We all want to do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which are the leading cause of climate change, but are unsure where to begin. The positive news is that households will curb greenhouse gas emissions while still saving money on heating bills without losing warmth and convenience in their homes. Will we, therefore, achieve zero carbon homes?
What is a Zero Carbon Home?
Residential and industrial buildings account for about 40% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide per year. To contribute, a forward-thinking segment of the construction industry has advocated for all new buildings to be net-zero electricity. The various concepts of this term – harmful emissions, net-zero energy, carbon-neutral – can be perplexing. They all say something similar but with minor variations. When we talk about houses, we mean those designed to generate enough renewable energy to counteract the energy they consume. These homes would eventually have a net carbon footprint of zero.
The idea of a zero-carbon home could conjure up images of a minor, off-grid adobe house buried in the jungle. Although that type of housing may appeal to others, zero-carbon dwellings can also be grid-connected, conventional-looking houses. Zero carbon homes are designed with two core goals in mind.
The first objective is comparable to that of a passive dwelling. Zero-carbon houses are almost entirely airtight and exceptionally well insulated. Place windows strategically on the north and south sides of the house to optimize the capacity of the house to retain solar heat in the winter and mitigate it in the summer. You can make maximum use of ground source heat pumps in these homes to heat and cool the house using the earth’s relative temperature.
Second, zero-carbon homes should preferably not have natural gas lines; all electricity supply should be entirely electric. It is essential because the power supply is getting increasingly cleaner. While effective for heating (and cleaner than coal), natural gas is also a fossil fuel. It releases greenhouse gases when burned in your building. Furthermore, cooking and heating with natural gas releases other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), trace quantities of sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM), all of which are harmful to one’s well being.
The home’s energy use is reduced, renewable electricity is provided using solar panel systems, home-scale wind turbines, or other renewable energy sources. It would be best if you sufficiently scaled the renewable energy grid to generate enough electricity to cover gross annual energy demand – this is where the word “net” comes into play. Solar panels, for example, can provide more energy during the day but none at night. As a result, the home must generate more green energy than it consumes during the day to balance demands at night when power is drawn from the grid. A zero-carbon home might also buy a battery storage device, such as the Tesla Powerwall, to use stored power at night, reducing or eliminating dependence on the grid. As a result, the target of a zero-carbon home is to be carbon neutral. It generates as much electricity as it consumes.
There is some controversy over whether the carbon footprint of a household can include transportation. The proximity of a house has a significant impact on carbon pollution from commuting to and from work, education, etc. Homeowners who own electric vehicles can size solar energy systems to generate enough power to charge their vehicles, allowing them to become a true zero-carbon home.
A Guide To Becoming A Zero-Carbon Home
Is it possible to have a carbon-neutral home without using green energy? Depending on how you look at it, yes. To balance electricity from a fossil-fuel-powered grid, you will need to buy enough green energy to offset your consumption. You can accomplish it by buying clean energy certificates on the market or contacting the utility to see if it provides a service that buys all wind or solar electricity from the grid.
Complete your energy audit.
Engage the services of a qualified energy expert to perform an energy audit on your house. It will assist you in determining how to reduce the amount of energy used by your house significantly. It will also give tips for quick repairs that can be completed on a shoestring budget. The energy auditor will also be able to recommend a contractor with expertise in carbon-neutral buildings.
Many government grants are available to those who plan to create a new zero-carbon home or retrofit an existing home to achieve the zero-carbon ideal. Check with the local utility and the county, state, and federal governments to see any rebates or tax deductions available to offset the overall upfront incremental expense.
Monitor energy use.
It is critical to track your home’s energy consumption to ensure that it is running as intended. You will ensure that the house is generating as much electricity as it is consuming. It includes understanding electricity bills and establishing a tracking framework to manage renewable energy generation.
It could be more difficult to convert an aging, leaky, energy-inefficient home into a zero-carbon home. However, emerging developments allow you to reduce your home’s carbon footprint substantially. While more complex in places with more harsh temperatures, it is possible, and there are success stories from all around the world. Owing to the high levels of embodied energy in the materials used to make a new structure, renovating a home is typically a safer option than constructing a brand new one.
If you are converting a new house or remodeling an old one, zero-carbon homes are an attainable goal that can help mitigate carbon emissions while saving you money. Daniel Roberts can help you achieve a zero carbon home!
Louie is the father behind the travel blog Browseeverywhere.com. He has a background in photography, E-commerce, and writing product reviews online at ConsumerReviews24. Traveling full time with his family was his ultimate past-time. If he’s not typing at his laptop, you can probably find him watching movies.