or turbines or both to collect energy, your windows and doors are super insulated… getting the picture? Good, get started. Just kidding…but not really.

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