So-called “net-zero homes” designed to boost energy efficiency will soon become more commonplace, and that could have a big impact U.S. energy usage, experts say.
Just 8,547 net-zero homes, which are those buildings that generate more electricity than they use, were constructed in the U.S. in 2017. However that number is set to get a big boost when California’s new law requiring all new homes to be “net zero” comes into effect in 2020.
Currently, homes and commercial buildings consume around 40 percent of all the energy used in the U.S., but that’s likely to change as more homes become net-zero.
New technologies have drastically reduced the price of building net-zero homes in recent years, making more construction possible. Indeed, some expert say that net-zero homes pay for themselves in just over 10 years thanks to the energy savings they provide.
“Costs are changing quickly,” Alisa Petersen, a senior associate at Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy and environmental think tank, told The Wall Street Journal. “You don’t have to throw every efficiency measures at a home to make it net-zero.”
Net-zero homes are fitted with solar panels on the roof to generate electricity. They’re also tightly sealed against drafts, and well insulated to stop heat leaking out through the doors, walls and windows. The interiors of net-zero homes are also quieter and freer of pollution than traditional structures.
This last feature also ensures more comfort for the people who reside in net-zero homes.
“It’s much quieter than a regular building, and it’s dust-free,” said Sam Bargetz, co-founder of the architecture firm Loadingdock5 based in Brooklyn.