Ted Clifton is the owner of Clifton view home and zero energy plans. He has been constructing luxury homes in the North of Seattle on Whidbey Island for 24 years. The company began designing zero energy plans as a design firm in 2008, and since then they have successfully built some of the most efficient homes in the world.
Let’s have a look at the 12 simple steps to net zero energy:
Step 1: Building Orientation
The first step is the orientation of the building. The ridgeline needs to be running from east to west because this way the roof will be facing south. The reason why the slope of the roof is important is that you need to have enough room for the solar panels to power the house once you are done with all the other steps. The best place for installing the windows is facing south so that you can benefit from sunlight during winters and at the same time, the covered porches in the house will stop excessive sunlight during summer.
Step 2: Simple Design
The next step is to have a simple design in a net zero home. One idea is to design the house in a square outline, almost similar to that of a cube. This way, the height will limit the exterior surface area and save energy and cost at the same time. By managing the cost, additional features can be added to the house. Therefore, the design of the house should be simple with lots of open space. As the north side of the house will typically lose most of the energy, the walls on that side need to be kept small to minimize heat loss and limit costs.
Step 3: Correct Window Orientation
The windows should be designed to face south and either limit or have zero windows facing north in order to avoid direct sunlight in the rooms. By keeping the windows on the south side, you can use it to warm the house in winters. The overheads are also designed in a way to limit the sunlight.
Step 4: Thermal Mass
It is important to have the correct thermal mass in a house. You can use a thermal mass floor on the main level and thermal mass concrete countertops in the kitchen for enough heat storage. For better performance, you can install thermal mass slabs on the second floor as well.
Step 5: Tight Building Envelope
Limiting air leakage in an important factor that needs to be considered while building zero energy homes. SIPs panel construction can be used to form a tight envelope. This is a foam core with OSB on both sides. They measure up to 8 by 24 feet in a single panel. This way, an entire wall can be made with the windows precut which allows for quick assembly. It is important to make sure that the joints are sealed very carefully so as to limit air leakage to 1 or 2 percent.
Step 6: Balanced Insulation
It is not cost-effective to have good insulation on the roof, but not on the walls. An R5 window is used and is built at the highest possible height using modern technology. The closer you can get the walls and lid to each other, the more you can save on energy.
Step 7: Balanced Ventilation
Instead of trying to suck the air out of the house with bath and kitchen fans without leaving room for proper ventilation, you should provide a powered HEPA filter. A separate kitchen fan is installed matching the HEPA filter. Once the kitchen exhaust is turned on, you won’t hear the sound of the fan. The only sound you’ll hear will be the air.
Step 8: Heating and Cooling Equipment
A ground sourced heat pump is used for heating and cooling which is 450% more efficient. Water is circulated through the ground, drawing heat out of it and pumped up using a compressor. It costs less to transfer heat as opposed to creating it. This water is then used to heat domestic water and provide in-floor radiant heat.
Step 9: Domestic Hot Water
A tank draws water from the ground source heat pump and runs it through the coil at the base to heat water in the tank. Alternatively, you can use a solar collector on the roof to heat the domestic water using solar energy. A second electric water tank is also placed to store hot water once it is heated up.
Step 10: Efficient Appliances
Energy star is a good place to start, but it requires the appliances to be 15 percent more efficient as compared to standard ones. Hence, it is important to shop for your energy efficient appliances carefully.
Step 11: Efficient Lighting
Remember that you are trying to light the surface you are working on and not the entire space. Have florescent or compact fluorescent bulbs. Frequently used lights should be LED as they use less energy compared to fluorescent ones. By spending a little extra money upfront, you can achieve long-term savings.
Step 12: Alternative Energy
Once all the 11 steps are complete, the last step is to add a solar panel on the roof and a production meter and let energy back into the grid. If you want to power your electric car as well, you can install additional solar panels on the roof. This is one of the reasons why it is called a positive energy house.
These are the 12 simple steps to building a net zero energy home.