With this zero energy building guide, you can learn about eliminating those monthly utility bills. Also called net zero building, it describes a building where the energy it produces in a year is equal to the energy that is required by the building in that year.
Although they are still relatively uncommon today, these buildings are gaining popularity as the cost of energy continues to rise. The first part of this process is reducing the amount of energy the home requires. This is much easier in the design stage of a new building but can be done in retrofit applications as well. The second part is to harvest energy from sources that are available at the site.
There are two basic types of systems to power these homes and they are commonly called off-grid and grid-tie systems.
The main problem with producing your own electricity is that you cannot always produce the electricity when you need it. That requires storing the energy and there are two basic ways to do so.
A grid-tie system still has the wires from the utility coming into the home and so, when you are unable to provide the electricity that you need, the utility can provide the power. When you are producing power and not using it in the home, the power is then fed back to the utility.
An off-grid system does not have those wires from the power company and uses batteries to store the electricity in the home. This type of system is usually more expensive.
The main advantage of this process is the fact that you are no longer a hostage to the market fluctuations for energy. Also, the resale value of the structure will be higher and it will cost less to own/operate the building. You will also be more comfortable in the home because the advanced building techniques limit the need for heating and cooling. The final benefit is that locally produced power is more reliable than power from a utility company so, when others in your area are left without electricity, you will still be comfortable and not left sitting in the dark.
The main disadvantage of zero energy building measures is the initial cost for renewable energy equipment (solar panels, wind turbines, etc.) and relatively long time for payback. This can be overcome with some of the companies that lease solar panels, etc. to the homeowner as well as by the grants and subsidies from local, state, and federal governments.
Also, there is a shortage of skilled designers and builders because many are slow to adopt new techniques. The designer is also required to be able to use advanced computer modeling software and there is a lack of training as well as the software is pretty expensive.