Most of us want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which are the primary cause of climate change, but are unsure where to begin. The good news is that people may cut greenhouse gas emissions while also saving money on electricity costs without losing comfort and convenience in their homes. Can we, however, achieve zero carbon emissions?
What is a zero carbon home?
Commercial and residential buildings account for over 40% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally each year. To contribute, a forward-thinking segment of the construction industry has advocated for all new buildings to have net-zero energy. The many definitions of this idea – zero energy, net-zero energy, carbon-neutral – might be perplexing. They all signify something similar but with slight variations. When we talk about houses, we mean those designed to generate enough renewable energy to counterbalance the energy they consume. These dwellings will eventually have a net carbon impact of zero.
The thought of a zero-carbon home may conjure up images of a minor, off-grid adobe house nestled in the woods. While such architecture may appeal to some, zero-carbon residences can also be grid-connected, conventional-looking houses. Zero carbon homes are built with two primary goals in mind.
The first objective is comparable to that of a passive home. Zero-carbon dwellings are nearly entirely airtight and extraordinarily well insulated. Windows are strategically placed on the north and south sides of the house to optimize the potential of the house to absorb solar heat in the winter and limit it in the summer. Ground source heat pumps are frequently used in these homes to heat and cool the dwelling by utilizing the earth’s relative temperature. All of these design decisions work together to maximize energy efficiency. Second, zero-carbon houses should ideally not have any natural gas lines; all energy use should be electric. It is critical because power generation is getting increasingly cleaner. Though adequate for heating (and cleaner than coal), natural gas is still a fossil fuel. It emits greenhouse gases when burned in your own home. Furthermore, cooking and heating with natural gas generate various pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also leaves traces of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM), all of which are harmful to one’s health.
When the home’s energy use is reduced, renewable power is created using solar panel systems, home-scale wind turbines, or other renewable energy sources. You must adequately scale the renewable energy system to produce enough power to counterbalance entire yearly energy use – this is where the word “net” comes into play. Solar panels, for example, will produce more power during the day but none at night. As a result, the residence must create more renewable energy than it consumes during the day to counterbalance demand at night when power is drawn from the grid. A zero-carbon household might also buy a battery storage unit, such as the Tesla Powerwall, to use stored electricity at night, reducing or eliminating the dependency on the grid. As a result, the objective of a zero-carbon home is to be carbon neutral. Therefore, it generates as much energy as it consumes.
There is a substantial dispute over whether the carbon footprint of a residence should include transportation. The location of a residence has a substantial impact on carbon emissions from traveling to and from a job, school, etc. Homeowners that own electric vehicles should scale renewable energy systems to generate enough power to charge their vehicles, allowing them to become an actual zero-carbon household.
Is it feasible to have a carbon-neutral home without using renewable energy? Depending on how you look at it, yes. To counterbalance electricity from a fossil-fuel-powered grid, you need to buy enough renewable energy to counteract your use. You can accomplish it by purchasing renewable energy credits on the market or contacting your utility to see if it provides a program that buys all wind or solar electricity from the grid.
How much is the cost of construction of a zero-carbon home ?
Zero-carbon homes generally cost between 5% and 15% more than a comparable-sized average home, depending on investments and available incentives. So, if a freshly built home costs $300,000, a carbon-neutral home may cost $330,000, assuming a 10% increase in expenditures. The additional $30,000 raises mortgage payments by around $150 per month. Balance against energy savings: According to the US Department of Energy, the average household spends roughly $2,200 per year on energy costs or around $180 per month. It equates to a $30 monthly savings, making the investments pay for themselves from the start.
Existing homes: Can they be converted to become zero-carbon homes?
It may be more difficult to convert an old, leaky, energy-inefficient home into a zero-carbon house. However, modern technologies allow you to minimize your home’s carbon impact dramatically. Though more challenging in countries with more harsh conditions, it is possible, and there are success tales worldwide. Due to the high amounts of embodied energy in the materials needed to create a new house, renovating a home is typically a better alternative than building an entirely new one.
The most important steps to converting to a zero-carbon home complete an energy audit
Engage the services of a professional energy expert to do an energy audit on your house. It will assist you in determining how to reduce the amount of energy used by your home significantly. It will also propose easy modifications that you may complete on a shoestring budget. The energy auditor may even have suggestions for a contractor who has worked on carbon-neutral projects in the past.
Various government incentives are available to persons who want to build a new zero-carbon house or convert an existing house to achieve the zero-carbon objective. Check with your local utility and the municipal, state, and federal governments to see if there are any rebates or tax credits available to decrease the total upfront additional cost.