The Incredible Green Net-Zero Home

Astounding! Watch as your electric bills vanish before your very eyes! Your incredible green net-zero home will save you bundles of money!

Average Americans looking to buy or build an environmentally friendly home have probably run across any one of the previous or related claims – usually attached to buzzwords like “green”, “sustainable”, or “net-zero” and closely trailed by vague moral platitudes about saving the planet from eminent destruction. These planet-saving “green” homes are the superheroes of an otherwise moribund housing market. Between 2005 and 2011, green residential construction surged from 2 percent to 17 percent of total new home construction. However, in a world of hyper-inflated assertions and rampant advertising models, we’ve evolved thick skins and developed a sixth sense for identifying subtle attempts to crack our wallets open. We are a nation of jaded skeptics. So when it comes to buying or building a new home, what really is this incredible “green home” and what can we really expect from it?

A  Green, Net-Zero Home

Well first things first, a green, “net-zero” home is simply a home that produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. Sounds great right? Considering that buildings are responsible for 40%-50% of all greenhouse gas emissions, net-zero housing sounds like a critical aspect of any solution to global warming and a way to save some of our hard-earned money. The catch, as these things often entail, is that the initial cost of building one of these homes is a bit higher than your run-of-the-mill suburban matchbox.

A typical 2000 square foot home in central Texas will run at around $240k or $120 per square foot. The same size net-zero house will weigh in at $320k or $160 per square foot. However, with generous federal subsidies and local tax credits, the realistic total is more in the range of $300k but with a gratifying $0 per month for utilities. Considering an average utility bill of $250 per month and taking to account a modest 5% rise per year in electric bills, it would take less than 15 years to pay off the difference – after that, it’s all exponential savings. In fact, some net-zero home owners realize a small annual profit as extra energy the house produces is fed back into the grid. When it comes to net-zero housing, the old adage rings true: you get what you pay for. So what exactly are you getting for your money?

Net-zero home owners are getting a self-sufficient, miniature power plant with an infinite reservoir of fuel, via the sun, processed through photovoltaic panels. That means that should the pillars of society collapse into mass anarchy tomorrow, your house would still be able to power the appliances and amenities that define modern comfort. Of course energy generation is itself only a small part of the equation. Net-zero houses employ a multitude of advanced features such as multi-paned windows, air-tight ductwork, and high-caliber wall and attic insulation that greatly reduce energy consumption. Furthermore, each and every material and assembly is selected for their benign impact on human health. Green construction applies as much to nature as it does to people. For example, ecobuilders such as Native typically employ select materials free of the toxic volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, pervasive in standard residential construction. This results in homes that are healthier, cozier, and good to the environment.

Understandably, these quality materials and assemblies command a slightly higher premium over standard parts and pieces. But maybe that’s a good thing. America doesn’t need more subpar suburban tract housing – there is plenty of that. What we need is housing that is built to last, built to promote and protect our health, and built to work with and preserve nature for our children rather than destroy it. In that sense, maybe net-zero housing really may be the superhero suburbia desperately needs.