Public Ready for Zero Energy Homes as Early as 2012
Released in February, a new study by the NAHB Research Center predicts that zero energy homes could be moving into the mainstream of the nation’s housing market as early as 2012 and hold the potential for reducing the energy consumption of all single-family homes by 19% by 2050 even as more than a million new homes are added annually.
“Zero energy homes are technically feasible today,” according to the study, “The Potential Impact of ZEH.” “If cost trends continue and research milestones are accomplished in solar energy and efficiency technologies, ZEH will eventually become economically competitive with conventional construction when utility costs are included in the cost of homeownership.”
With the cost of solar electric systems on the decline and photovoltaic production increasing nearly 30% a year, the market penetration of these highly efficient homes has already begun and will continue in selected markets, says the study, which was conducted collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The zero energy home will get a further push from new, low-cost solar water heating designs now under development, the report concludes. “At the same time, a portfolio of energy-efficiency improvements in appliances, building envelopes, windows and mechanical systems is moving into the market.”
Zero energy homes, which are connected to the utility grid, combine highly energy-efficient design and technology with solar electric and thermal systems to produce as much energy as they use on an annual basis, resulting in net zero energy consumption.
The first zero energy home in the U.S. was built by John Wesley Miller in Armory Park del Sol in Tucson, Ariz. in 2003. Following that, Bill Asdal completed the first zero energy remodel, transforming a circa-1900 farm house in Califon in the northwest corner of New Jersey.
An increase in the popularity of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star® homes provides a good indication that home buyers are beginning to embrace many of the concepts behind the zero energy home, the report says. From zero in 1995, there were 130,000 Energy Star homes built in 2004, with up to 40% penetration in some markets.
The study demonstrates that research and development supporting the ZEH concept in conjunction with state and federal tax incentives will help to accelerate and improve the energy performance of the nation’s residential sector.