by Brent Sauser
When I speak to others regarding the virtues of building Net Zero I usually hear a response like, “It sounds great, but how much more will it cost?” The general perception still remains that achieving Net Zero is a high-cost, future goal, perhaps in 5 to 10 years. It’s hard to argue the fact that Net Zero technology is accelerating and will continue to reduce material costs and increase product efficiencies. However, it is also a fact that technology has advanced to the point where building Net Zero is cost effective for today’s construction. In some states the cost for kilowatt hour (kWh) achieves “grid parity” with the local utility. Efficiencies are such that a private, on-site power plant is cost competitive (per kWh) with conventional utility sources.
NetZeroMax.com and dbs Archtects PLLC are dedicated to promoting a balanced approach to achieving a Net Zero solution. This balanced approach includes maximizing as many passive design features as practical prior to incorporating more expensive high-tech Net Zero features. Such considerations are:
- Building orientation
- R24 exterior wall insulation
- R48 roof insulation
- Low-E, Double glazed windows (minimum)
- Daylighting (i.e. Solatube, etc)
- Energy Star roof
- LED lighting
- On demand (tankless) water heater
- High efficiency HVAC (ductless or geothermal preferred) SEER 28
- Energy Star appliances
- 5kW Solar array on roof
The incorporation of these considerations along with appropriate building sizing can go far in achieving a Net Zero solution. Adding more square footage adds more volume and more energy (kW) is needed to bridge the gap between passive and high-tech design features. The “sweet spot” for design using a 5kW solar panel system maximizes at around 2,500 SF depending on location, where 2,000 SF to 2,200 SF is more ideal. In a residential application, this square footage range should be well in the compliance zone for a majority of home owners.
We don’t need to build bigger. We need to build smarter! Doing so will enable the incorporation of the above Net Zero considerations with minimal cost impact. Incentives and rebates can account for over 50% savings on the installation of a solar panel array. That means a 5kW solar system installed at $20,000, with a 50% incentive and rebate, will take only 5.5 years to pay back . . . using a $150 p/mo electrical bill.
This is the 21st century. Isn’t it time to move past the age old, public utility infrastructure, and into the independent freedom that comes from generating energy from your very own on-site private power plant. Not only is there the satisfaction that comes from energy independence, but money in your pocket. The energy you generate on-site is clean and carbon neutral. It is a benefit to you, the community, and the environment. This isn’t some future whim, but a reality that can be achieved TODAY . . . NOW!
Please join with me in accepting nothing less than a Net Zero solution. dbs Architects PLLC can help get you there. Give us a call!