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 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
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
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 homes. Real 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!
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.
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)
- 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.
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.
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.
Array, North Carolina’s First Net Zero Energy Neighborhood, being developed by Real Estate Experts, was covered on the local news on November 27th on WCHL. Click here to listen to the story.
One Chapel Hill resident is working towards building North Carolina’s very first net-zero energy neighborhood.
Jodi Bakst is the owner of Real Estate Experts in Chapel Hill. Since the start of 2019, she has been hard at work developing North Carolina’s first 100 percent net-zero energy residential community in Orange County.
Bakst is developing Array, a 12-lot neighborhood located on 60 acres of land off Orange Grove Road just minutes west of downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Bakst said creating an energy-efficient neighborhood in Orange County is ideal and timely for several reasons.
“I think that the location of this property being in Orange County – you have a preponderance of people that really do care about the environment and care about living sustainably,” Bakst said. “Then from a timing perspective, with the way that things are going with respect to climate change, and how fast things are moving in a negative direction, this is the perfect time for the residential building industry to show people that it is possible to build a home with a significantly reduced carbon footprint.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings consume 40 percent of the nation’s energy and 25 percent of the nation’s freshwater.
Bakst said Array’s net-zero energy homes will produce as much energy as they consume as well as meet aggressive targets for water conservation and indoor air quality. Each house will also be third party certified based on the National Green Building Standards.
“The houses that we’re talking about in Array, which are very achievable to build, are about 90 percent more efficient than a standard code-build house,” Bakst said. “What makes it net-zero energy is when you add in the solar.”
According to Array’s website, PV solar panels will be specifically sized for each energy-efficient home in the Array neighborhood. Array’s 12 lots are positioned with a north-south orientation to make maximum use of the sun and its natural energy.
In addition to solar panels, Bakst said these homes will also have continuous insulation to keep utility costs even lower. While initially more expensive to build, she said these homes are more economical in the long run.
“You do spend more money upfront but you’re spending less money to maintain your house,” Bakst said. “You have almost zero energy costs. With the net-zero energy model, there will be net metering. So each house will be tied to the grid with Duke Power, but the excess energy that you’re creating goes to the grid for storage and then for peak times for peak demand – when you need more energy – it [the energy] gets called back from the grid.”
Bakst said Duke Power will charge $14 dollars a month for each house to be connected to the grid, and that will be the sole utility cost. Other standard utilities like water and sewer will come at no additional cost as a well and septic system will be built into the neighborhood.
While net-zero energy houses are being built sporadically, Bakst said the Array neighborhood will be one of the first of its kind in the whole country. Right now, she has one of the twelve Array lots reserved. Bakst said she hopes to get the storm water and erosion control permits approved by January – the next step into making her net-zero energy neighborhood a reality.
For more details about the Array neighborhood, click here.