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Coming To A Neighborhood Near You … Net-Zero Homes

solar-powered-homes net-zero-homes

Imagine living in a home that produces renewable energy equal to the total amount consumed each year in the form of heat, light and power. Sound impossible?

The Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition doesn’t think so. In fact, its goal is to see all new construction in Canada meeting a net-zero standard by 2030. So far, it has convinced the federal housing agency, through its EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative, to get the ball rolling with 12 pilot projects across the country, including Moncton’s VISION Home.

According to the coalition, housing is responsible for 17% of energy use and 16% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. A net-zero home would dramatically change those statistics.

Once the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s EQuilibrium demonstration homes are completed, they’ll be open to the public for six months for tours so Canadians can learn about what’s involved in lessening their home’s footprint on the environment.

But why wait for a project to come to a city near you?

Here are the basics of a net-zero home:

• Integrated renewable energy systems, such as solar electricity and thermal heat, ground-source heating and passive solar heating and cooling.
• Grid interconnection to allow the home to deliver excess electricity back to the grid.
• A climate-specific solar design tailored to take advantage of the local climate and natural environment.
• Natural “daylighting” through domes and rainwater collection.
• Low pollutant-emitting construction materials and finishes, continuous fresh air supply to all rooms and exhaust air extraction from kitchens and bathrooms.
• Energy- and resource-efficient construction methods, appliances and lighting.

The benefits? The most obvious is low utility bills. But keeping your family and the environment healthy? Priceless!

What are you doing to keep your home’s environmental footprint small?

Solar Homes: Weighing The Benefits

There are many benefits to either building a solar home or utilizing solar resources to make an existing home more efficient. Solar homes have good climate control, making them very comfortable. The money invested will pay for itself and more in tax credits and savings in energy consumption. Solar materials are low maintenance and long lasting. Solar homes have lots of windows, making them light and airy. And, solar homes are environmentally responsible.

It’s important to look at whether solar is for you. First of all, do the analysis. Take the survey to see if you get enough sunlight. Check with your local utility company to see if free energy audits are available in your area. These audits will really help you to hone in on which projects will give you the most return on your investment.

Is this an existing home or a new build? What are the local limitations to the project that you are considering? How much will the project cost? How much energy will you save? How much money will you save? How much will you reduce the use of greenhouse gases?

Start with a list of everywhere you use energy: all appliances, technology, fixtures, heating and cooling– everything that you do that consumes energy. Once you have identified every possibility, then start to think about solar options. Create a list of the priorities and work through them one at the time.

Think of which projects will interfere with others if done too early (for example, insulation before re-wiring is a bad idea). Think about which projects fit in your budget and will provide the most return in money and energy savings. Which projects will interfere the least with your lifestyle?

A good place to start is often solar panels to replace electricity. Other options might be a solar water heater, solar powered lights for the outdoors, switching home batteries to solar, and a solar assisted heat pump to reduce air conditioning costs.

Each time you do a new project, keep records of your savings by tracking your utility bills. Be sure to keep these bills as a record of the home’s efficiency. These upgrades will lead to higher resale values. Check with your tax advisor as these upgrades may also qualify for rebates or tax credits. Or if you live in New Brunswick, be sure to check out Efficiency NB for information about residential incentive programs.

There’s lots of good reasons to consider a solar upgrade for your new or existing home. Carefully weigh the benefits and viability of each project for your individual circumstance and feel good about saving the environment as you lower your utility bills.

Have you already benefited from solar heating? Did you get an assessment through EfficiencyNB or another agency first? How was that experience?

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