One of the main questions people ask about building a net zero home in Vermont is, “How much will it cost?” Building a net zero home costs about 10 percent more than building the same house without the high tech, high performance, money-saving elements.  But spending 10 percent more during construction may save between $3,000 to $4,000 annually in home ownership costs.  Sound worth it?

Cost vs. Value

A net zero home in Vermont or New Hampshire will cost a little more to build but you’ll get a better-built and more energy-efficient home. There are many construction enhancements that add to the efficiency and value of a net zero home. Here are top three:

  1. Super insulation.
  2. Sealing the building envelope.
  3. Solar panels.

The good news is that things like solar installations have become more affordable—with price drops as much as 70 percent over the last few years. Due to better technology and higher production volume, solar is now considered a mainstream source of power.

A net zero home in Vermont pays you back twofold:

  1. The home itself is a great investment; as time goes on, the demand for net zero homes will increase greatly and so will their market value.
  2. The investment in energy savings begins to pay you back the day you move in.

How to Save on Construction Costs

Energy Use Habits: If you’ve contracted with an experienced net zero builder, he or she should perform an assessment of your energy usage habits. The audit will take into consideration all of the energy you’ll use. That usage will be used to calculate how many solar panels you’ll need. On the other hand, an undersized solar array will not provide all the energy needed to reach “net zero.” 

Design: Creating an efficient design can save costs while giving you the interior spaces and features you want. Reducing the number of non-essential spaces also saves on costs. To save cost and boost efficiency the amount of space that’s not classed as “living space” can be reduced. These spaces include under-eave storage areas, breezeways, higher ceilings and unfinished basements. By recognizing these spaces as optional, you and your builder can achieve maximize useable space.

Line Items: It’s important to decide which features you must have and which ones you can live without. Line item features such as fireplaces, decorative woodwork, saunas, whirlpool baths, walk-in closets, and larger windows add to construction cost and can add to energy costs as well.

Your builder should offer other cost-saving options such as insulation choices, choices of siding, and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) options too.

Health Considerations

One of the main false beliefs about a net zero home in Vermont is that it will be stuffy and unhealthy. Yes, a net zero home will be well-insulated and very tightly sealed, but it will be one of the healthiest homes you can buy.

Enter the Heat Recovery Ventilation system (HRV). An HRV is a high-tech mechanical device that does several things all wonderfully well:

  1. Exhausts stale interior air.
  2. Extracts the heat out of the exhausted air.
  3. Brings in fresh air.
  4. Adds the reclaimed heat into the incoming fresh air.
  5. Uses very little energy.

In addition to installing at least one HRV, most net zero homes in Vermont use a Cold Climate Heat Pump for both heating and cooling. These heat pumps rely on newer technology to extract heat from cold outdoor air while using far less energy than a conventional boiler system. A heat pump, while saving energy, also doesn’t spew carbon emissions. They are a win for both homeowner and our limited supply of natural resources.