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Zero Energy Homes

US Home Owners seem to have finally caught the idea about ZEH’s, the so called, Zero Energy Homes.” Since the 70’s energy efficiency has been a concern between architects and economists the world over, but in recent years a home that uses less energy than it actually produces has become reality. When businesses specialized in ZEHs start to pop-up as leaders in cutting the electricity bill by 70%, people start to listen.

Since the first oil embargo 30 years ago, Jim Sargent has been custom building homes to be consistently more efficient in terms of energy consumption with every new house he has built. When Sargent came together with Barley + Pfeiffer Architects from Austin to promote sustainable off the grid efficient homes in northern Texas, a whole new concept in Zero Energy Homes was just starting to become famous.

Energy efficiency in a home is not just making sure the house is built of all recyclable materials;it has to be efficient throughout its entire lifespan as well. And just as important as using as little energy as possible from the grid, the house has to be comfortable and have at least some level of reasonable interior design. That is what goes intoa Zero Energy Home; everything everyone else has in their new home, but without the costs of traditional energy bills that can sometimes even go over $200 dollars a month.

The secret to Zero Energy Homes is to cut the future home owners yearly costs during the construction phase.

In order to make a house produce more energy than it actually spends, means using special new solar technology that is getting cheaper and cheaper the more these houses are being produced and people see the practicality of it all. “Spectrally selective” windows for example block the overdose of sunlight in summer, while keeping the warmth inside the house during the cold months.

For indoor lighting, both natural and artificial are used, but artificial lights are fluorescent bulbs that use 70 percent less energy than the traditional incandescents do. Instead of installing a traditional water heater tank, the ZEH can use a suitcase-size gas powered heater that automatically heats water as it is consumed.

Who could imagine that a house actually produces energy? Some studies by the US department of Energy have estimated that on the average, American homes use some 1,400 US$ worth of energy throughout the year. ZEHs however consume on the average 70% less than that average and individuals who are firm believers in zero input from the grid actually produce enough energy, that they actually crank energy back out to the grid, like a generator.

Those people that produce more than they spend in their ZEH, dont pay a cent at the end of the month.

In California, those who live in zero energy homes, benefit from peak hours by not consuming the energy their neighbors consume and thus actually producing energy for the grid rather than consuming energy. Every house that is producing its own energy is another power plant that the state doesnt have to build. In the end, making a new home ZEH efficient, means adding some $25,000 dollars to the final price of the house. But it is more than worth the money, especially when money is short later on.

Premier Gardens in the California Sacramento area for example built all Zero Energy Homes, managing to pull that price down to as low as $18,000 per home. Some places like California, lower Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida and basically anywhere there is a lot of sunlight throughout the year, are places where the potential for a ZEH will pay for itself within 12 years time.

If the home owner is paying the grid for using electricity, they are just going to eventually see that money disappear, poof, like rent. But by buying and investing in Zero Energy Homes, those twelve years are a time of investment. Money the owner makes for themselves and the future generations that will live in the house.

There is enough energy coming from the sun for everyone, Zero Energy Homes just help the home owner, rather than work for the energy, they make that energy work for the home owner. Zero Energy Homes are the future.

More on ZEM’s here




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Posted in Solar Times by admin on April 10, 2006.

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