Since net zero construction in Vermont and New Hampshire is the latest (and we think greatest) form of residential construction practices, there are some common myths about net zero homes. Let’s dispel these myths:
Myth #1) I Need to Compromise on Design
This misperception may have drifted over from the auto industry. You may know that back in the 70s and 80s and even before then, a class of cars called “economy cars” existed. These cars always were small, cramped, lacked features, maybe also had a little stigma associated with them, but they saved on fuel—hence the “economy” designation. However, today you can buy a full-featured mid-sized car, like a Prius, which goes 50 miles on one gallon of gas. The stigma has not just been eliminated; it has been reversed.
What if principles of leveraging energy-saving technology could apply to homes as it now does to autos? It does — with net zero.
Today, net zero homes in Vermont are built to be:
- Full-featured. Whatever you are used to having in your conventional home you can have in a net zero home. Your builder should assess your energy saving habits in order to determine the size of your solar panel array, but you do not have to trade features for energy-saving considerations.
- Full-sized. You can have as much space as you need. If you’re watching your budget, you’ll want to rank which spaces are essential and which ones are not. However, there’s typically no need to compromise in home size.
- Comfortable. Because so much engineering goes into construction technology, the mechanical system, and general energy-saving elements, net zero homes are often more comfortable than traditional homes.
- Well-made. If correct and accepted protocols are used when building a net zero home, your maintenance costs are often less. You’ll have no boiler to worry about, no carbon-based fuel storage…and by using clad exterior materials (composites that are extremely durable and usually available in the client’s choice of color and texture) you will not have to worry about painting or staining every few years.
So, with net zero, you’re getting a home costing far less to operate with little need to sacrifice creature comforts!
Myth #2) My Home Will Be Stuffy and Unhealthy from Being Too Tight
This misconception is based on both facts and erroneous assumptions about net zero construction in Vermont—and the north country:
- Homes built in cold climates do need to be tight, so you are not heating the great outdoors.
- A net zero home does not “breathe.” Remember hearing someone tell you that a “healthy” home is one that “breathes?”
A home that’s going to replenish the energy it uses needs to be built like a vacuum bottle. Net zero homes are high-performance homes. They are made using appropriate and efficient materials, energy-efficient windows and doors, and superior insulating standards. Better builders will pressure test the home to ensure it is tight.
So how do we remedy this misconception and provide homeowners a healthy home? By using a mechanical device called a Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system. An HRV simply exchanges fresh outside air with stale indoor air. An HRV extracts heat from the exhausted air and adds it back to the fresh air coming in. As such, net zero construction in Vermont and New Hampshire affords inhabitants a healthier interior environment — far superior than the “old school” home that supposedly “breathes.”
Myth #3) Net Zero Just Can’t Work in a Sub-Zero Climate
Outdated facts about expired technology die hard. Net zero homes generally are heated by using a heat pump. A heat pump uses a refrigeration principle in reverse to capture heat from the outdoor air.
When heat pumps first came into service several decades ago, they quickly earned a reputation for losing all efficiency gains in below freezing temperatures. So back then, trying to heat any space with a heat pump in Vermont or New Hampshire was a bad idea. Subsequently, heating contractors steered home buyers toward the venerable oil or gas- fired boilers of yesteryear.
Cold Climate Heat Pump
A cold climate heat pump completely overcomes the 32-degree efficiency barrier. The newer technology integrated into these modern units is perfectly suited for north country cold winters and easily will handle the minimal cooling loads during summers.
Do you have other concerns? We’d love to hear from you and help you as you head toward building your net zero home!