Net zero-energy homes will transform US real estate market
Net-zero energy homes have arrived — and are shaking up the US housing market
- In California most new homes and multi-family residential buildings up to three stories high will include solar rooftop panels beginning in 2020.
- Net-zero energy homes can produce as much energy as they consume and are built to optimize energy efficiency through airtight construction of roofs, walls, windows and foundations.
- The U.S. has an estimated 5,000 net-zero energy single-family homes today; California could add 100,000 a year.
The issues go beyond individual homes to the grid itself.
Kibert said there are two methods for reducing the carbon footprint beyond zero-energy homes: a low-carbon grid and better renewable energy storage. The current method of generating energy for most grids still depends on fossil fuels, but he said a few have moved to renewable energy like hydropower. California is far ahead of many U.S. states with its utilities already producing between 30 percent to 40 percent of energy from renewable sources.
Storing produced renewable energy remains costly, which is why people remain connected to the grid.
“If you had storage in your home and you were careful about your energy consumption, you would be effectively off the grid,” Kibert said. “You wouldn’t have to worry about it, but storage is expensive.”
Tesla’s Powerwall home storage solution has a cost of roughly $7,000 per unit. Tesla recommends two units for a home to be powered 100 percent with renewable energy and have at least 24 hours of power during a utility outage, which brings the total cost to over $14,000 — excluding installation costs that range from $1,000 to $3,000, according to the company.
Edminster said it is clear that the grid will not be disappearing anytime soon. The California mandate only requires homes to meet a higher level of efficiency and use solar, but that doesn’t mean residents won’t be able to use gas from the grid — it only offsets electricity use.
She said we are much further along in building energy-efficient homes than energy-efficient grids. “The efficiency side is pretty dialed in so that if someone felt like being zero-net energy by placing solar panels on their roof they probably would be pretty close to being zero-net energy.”
Zero-energy homes highlight a commitment to efficiency and the effort to reduce individual energy consumption. Ultimately, the objective is to find a healthy, reduced level of energy consumption. “What we really want is at the level of the social fabric to have our energy consumption to be met by renewable sources,” Edminster said. “That’s the big goal.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that California’s new requirement mandating solar rooftop panels on new homes beginning in 2020 applies to multi-family residences up to three stories.
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