The secret is to harvest passive solar energy
Near Net-Zero Homes can be achieved solely with designing & building a “passive” home. A passive home is simply an airtight home with super insulated home that harvests as much solar energy as possible. Combine thick, heavily insulated walls with large triple-paned windows facing south and a thermally massive floor – you will end up getting most of your heating for free. During the day, the heat sinks into the floor which is then released back into the house during the night. For backup heat, they have a fireplace and electric baseboard heaters. By using electric heat they avoid the need for a natural gas furnace and the monthly bill that goes with it.
Doubling down on the insulation, with a vapor barrier, is one of the key reasons this home requires significantly less energy to heat. Keeping it as air-tight as possible is what attracts all the heat. This large, narrow 3-story home sits on a corner lot that has excellent solar access. For a 2400 square foot home, it has a small footprint. This was accomplished by putting the living room and kitchen on the second floor.
Once you’ve obtained your solar modules and designed your home to collect passive solar heat with sunshine, you have Net-Zero Homes with free energy. The system they have are solar panels (photovoltaic panels). There’s sixteen of them creating a 4.8 kilowatt array and basically, these panels are also are awning for the large windows below by shielding the house from direct summer sunlight. The solar modules provide passive cooling and generate electricity at the same time.
Oddly, their favorite parts of the house are all the places where they reused and repurposed materials to make the house “greener”. For example, they repurposed church pews and reused bricks from the original farmhouse that resided on the property. An old gym floor was used as a feature wall and cooler doors used to conceal the pantry. And, leftover structural materials were used to build the stairs. Net-Zero Homes with passive energy collection & distribution systems, and green materials can also look very beautiful – as you can tell from the interior & exterior look of this featured home.
Read more about Net-Zero in this article on a Historic Home Renovation