One of the worst fears imaginable is that you contract for a net-zero home in Vermont or New Hampshire and get something else. Maybe you get some form of energy-saving home with solar panels, but it doesn’t achieve net zero. A net zero home, by definition, is a home whose energy consumption is equal to the amount of renewable energy created by the home.
Here are the four major keys, that if employed, will give you the assurance that your new net-zero home will actually achieve net-zero energy usage.
1) Design Factors
The main reason you’re considering a net-zero home in Vermont should be to save money and to embrace the concept of green living. But what’s the point of having a net-zero home that saves energy and is too small for your needs, or lacks style and desired features?
It’s important to make sure you have the whole array of energy-saving construction features, while not overly compromising on creature comforts. The ideal home has both the technology to save on energy, and also fits your needs and lifestyle.
2) Solar Array
After you decide on design and features of your net-zero home in Vermont, your builder will need to calculate the size of the solar array. Building a net-zero home is about more than just placing some solar panels on a roof. Solar panels will need to be ‘sized’ around factors such as the resident’s lifestyle and habits which may influence energy use.
The goal is to have “the right amount” of solar power to create a true net-zero home. If the solar array is too large, you’ll end up with too much energy output and wasted costs. Too small, and your home will never achieve net-zero energy.
A majority of net-zero homes utilize “cold climate heat pumps” as their primary source of heating and cooling. These heat pumps can extract heat from the prevalent cold winter north country air of Vermont and New Hampshire. This newer technology eliminates the need to install a boiler—the heating plant configuration so common in most conventional homes.
Other energy-conserving design features may include heat pump electric water heaters, superior-insulated foundations, exterior walls and roofs, and high-performance windows. LED lighting, whole house air exchange systems, and Energy Star appliances.
A net-zero home in Vermont or New Hampshire depends on many factors coming together to form the structure of the home.
- Air-Sealing the Building Envelope: The typical 2006 or older home leak between 25-50 percent of all energy used to heat it. Sealing is critical, and should include gaps in joints and building materials, around windows and doors, and cut-outs for pipes and electrical components. A “blower door” leak test should be performed both during construction and following completion to be sure the structure is sealed.
- Installing “Super Insulation.” Super insulation is just that: Using the very best types of insulation, using as much as possible, and insulating everything, including concrete foundations and slabs.
- Insulated Windows and Doors. Two factors must be considered: The insulating “R” value of the window or door and the ability to seal against air leaks. Since glass itself is a poor insulator, we encourage the use of triple glazed windows.
- Reducing Thermal Bridging. A “thermal bridge” is an area of a structure that conducts heat to the outside, thus wasting energy and increasing costs. All conductive areas of the structure need to be insulated against such heat loss. There are specific techniques that can be used, such as off-setting studs on outside walls and using high-density insulation in critical places.
- Installing Energy-Efficient Lighting. Technologies for energy efficiency in lighting and appliances have rapidly advanced and related costs have been reduced. LED lighting is now considered mainstream and cost-effective. Energy Star-rated appliances will display a label showing projected energy consumption.