How Net-Zero Energy Homes Work

Blog posted On February 27, 2019

Six years ago, home builder De Young Properties built a single-family home that was a net-zero energy building.  Net-zero energy refers to a building that has the potential to produce as much energy as it would consume over the course of a year.  Today, there are approximately 5,000 net-zero energy single-family homes throughout the country.  With new building mandates in California, there could be as many as 100,000 by the end of 2020.  

Brandon De Young, Executive Vice President, explained, “energy bills tend to be pretty high and onerous, and you usually have to sacrifice comfort for your energy bill or your energy bill for comfort.”  The goal of the net-zero home is to allow home buyers to invest upfront in ongoing energy savings.  For example, California commissioners estimate the new energy-efficient mandates will add $40 to monthly mortgage payments, but return $80 on heating cooling and lighting, thus an upfront cost of $9,500 will generate $19,000 in savings over 30 years. 

In addition to using solar panels, net-zero energy homes are built to be more energy efficient than previously constructed buildings.  They will include extra insulation with significant airtight construction and economical roofs, walls, windows, and foundations.  Inside, they will have LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures, and energy-efficient appliances. 

California is the first state in to start requiring most new homes and multi-family residential buildings to include solar rooftop panels, starting in 2020.  Other cities, including Tucson, AZ and the City of South Miami, FL have similar regulations.  California’s new mandates may have the greatest impact, because it is one of the largest economies in the world.  Jacob Corvidae, principal at the nonprofit organization Rocky Mountain Institute explained, “What happens [in California] has some impact, and it’s going to be an impact that has an effect on the rest of the country because they’re going to be figuring out ways to make solar cheaper and that scale will help bring down cost.”

California currently claims three of the top ten cities with the most net-zero energy buildings.  Sacramento leads with 853 units, followed by Davis with 664 units and National City with 268 units.  Other American cities on the list are Portland, OR, New York, NY, Austin, TX, Honolulu, HI, Clarkdale, AZ, and Washington, DC.  Vancouver, BC took the second spot with 723 buildings. 


Sources: CNBC, HousingWire