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Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Net Zero Homes | Golden Windows

Energy efficiency is an important issue for homeowners who want to reduce their environmental impact and save money on their energy bills. One increasingly popular concept available to homeowners are Net Zero Homes.

What are Net Zero Homes, though? What are its benefits? And, for homeowners renovating rather than building, is it possible to achieve? In this post, we will attempt to answer all those questions. Here is everything you need to know about Net Zero Homes.

What is a Net Zero Home?

It goes by several names, depending on where you are and who is discussing it: New Zero Home, Zero-Energy Building, Zero Net Energy Housing, Net-Zero Building, etc. In Canada, we simply call it "Net Zero Home". Regardless of the nomenclature, the concept is the same.

Net Zero Homes produce as much clean energy as they consume. They are up to 80% more energy efficient than typical new homes and use renewable energy systems to produce the remaining energy they need. Every part of the house works together to provide consistent temperatures throughout, prevent drafts, and filter indoor air to reduce dust and allergens. The result: exceptional energy performance and the ultimate in comfort – a home at the forefront of sustainability. It all adds up to a better living experience.

A common myth is that Net Zero homes are “off the grid” or “energy autonomous.” This is usually not the case. Net Zero Homes are still connected to the electricity grid. They supply electricity to the grid when they are producing a surplus and draw from the grid when the home’s energy demands exceed the amount produced on-site. Taken over the year, a Net Zero Home will achieve Net Zero consumption because the energy drawn, and energy supplied balance out.

To do this, Net Zero Homes must balance both sides of the equation. On the one hand, they have to reduce occupants' current energy consumption, which is achieved through more robust home insulation, high insulation performance windows and doors, and efficient appliances. With these energy-saving measures in place, a Net Zero Home requires up to 60% less energy than a typical home.

A 60% reduction is a lot, but in order to net out at zero, the home still has to produce energy. Energy production is done primarily through solar panels, though geothermal heat pumps and, occasionally, residential wind turbines are also used.

It's not always a perfect system. Some days, it is rainy and overcast, so the solar panels do not produce much energy. There might be days when you have a mountain of dishes leftover from a dinner party or heaps of laundry from your kids' soccer practice, and so the appliances use more energy. The idea, however, is that, over a year, these anomalies balance out.

Common Features of a Net Zero Home

To give you a better sense of how Net Zero housing achieves energy efficiency and energy production, here are a few common features you can find within them.

Orientation

Net Zero Homes are often oriented to take advantage of the sun's natural warmth and light. This allows Net Zero Homes to enjoy "passive heating." It also makes the homes less reliant on electrical lighting; since efficient windows are placed and installed to capture maximal sunlight, it is possible during days to brighten your home with natural light alone.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are not a new technology. In fact, we use them every day without thinking – in our refrigerators and air-conditioning units. The heat pumps used in Net Zero Homes take this same technology and scale it up, transferring indoor and outdoor heat by circulating a refrigerant through an evaporation and condensation cycle. During the winter, heat pumps absorb heat from the outdoor air; during the summer, they reject heat into the outdoor air.

Solar Panels

Solar panels are a feature in Net Zero homes. The photovoltaic cells in solar panels absorb sunlight during the day, energizing the cells and producing an electrical current that is then converted into usable AC energy.

Solar-Panels

High Levels of Insulation and Airtightness

To maximize energy conservation, Net Zero housing is both highly insulated and airtight. This includes installing a continuous air barrier system that reduces air leakage to a minimum.

Energy Efficient Appliances

Net Zero housing features energy-efficient appliances that minimize the use of electricity and water. This includes high-efficiency HVAC systems, as well as appliances and electrical devices like efficient dishwashers, washing machines, ovens, microwaves, heat pump dryers and even televisions.

Energy Efficient Windows and Doors

High insulation performance windows and doors are a cornerstone of Net Zero housing. To maximize efficiency, look for windows with Low E coating, sealed space for argon gas, weather stripping, moisture-resistant frames and airtight caulking.

It is also essential to have your windows professionally installed by a certified team of installers; improper installation can negate the functional properties of an energy-efficient window. At Golden Windows, we design, manufacture, and install our products, so you know you are getting efficiency at every step of the process.

What are the Benefits of Net Zero Homes?

There are two primary reasons why homeowners, architects and policymakers have embraced Net Zero Homes. One, Net Zero Homes reduce the overall impact of housing on the natural environment. And two, they significantly reduce a homeowner’s energy-related costs, both present and future. In this section, let’s explore both benefits.

Lessening the Environmental Impact of Homes

According to the UN’s Environmental Programme, 39% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are from the buildings and construction sector. That means nearly half of all emissions are caused by the building, operating and maintaining of residential, commercial, industrial and civil structures.

The solution, the UN argues, is to focus on “operational energy efficiency” – energy use that can be influenced by design changes, insulation, appliance improvements and improvements to building installations like windows and doors.

While the onus should not fall squarely on residential homeowners (after all, the 39% figure encompasses all building types), it is still a welcome reminder of the power of our choices. By implementing smart operational changes, which Net Zero Homes do, we can do our part to reduce the amount of global greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

If you love the environment and want to hand over a healthy planet to your kids and grandkids, striving toward Net Zero housing is a great way to start.

Saving Money

Of course, a welcome consequence of reducing your energy is reducing the amount you pay for energy.

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, an organization dedicated to researching sustainability, the average annual benefit/energy savings of an Net Zero home is USD $1,635.

Canada has taken note of figures like these, which is why the Ministry of Natural Resources, together with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, has recently started an initiative to support Net Zero housing projects. In their project description, the top two “expected results” were as follows:

“Shift consumer spending from utility expenses to investment in home equity” and

“Reduced energy bills”

The bottom line is that a self-sufficient home is a less expensive home in which to live. While it's true that homeowners may pay more for a Net Zero Home at present, hopefully, new advances in building construction and continued governmental support will reduce the initial cost. As for homeowners looking to renovate their current homes to achieve Net Zero, the upfront cost will likely be high, but it's one that you can offset annually in savings and resale value.

Creating a More Resilient Home

In addition to mitigating your house’s negative environmental impact and saving you money on energy bills, Net Zero Homes also tend to be more resilient.

Because they are constructed with superior insulation in mind, they offer better protection against the elements. And they can continue to provide shelter during power failures, as they need so little energy to operate and stay warm.

How Can Homeowners Work Toward Net Zero?

A true Net Zero Home may be difficult and costly to achieve, especially if your home is already built. But that doesn’t mean the concept should be dismissed out of hand.

For many homeowners, it may be best to view Net Zero Homes aspiringly. In the same way you might see a tastemaker's gorgeous house and think, “I’d like to draw design inspiration from this,” you can look at the model of an Net Zero Home and elect to make renovations toward that ideal.

It is far easier to build Net Zero features – like increased insulation levels, superior airtightness, and efficient heating, appliance and lighting systems – into new homes than into existing ones. Existing homes have fixed solar orientation, structure and floor plans, and it can be challenging to find the space to add insulation and install the continuous air barrier system needed to minimize air leakage.

Despite these challenges, some renovators have applied Net Zero principles to renovation projects. In doing so, they have managed to reduce net household energy use significantly. If you have an upcoming renovation project and want to work toward Net Zero, work with Golden Windows. Our energy-efficient products will get you a critical step closer toward achieving your goals! Here’s how.

Triple-Glazed-Windows

Triple Glazed Windows

Triple glazed windows refer to windows with three panes of coated, Low E glass (as opposed to the standard one or two panes). Each of the panes is separated by argon gas: a low conductivity, odourless and colourless inert gas fill that improves thermal insulation by reducing heat transfer.  

The triple glazed windows we offer at Golden Windows have several benefits:

They reduce indoor condensation.

They are fantastic acoustic insulators for traffic and outdoor noise.

Because of their thermal insulation, triple glazed windows enhance comfort, especially when you are near the windows.

You can choose from casement, awning and fixed windows to fit your home’s needs and aesthetics. You can also choose from GoldenVinyl® Triple Glaze, GoldenClad® Triple Glaze and our Performer® Patio Door.

Most importantly, triple glazed windows make your home more efficient. They have high energy ratings, meeting the stringent requirements set out by ENERGY STAR®. They can help reduce your home’s greenhouse gas emissions and save you money on your energy bill.

The triple glazed windows from Golden Windows are an essential part of your efficiency upgrades, whether you are striving for Net Zero or merely looking to reduce your carbon footprint. Contact us today to request a quote or make an appointment to visit one of our showrooms in Kanata, London or Ottawa. 

Install Efficient New Windows and Doors

If your current windows and doors are out-of-date, inefficient, or damaged, they should be replaced. Replacing your windows and doors will not only provide you and your family with a more comfortable living situation, but it is also an excellent opportunity to improve your home’s efficiency.

Each of our windows comes with a choice of four low E options, each including argon gas:

Clear, Hard Coat Low E (3) – CLLE 

Soft Coat Low E (2), Clear – SBCL 

Hard Coat Low E (2), Hard Coat Low E (4) – LELE 

Soft Coat Low E (2), Hard Coat Low E (4) – SBLE

The type you choose will ultimately depend on where you live, how much light your windows receive and more. You may need different Low E windows in Toronto than you would in Thunder Bay, for instance. Do not worry if you’re not sure which one would be best for you; our expert sales representatives can help you decide what you need from your window coatings and help you pick out the best types for your home. 

To see a full list of windows we offer, including all the many customization options, please spend time exploring our website. Of course, our representatives are available if you have any questions or custom requests.

Check Out Our Guide to Window Treatments

They aren’t just a way to spruce up the look of your home – amazing window treatments can also improve efficiency. At the link above, you will find a recent article we featured on this blog that highlights some of the most popular window treatments. In it, we discuss options like roman shades and cellular shades that have been proven to increase the energy efficiency of windows.

Striving toward a Net Zero Home can mean a lot of planning and hard work, but it can also be fun. Picking out the window treatments that best suit your home can be a way to make the process more exciting.

Now that you know what Net Zero Homes are, why it is beneficial, and how you can take steps toward achieving it, the only thing left to do is take action. If you want to pursue Net Zero in your renovations or new construction, contact Golden Windows to design, manufacture and install your new, energy-efficient windows and doors.

 

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