Net-zero energy homes are usually reserved for the rich or staunch environmentalists — or are they? Going net-zero on energy can be more of a financial choice than an environmental one, especially in Utah. With both federal and state incentives, net-zero homes are practically free. Make your home net-zero and save thousands of dollars a year while doing your part for the environment.
What Is Net-zero Energy?
A net-zero home produces the same amount of energy it takes from the grid, effectively putting its relative consumption at zero. Most electrical grids are powered by fossil fuels, whether by coal, oil, or gas. Net-zero homes reduce dependency on the grid to a minimum, cutting a home’s carbon footprint (relative to the grid) to zero. Net-zero homes reduce stress on the grid during the daytime, allowing it to consume fewer fossil fuels.
Making a Net-zero Home
The easiest and most efficient way to make a net-zero energy home is with solar power. An 8-kW solar power system should be enough to power a three to four-bedroom house, especially if the house is energy-efficient. Solar power systems might seem expensive.
However, modern systems are practically free. Even if you go high-end with Tesla, their 8-kW systems only cost $16,000. Federal solar incentives bring that down to $12,000, and Utah’s own incentives cut it further to $10,000.
A reliable home loan can easily cover that amount, and the premiums for a ten-year term should be covered by the savings on your monthly electric bills. Tesla solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years (at 80 percent efficiency), but they can last for more than 40 years. Even at just 25 years, you should be saving an extra $1,000 a year for another 15 years once your done paying for your panels.
While going solar reduces your home’s dependency on the grid, it doesn’t cut it entirely. Your home will still be connected to the grid, and damage to the power lines will still cut your power. Your panels will be producing enough power in the day to entirely cover your home’s electrical needs while sending excess power to serve as a buffer for nighttime consumption. Your house will still be using whatever fossil fuel the grid uses at night, but it will be off-setting it by sending additional power to the grid during the day to reduce demand, hence net-zero energy.
Produce More Power Than You Use
An average four-bedroom home consumes 25 to 30 kilowatt-hours a day, or roughly 750 to 900 kWh each month. An 8-kW solar power system produces 20 to 30 kWh for every five hours of sunlight. Utah’s elevation exposes it to higher concentrations of sunlight, allowing panels to run at higher efficiency. You’ll need less than half of your roof area for the panels, and the sun’s angle won’t be much of a problem.
However, you’ll still be cutting it close if your house isn’t energy-efficient. A good part of a house’s power consumption goes to cooling or heating. Insulation can cut consumption by up to 30 percent or 7 to 9kWh per day (210 to 270kWh per month).
Switching to newer appliances, particularly ones with Energy Star labels, can cut your consumption by another 20 percent or by 3 to 6 kWh per day. Opt for refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning units, and washers that use inverter technology to maximize energy efficiency. Staying above production will ensure your electricity bills stay at zero. While the power company won’t send you a check for excess production, you will accumulate credits that you can use during less sunny winter months.
Go Carbon-negative with Electric Vehicles
Pile on to your savings by opting for an electric vehicle (EV) the next time you purchase a car. Charging your vehicle will be practically free if your system constantly produces excess electricity, and charging away from the grid ensures your vehicle isn’t “fueled” by fossil fuels. Utah’s power generation still relies primarily on fossil fuels like coal (60 percent) and natural gas (25 percent).
Charging an electric car on the grid isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, but charging one using solar power in your net-zero home makes it so. The average American commuter spends around $2,000 on gas every year, sending close to four tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Just one gallon of gasoline can produce ten to 20 lbs of CO2. Electric cars might cost $2,000 to $5,000 more than standard cars, but the savings on fuel should more than make up for the markups.
There’s little to no reason not to go net-zero on energy. Solar power systems are practically free, and you can save $15,000 to $30,000 during their operational lifetime. Net-zero homes save money; saving the environment is just a bonus.