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Get Excited for Net-Zero Homes Because They are Shaking Up the Market

by Sandie Nguyen

Get Excited for Net-Zero Homes Because They are Shaking Up the Market

by Sandie Nguyen

Net-zero homes are increasingly taking North America by storm. With 81 net-zero communities in the U.S. by the end of 2019 and now over 400 under construction, this market is at a tipping point.[1]

So, whether you are a homebuilder looking to get into this kind of construction, or just wanting to grasp the basics, we break down the concept of a net-zero energy home so that you can easily start the conversation with your homebuyers.

What Exactly is a Net-Zero Energy Home?

There is a lot of terminology surrounding net-zero homes, but to simply put it, net-zero energy homes generate as much energy on-site as they consume over the course of one year.[2] They minimize energy use through efficiency and meet remaining needs through renewable energy systems. Many of these homes yield a higher standard for health, are more comfortable and reliable, not to mention, great for the environment.

There are a number of ways homebuilders can bring their homes’ HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating down to 0, such as adding high-quality insulation, LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting, efficient windows and doors, low-flow water fixtures, heat-reflecting roof tiles, and smart appliances that, when combined, reduce the amount of energy the house consumes.[3]

Once you have reduced the home’s electrical loads as much as possible through all the above strategies, you can turn to the energy model to figure out how much remaining electricity consumption you need to offset with renewable energy sources. Compared to other energy generators – such as wind, hydropower, and geothermal – which are usually more challenging to use and harder to predict, solar shines bright as the best candidate.

Now, let us dive right into our most recent net-zero project in which SunStreet is the solar provider: The Ultimate Z.E.N. (Zero Energy Now) Home.

SunStreet’s First Net Zero Project with Thrive Home Builders

SunStreet's first net zero homes with Thrive

This 4-bedroom, LEED-rated demonstration home was built by Thrive Home Builders and debuted at the EEBA’s 2020 High Performance Home Summit. The home has a strong focus on indoor air quality, open concept living, and energy efficiency. How does the Ultimate Z.E.N. Home showcase as a beacon for sharing high-performance practices to homebuilders from all around the nation? Hear it straight from Stephen Myers, Chief Operating Officer of Thrive Home Builders, to learn about their vision and architectural approach for this unique project, and how SunStreet plays a key role in powering the home primarily from renewable electricity.

The Ultimate Z.E.N Home’s Accomplishments

To reach net-zero status, the Ultimate Z.E.N. home needed a renewable electricity generation system. Thrive turned to solar power for a solution that was both functional and attractive. The Ultimate Z.E.N. Home is located in Denver and serves as a model for Thrive’s new Vitality Collection. This new home community has 39 production homes built on a variety of lots, featuring different orientations and variances of sun exposure. Thrive energy-modeled the homes to deliver a baseline HERS Index score of 44, with a rooftop solar array driving that down to a maximum guaranteed rating of HERS-15. [4]

According to Pro Builder Mag, the required array was initially a 9.6 kWh system per house, but with the help of Geoffrey Berlin, SunStreet’s Solar Home Design Manager, Thrive was able to “down-spec” to a 7.8 kWh array while still maintaining the desired curb appeal. Geoffrey carefully modeled and mapped which homes would do best on which lots, and his “painstaking calculations” contributed to cost savings of about $3,200 per unit which is crucial in keeping the homes attainable for middle-income homebuyers.[5] We hope the future residents of the Vitality Collection will enjoy harnessing the power of the Sun through their SunStreet solar systems, knowing that they are doing something that benefits themselves, their children, and the community for years to come.

With SunStreet’s powerful 7.8 kwh rooftop solar array as a standard feature, the Ultimate Z.E.N. Home was able to obtain an impressive final HERS score of 5. This is a big reduction from the original goal of 40!

SunStreet is looking forward to powering the home and we are proud to help Thrive reach their goal of building a home that is both beautiful and cost-efficient.

You can now tour the Ultimate Z.E.N. Home virtually. The home will also be available for in-person tours at the 2021 EEBA (Environmental Building Alliance) High Performance Home Summit in Denver, CO.

A Sustainable Future Starts Today

Building net-zero homes is an innovative way to foster sustainability and healthy living. By thinking of the future generations today, homebuilders can begin to create the homes of tomorrow. If you are considering this approach and need a solar partner for your next project, look no further — SunStreet is a trusted solar provider with years of experience serving production homebuilders!

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[1] https://newbuildings.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NBI_GTZ_2019List.pdf

[2] https://www.mass.gov/service-details/what-is-a-zero-net-energy-building

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/14/homes-that-produce-their-own-energy-might-be-the-future-and-california-is-inching-closer.html

[4] https://www.pbultimatezen.com/zen-solar

[5] https://www.probuilder.com/net-zero-energy-ultimate-zen-homes-solution-solar

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