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Net-zero energy homes pay for themselves in just over a decade

By Mike Wheatley | December 17, 2018

Although it costs more money upfront to build net-zero homes than it does with ones that aren’t so energy-efficiency, homeowners in the long term can enjoy substantial savings.    

Those savings are so huge in fact, that eventually they’ll pay for the home itself, and it doesn’t matter where you live either, according to a new study.

Net-zero energy homes are those that generate enough energy through environmentally friendly means as they use. They usually comes with features such as solar panels on the roof, energy-efficient appliances and insulation, triple pane windows, LED lights and smart thermostats. Other important things such as natural lighting are also taken into account. This could mean positioning windows or overhangs more strategically so as to provide more solar heating or shade, depending on the climate.

Now, a new study from the Rocky Mountain Institute, which is a research nonprofit group that’s focused on clean energy, shows just how long it takes for a typical net-zero energy home’s savings to pay off its cost. The following graphic shows how long it takes in 30 U.S. cities.

As the graphic illustrates, the cost of building a zero-energy home varies an awful lot depending on where it is. More savings tend to be had in areas with higher electricity rates and older building codes, the study found.

“Zero-energy homes are actually affordable,” Jacob Corvidae, principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute, told InsideClimate News. He said this is important to stress, as many consumers, and also some builders and policymakers, have a perception that zero-energy homes aren’t affordable.

The upfront costs may be more, but in a place such as Detroit, which is known for its fairly cold and miserable climate, it’s possible to save enough to pay off a zero-energy home in full in under ten years.

According to Rocky Mountain, a 2,200 sq. ft. zero-energy home in Detroit costs around $20,000 more to build than one that doesn’t have any standard efficiency or solar power. However that home would also save $2,500 in energy bills within the first 12 months, and each year thereafter. That means it would take just 9 years for those savings to cover the cost of building the home.

The study authors hope that more awareness of the potential savings a zero-energy home can provide will boost their popularity. And the trend seems to be accelerating anyhow. Well known home builders such as Meritage Homes PulteGroup are already beginning to offer more zero-energy to their customers. Another builder, Pearl Homes, is building a zero-energy community in Cortez, Florida, that comes with electric vehicle chargers and energy storage facilities.

“We’re starting to see the tip of that iceberg, and when it really hits, it’s going to be huge,” said Ann Edminster, a consultant and architect who works with the Net-Zero Energy Coalition.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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