Home building: How increased adoption of net zero energy homes is changing the landscape of housing across the US

Net Zero homes are becoming all the rage. According to the California Legislature, the energy-conversion home is on the rise, with developers adding 1,000 new “net zero” homes in the state this year.

Net Zero is a residential building method that reuses all its energy. Of course, more homes with this certification will mean more community fatigue. But California and its cities and counties have been encouraging the development of net zero homes for years. The rise of these “net zero” homes can be attributed to financial incentives from PG&E. It’s paid for by electricity bills, meaning homeowners are paying their utility company for its purchase of a home with only renewable energy at its core.

In just eight years, the number of net zero homes has quadrupled in the state of California. The state calculated a potential $1.5 billion in savings by reducing the number of fuel-dependent vehicles on its roads through a first-of-its-kind partnership between PG&E and Clean Cities.

Currently, the government is not granting these incentive payments as strongly as they should be, and the homeowner must either resell their home or sell it into the marketplace. Net zero homes are easy for developers to develop; there is less need for changing land codes and changing consumers.

One option for homeowners may be to buy a passive house, which uses virtually no energy. A passive house features floor-to-ceiling windows, which let in almost all the sunlight, but gives it back to the homeowner by letting in outside air. Because it absorbs energy from the outside, passive houses can cool homes with indoor temperatures as much as a 20 degree cooler. They also provide a “holistic” living experience, including the addition of less concrete and less concrete material to the environment.

Beyond emissions reduction, passive houses have many eco-benefits that offset the cost of energy consumption. For example, a passive house is less energy-intensive to heat and cool and even the average lightbulb can be powered by an inverter that converts AC power to DC, thereby negating the need for a lightbulb.

Unlike other energy-reduction methods, passive houses do not require a traditional home-closing process. An actual closing usually happens when the residents upgrade their cable-TV service and/or take out a mortgage to own the property. The consumers remain in the home. Instead, the full (closed) cost of the materials are paid for at the time of home purchase. Closed-system passive houses can generate almost half the amount of cash in return to residents as high-volume AC conversion systems, and virtually no overhead.

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