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Net Zero Energy Homes Cost Less Overtime

Net Zero Energy Homes Cost Less Overtime

Contrary to popular belief, net zero-energy homes offer exceptional affordability and sustainability when compared to their traditional counterparts. To understand this, you need to look not just at the cost of the home as built, but the total cost of ownership.

Net Zero Energy Homes are built to high energy efficiency standards and are combined with systems like active solar.  These homes do cost more to build.  Some sources say the added cost is 5-10% more than a traditional code-built home.  The Rocky Mountain Institute recently released new data indicating that the cost differential is narrowing.  They specifically state, “The margin is closing due to performance improvements in the building shell and heating equipment.  Zero energy ready homes cost 4% more than a code-built home and the addition of solar panels brings the increased cost of a net zero energy home to 8%.”

The increased price for these homes is recouped over time.  Net Zero Energy homeowners have lower utility bills and these homes cost less to maintain.  When you look at these homes from this perspective, it refers to the total cost of ownership.  While the price tag may be higher, because the costs are lower over time and energy prices rise over time, owners of net zero energy homes come out ahead.

Little to No Energy Costs

 Net zero energy homeowners

Net-zero homes use renewable and sustainable energy, like active solar, to power appliances, outlets, lighting, and more. In turn, homeowners avoid utility bills beyond the minimal charge to be connected to the grid for back-up power. Additionally, according to the Zero Energy Project, homeowners of net zero energy homes have lower operational costs.  Overall, owning a net-zero home can completely offset an entire year’s worth of electricity expenditures.

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Net zero energy homes reduce maintanance costs

Over time, ongoing maintenance expenditures can add up, costing homeowners thousands of dollars. These include radon-mitigation spending, mold removal, structural damage, and more.  Zero-energy homes, on the other hand, use state-of-the-art, durable materials that reduce and even eliminate many of the issues that traditional homeowners face. When combined with other attributes, “even when zero energy homes cost 4 to 8% more than a comparable standard home, they will cost less to own.” Homeowners can save thousands by avoiding heavy maintenance costs alone.

Higher Resale Valuations

 Solar Panels Increase Home Values

Net zero energy homes are a good investment.  Because they are built to very high standards, these homes hold their value.  Homes with Home Efficiency Ratings (Hers) can sell for at least 2% more in value.  Net Zero Energy Homes have Hers scores of “0”.  These homes add 3-5% more in value over conventional homes.

The Solar Energy Industries Association states that, “homes with solar systems, on average, add $15,000 in value.”

Zillow’s research indicates that adding solar does increase the value of a home.  Not only is the demand for highly energy efficient homes increasing, “the installation of solar panels not only reduces monthly energy bills, it can potentially increase the homes value by 4.1% compared to homes without solar.”

Should a homeowner decide to sell their net zero-energy home, they can expect a higher ROI than traditional homes. That’s because the home’s construction methods and energy-saving systems and solar panels are factored into the price at the time of sale. According to the Zero Energy Project, “increasingly buyers are looking for homes that are airtight and well-insulated with low energy bills and, increasingly, realtors are finding that energy efficiency features positively affect the value of a home.” Subsequently, prospective buyers associate zero-energy homes with high quality and savings, driving the resale price higher for sellers.

Valuable Tax Incentives

Ask any homeowner, and there’s a high likelihood that taxes are one of their most significant ongoing expenses. In an effort to encourage environmentally responsible home building, states like North Carolina feature exclusive opportunities like solar rebates from Duke Energy, lower interest loans, and various city, town, and federal rebate and tax credits. As a result, individuals who build net-zero houses may qualify for multi-thousand dollar savings.  The best source for finding these incentives is DSIRE, the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Jodi Bakst, Broker Owner of Real Estate Experts, is known for her knowledge of green,  high performance homesReal Estate Experts is proud to announce its first development project; Array, North Carolina’s first 100% net-zero energy community located in Orange County North Carolina. For detailed information about this 12-lot neighborhood with 56% open space, a beautiful pond, walking trails and a community garden, visit the Array website.

If you’re interested in building a sustainable home, please reach out to Jodi Bakst by emailing [email protected] or calling (919) 697-5014.

Thank you for reading, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Green, High Performance, Homes

Green, High Performance, Homes

Green home with solar panels

How Do You Find A Green Home?

Are you looking to buy a green home?  What does “green home” mean to you?  In the building world, there are actually many shades of green.  When looking for a green home, it will be helpful to understand the different shades of green and where and how you can find these homes in The Triangle.

Understanding Green, High Performance, Homes?

Is a home green if it has Energy Star appliances and LED lights or solar panels?  Or, is a home green if it has been third-party verified and proven to meet a range of national or international green building standards?  There is a long list of green features that we find in homes today and a short list of programs where homes have been evaluated and tested to ensure they meet certain standards.  The recognized certification programs are:  The National Green Building Standards (NGBS), Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED), ecoSelect, and Energy Star.  To be considered truly “green” the house should be third party verified and found to meet at least one of these standards.

Compared to a normal code-built home, green homes are designed and constructed to be more durable and require less maintenance, have lower monthly operating costs, have better indoor air quality and overall are more environmentally friendly.  From an energy efficiency standpoint, a green home should be at least 30% more energy efficient.

Green Features

There are many things that we can do to our homes to make them more energy efficient and/or more environmentally sound.  Many homeowners are updating homes to make them greener and builders are incorporating some of these features into new construction.

Examples of green features are:

  • Active solar design
  • Energy Star appliances
  • EPA WaterSense plumbing fixtures
  • Electric car charging station
  • Fresh air ventilation
  • Geo thermal HVAC system
  • High efficiency toilets
  • Insulated basement walls
  • LED lighting
  • Locally sourced materials
  • Low VOC paints/sealants
  • On demand hot water heater
  • Passive solar design
  • Programmable thermostats
  • Solar panels
  • Radiant barrier roof deck
  • Rainwater collection
  • Sealed attic
  • Sealed combustion FP
  • Sealed crawl space
  • Solar active heating
  • Solar hot water
  • Solar passive heating
  • Drought resistant landscaping

How Do You Know That A Home Is Truly Green?

Green Certification Programs

Having some green features in a home does not make the home itself green.  In fact, the word green has become so over used that the Durham Chapel Hill Home Builders Association has renamed its Green Building Council the High Performance Building Council.

There are four different programs that builders can choose from to get different levels of green certification.  These programs are:

  • The National Green Building Standard (NGBS)
  • Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED)
  • ecoSelect
  • Energy Star

Each of these programs has different requirements and features.  What is similar across these programs is the requirement for third party verification to become certified.

Green Certification Programs Compared

The National Green Building Standard is the only green rating system for homes and apartments developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  To achieve this certification, third party verifiers ensure that the following six components are in place at every site and for each home.

  • Site design, lot preparation and development
  • Resource efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency
  • Indoor air quality
  • Operation, maintenance & home owner education

The NGBS certification can be achieved at the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Emerald levels.

 LEED is an internationally recognized certification program that requires third party verification for buildings or neighborhoods.  While LEED can be applied to homes, it is more often applied to commercial buildings.  LEED has three certification levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Energy Star is a series of checklists and inspections, testing and verifications developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Homes with the energy star label deliver better quality, comfort and durability compared to a typical, code-built, home.

ecoSelect is a national program whereby the standards can be measured to show improved energy efficiency.  The ecoSelect program provides a basis for reducing a home’s energy use while incorporating indoor air quality and water efficiency requirements.

If you are interested in green or energy efficient homes, you have probably heard of a HERS Index or score.  But, what is the HERS index exactly?

The HERS Index (Home Energy Rating System) is the Nationally recognized system for showing a home’s energy performance.  The third-party certification programs listed above look beyond energy efficiency while the HERS Index is solely focused on being able to compare the energy efficiency of one home to another.  The rating system is based on a rigorous inspection and testing by a certified home energy rater.  Having a HERS Score for a green home does help you to put its energy efficiency in context.

HERS Index

What is a Net Zero Home?

Today, there is a movement to achieve a HERS Index Score of 0 which means the home uses no net energy.  A home with a HERS Index Score of 0 is called a Net Zero Home or a Net Zero Energy Home.  To achieve net zero, a home must produce as much energy as it uses and it does this by producing energy with solar or wind.  In North Carolina, we are seeing net zero homes with active solar panels and battery back-up systems.

To be net zero, this does involve the energy company.  Some utility companies allow what is called Net Metering which means the energy created by the home can be stored by the grid for use by the home during times of peak energy use.

As stated by the BPC Green Builders, “When the same amount of clean energy is put into the grid as the home uses from the grid, the HERS rating is 0.  Net Zero Energy homes also may be net negative, i.e., have a -0 HERs rating.  This means the home actually produce more energy than they use.

To learn about the Benefits of Net Zero Energy Homes, see a related post on Real Estate Expert’s Array web site.

Real Estate Experts is developing North Carolina’s first 100% Net Zero Energy Neighborhood.  Array is located on Orange Grove Road 10 minutes west of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  For detailed information about Array, visit the Array web site.

If you are looking to buy a green home or you want to build a green, high performance home, contact us at Real Estate Experts.  We are very knowledgeable about green, high performance homes.  We know the neighborhoods where you can find these homes and we know the high performance builders in our market.

Time for a Toilet Upgrade

Time for a Toilet Upgrade

Upgrade Your ToiletWhether it is a cosmetic or a mechanical reason for upgrading a toilet, you may not know all the choices that are involved to choose the right one for your home.  The current toilet may have cracks or leaks in the bowl or tank.  It could be the aggravation of constant clogging or inefficient flushing.  Maybe there is damage in the porcelain bowl or built-up mineral deposits that are clogging the inlet holes or siphon tube.

If frequent repairs have you on a first name basis with the plumber, it may be time to consider replacing the toilet.  There are a lot of things to consider and the following list may help you sort through the choices.

  • Round, oval or compact oval … There are two basic shapes of toilets: round and oval.  The round bowl requires less space and are less expensive.  The oval or elongated tend to be more comfortable but require more space from the wall than round ones.  Most manufacturers produce a compact oval model also.
  • One-piece, two-piece and wall hung … Manufacturers make one-piece models that mold the tank and bowl into one unit.  These can be a little more expensive, but they take up less space.  The two-piece with separate tank and bowl are more common.  The wall hung requires less space and make the room look larger, but installation will be more expensive.
  • Height … Standard toilet height is 15 inches.  An alternative to the standard is a comfort height which is more like a chair at 17-19 inches tall.  This can be an advantage for older and taller people as well as those with a mobility problem.
  • Trapway – The trapway is a channel from the bottom of the bowl to the drainpipe that also keeps gas entering the home from the sewer.  While the trapway shows on the outside of most models, there are skirted or concealed models available for a more aesthetic appearance.
  • Single or dual flush … Single flush toilets use the same volume of water each time it is flushed.  Dual flush toilets have two options for flushing liquid or solid waste.  This gives the user the ability to conserve water when appropriate.
  • Water per flush … In an effort to save water, in 1995 the Department of Energy required toilets to use 1.6 gallons per flush.  Since then, California and Georgia, increased the restriction to 1.28 gpf which saves 20% more water.
  • Gravity-feed or pressure assisted – For four hundred years, gravity has been used to move the water through a flushable toilet bowl to eliminate the waste.  As water restrictions were added, pressure assisted toilets were introduced to assist the lower volume of water.  A sealed cylindrical tank inside the ceramic toilet tank provides the additional pressure.  These types of toilets are nosier than conventional flush types.

Once you’ve decided on what features are important, you can shop brands that fit your needs.  If you’re curious to what kind of a job it is to install it, there are lots of videos on YouTube that will show you in detail what to expect.  Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you’ll understand the process more.

Why Install Solar Panels on Your Home?

Why Install Solar Panels on Your Home?

Installing solar panels on your home offers many benefits—some you might not be aware of.

Why install solar panels on your home?

When you install solar panels, they become your home’s energy source. You can wipe out not only your current energy bill, but also any future increases to that energy bill. Solar energy is clean, renewable, reduces pollution, and reduces your carbon footprint.

There’s one more benefit to using solar energy, but time is running out to take advantage of it. 2019 is the last year to take advantage of the 30% federal income tax credit you get if you install solar panels. Next year, that tax credit will be reduced to 26%. In 2021, it gets reduced to 21%. Then in 2022, it drops all the way to 10%.

In years past, some states offered additional tax credits, but that’s not available in North Carolina anymore. If you live in an area where Duke Energy is your utility company, however, they offer a 40% to 50% rebate for using solar energy.

Now that you know the benefits, what about the cost? In the US, the average cost of installing solar panels after the 30% tax credit is between $10,000 and $14,000. For example, let’s say you install panels that cost $20,000 and your yearly federal income tax bill is $7,000. Since $20,000 times 30% equals $6,000, you’d only owe $1,000 on your federal income tax.

There are a lot of other factors to consider to calculate your exact cost like what your total energy needs are, which panels are most appropriate for your home, which system you plan on installing, etc. The best way to calculate these expenses is to contact a qualified solar installation company, and in the Triangle area, I can’t speak highly enough of Southern Energy Management. If you contact them, they’ll come out to your house and give you a full cost analysis. To find out more, check out their website

If you’d like to know more about the benefits of installing solar panels or you have any other real estate questions I can answer, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help you.

Going Green

Going Green

How many times have you heard the phrase, “location, location, location”? Most likely, it’s something you’re well acquainted with, especially in the real estate world. Location and price are two very important factors in determining desirability of a house, but recently sustainability and “green” housing options have also influenced desirability. Many realtors and real estate professionals are starting to hear from clients about their interest in green or sustainable housing.

Green construction is gaining momentum. Even real estate empires are turning towards sustainable technology; think Durst Organisation’s Bank of America Tower in New York City. Even the Empire State Building has been refurbished to utilize green construction and sustainable technology. The idea behind sustainable technology and green construction works to promote an understanding of the future of our earth. “If there are going to be 9 billion people on the planet in 2050, you’ve got to feed them, house them, find them work and they’re going to need more energy,” says former JP Morgan managing director Doug Lawrence.

Not only can you take part in saving the environment, but you can also reduce your carbon footprint. Sustainable technology is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint, your impact on the environment, and even change your finances by changing your utility payments.

Sustainable Technology

The number of homes being built in the United States with environmentally friendly features is only increasing. From 2006 to 2010, the percentage of these homes increased from 2% to 16%. That’s a big change for only a few years!

In 2013, nearly 400,000 households had rooftop solar panels according to an assessment done by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Hopefully, that number will grow past 900,000 households by 2020. Combine those numbers with homes that are using environmentally healthy products or appliances like green label flooring, energy efficient appliances, and alternative energies… and you’ve got millions of homes “going green” throughout the country.

Environmentally sustainable housing options are increasingly common, even if a house isn’t entirely “green”. There are so many ways builders and developers can add in sustainable features to the homes they’re creating. To get a better understanding of those housing features might look like, here are some “green” or sustainable housing options:

  • Solar panels
  • Natural lighting
  • Water conservation
  • Energy star appliances
  • Renewable energy
  • Rain water collection
  • Recycled materials
  • Use of local materials

Is Energy Efficiency or Sustainable Technology for You?

If you are interested in energy efficiency and green living, you have no doubt contemplated solar energy for your home. Indeed, solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available. A solar power system consisting of solar panels is the go-to solution for green living enthusiasts.  For many, however, the cost of solar panels has been an issue. Solar Power Authority is a fantastic resource to use in order to determine whether you can afford solar panels. Check them out here, and get a free quote on solar panel implementation.  Not only will you find out local costs of solar panels, but you’ll also be able to find industry leaders throughout the country.

Using the Real Estate Experts advanced search function, you can discover what homes near you are outfitted with your preferred green building features. Optional features include:

  • Active Solar Design
  • Drought Resist Landscaping
  • Electric Car Charging Station
  • Energy Star Appliances
  • Exhaust Garage Fan
  • Fresh Air Ventilation
  • Geo-thermal HVAC System
  • High Efficient Toilets
  • Insulated Basement Walls
  • LED Lighting
  • Solar Hot Water
  • Locally Sourced Materials
  • Low Voc Paints/Seals/Varnish
  • Passive Solar Design
  • Programmable Thermostats
  • Radiant Barrier Roof Deck
  • Rainwater Collection
  • Sealed Attic
  • Sealed Combustion FP
  • Solar Passive Heating
  • On Demand Hot Water Circ
  • Solar Power Photovoltaics

Real Estate Experts

Are you interested in finding a home with green or sustainable features? Environmentally friendly homes don’t have to be as expensive as you think. At Real Estate Experts, we’re current on green living, energy efficient homes, and even sustainable options. We’re excited to help you find your dream house, and outfit it with whatever sustainable options that work for you. If you’re looking to build a home, we’re happy to help connect you with builders in our network who feature energy efficiency, or green materials.

Unsure of what updates to make before selling your home? Real Estate Experts are here to help. Visit us online.  Call us today at 919-813-6449 or e-mail us at  [email protected] for additional information.




Neighborhood Spotlight: Oaks at Turner Creek

Neighborhood Spotlight: Oaks at Turner Creek

Oaks at Turner CreekIf you are in the market for a newly constructed home in the Cary/Apex area, you will want to check out Oaks at Turner Creek, a new community located off Turner Creek Road, just across the street from Turner Creek Road Elementary School. You can’t go wrong with the quality of these luxurious, energy-smart M/I Homes, coupled with a coveted Cary location (Money magazine recently named Cary, North Carolina as the best place to live in North Carolina, and the 37th  best place to live in the US.)

Oaks at Turner Creek Location

Oaks at Turner Creek Location

Oaks at Turner Creek is a private community tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life,  yet convenient to Beaver
Creek Shopping Center, Streets at Southpointe Mall, and plenty of restaurants, grocery, and big box stores. You can choose from among 45 single-family homes that are surrounded by a beautiful treed buffer. Residents will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with a kids’ playground, as well as walking trails surrounding a winding creek and pond.

Also located nearby are Duke University, NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Crossroads Shopping Center, and Research Triangle Park. Enjoy walking, hiking, and fishing at the nearby Thomas E. Brooks Park.

The Oaks at Turner Creek Home Prices

Homes in the community range from 2,500 to 3,200-plus square feet with three to five bedrooms.  Homes are priced from $409,990 – $505,180. Five unique floor plans are available. Amenities include open family gathering areas, generous Owner Suites, lofts, bonus rooms, and flex rooms. Each home can be customized with plenty of options, such as a gourmet kitchen, spa baths, downstairs guest rooms, and screened-in porches. All homes will include a two-car garage.

The Oaks at Turner Creek Green Living Options

M/I Homes of Raleigh builds 100% Energy Star Certified Homes to the specifications of their “Whole Home Standard,” saving you money on your energy bills while providing you complete comfort throughout your home. M/I Homes’ green features are the result of their commitment to the ultimate energy-efficient home. Each home is wrapped in a weather-tight envelope, with every seam sealed and every crevasse caulked. Each M/I home is  independently rated to certify the energy savings. For an M/I home, you can save up to an average of 30% over the cost of home built to standard code. Their ratings even beat Energy Star® targets.

Oaks at Turner Creek Plat


To find out more about this new community in Cary or to take a look at some of the homes, contact us today at  919-813-6449 or [email protected].  When buying a home, even new construction, it is important to have a buyers agent. At Real Estate Experts, we are fierce representative for our clients and known as expert buyer agents.  
Contact us and see how we can help you find just the home you are looking for.