The Net Zero Energy Home

Is it possible? Can you have a Net Zero Energy Home?

Let's start the discussion by introducing 4 categories:

  1. Zero Energy Home - A home that literally uses no energy.

  2. Off Grid Home - A home that is not connected to a utility provider.

  3. Net Zero Energy Home - A home that offsets all energy use with generated energy. Off-grid homes would be in this category.

  4. Net Zero Energy Cost Home - A home that offsets all energy purchased with generated energy sold. In other words, your yearly energy bill is zero or even profit is generated.

Zero Energy Home

As introduced above, this type of home literally uses no energy. This means no heating, no cooling, no lighting, no appliances. You are "roughing it" with this type of home.

Let's be honest - this type of home is not realistic for most of us. This type of home is only found in the poorest of countries in warmer climates. Some minimalists may also get by with a zero energy home, but they still must be in a warm climate.

Now, if you have no electricity and use a fireplace to heat your home, can your home be considered a zero energy home? I would argue that there is fuel energy in the wood so this would be more like the other categories described below.

Off Grid Home

An off grid home is not connected to any utility provider. Such a home has no electrical grid connection or natural gas connection.

An off grid home is not always a Net Zero Energy Home as the home may have a propane or heating oil tank for heating or a generator for electricity. In this case, the homeowner would be purchasing fuel energy for heating.

For an off grid home to a Net Zero Energy Home they would have to generate (from renewable sources)the same amount of energy or more energy than is purchased.

Net Zero Energy Home

As described above, this type of home produces as much or more energy (from non-purchased resources) than it consumes.

For example, a home with solar panels might generate 1460 kW-hrs of electricity (average of 2 kW output) and only use 1200 kW-hrs. This results in 260 kW-hrs of surplus electricity exported.

To achieve net zero energy, some form of energy generation is required. Some potential technologies are as follows:

  • Solar Panels for Electricity

  • Solar Panels for Hot Water Heating

  • Ground Source Geothermal Projects

  • Wind Turbine Generators

  • Hydro Electric Generators (water)
Some more information on the above technologies can be found on other pages. Pictured below are examples of hydro-electric generation and geothermal energy.

Net Zero Energy Cost Home

Each of the options above can also be zero cost homes from an energy point of view. If you spend less than you earn for electricity and gas you are in this group.

What makes this type of home different is the additional option of selling your generated electricity for more than you pay for it. This requires you to be involved in some sort of government program that pays you to produce clean or renewable energy. An example of this is the Ontario microFIT Program.

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