The day our society achieves zero greenhouse gas emissions will impact the lives of everyone on Earth. No longer will people have to think about polluted air, chilly homes and waste production.
That day is still far away, but the good news is that people can take steps to achieve zero carbon emissions now. The only question is, how can we get there?
For starters, you can build a carbon-positive home to offset emissions. Here is an overview of what this looks like today.
What Is a Zero-Carbon Home?
Zero-carbon homes don’t release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when in use. It might sound like they are tiny, off-grid houses, but they’re quite the opposite. Zero-carbon houses can look like normal homes, except they have two functional designs in mind.
The first is to build an entirely airtight, well-insulated house. The windows must face north and south to maximise sunlight for heat in the winter — and minimise it for coolness in the summer. Zero-carbon homes also have ground-source heat pumps. These design choices boost energy efficiency.
Secondly, zero-carbon homes have no natural gas lines since all energy consumption is electric. Natural gas is a fossil fuel and emits greenhouse gases into the air. However, these houses generate electricity with renewable energy systems — like solar panels, small wind turbines and other renewable energy sources.
The goal is to reduce energy demand and get power through energy-efficient sources, including using appliances and changing occupant behaviour.
How to Achieve a Zero-Carbon Home
There are certain principles you must follow to achieve a zero-carbon home. Here is an overview of how you would follow those principles:
Utilise Zero-Carbon Home Design
Designing your zero-carbon house must suit the location’s climate and site. This includes:
- Choosing a place that allows for renewable energy generation and passive design
- Maximising the home’s layout to reduce energy demand
- Using the proper materials that promote a passive design and low energy and emissions
- Installing energy-efficient appliances
- Incorporating renewable energy options.
You should consider a solar panel system. Before installation, you’ll have to maximise energy efficiency throughout the home to reduce consumption.
Reduce the Home’s Size
Minimising your home’s size is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve a zero-carbon home. However, you can still build a house without losing functionality through strategic design. Decreasing the proportion of a floor area will reduce the total household energy consumption.
Improve Thermal Efficiency
Consider ways to make your home more thermally efficient, such as:
- Using climate-appropriate insulation
- Placing draught seals and weatherstripping to reduce heat loss and gain
- Ensuring the appropriate size for windows according to the climate
- Installing curtains and shades to reduce demand for further heating and cooling
- Utilising thermal materials to enhance solar heating and cooling
Use Renewable Energy Generation
You must also install renewable energy sources to achieve a zero-carbon home. This may include solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems. Again, reducing your need for energy minimises the capacity of an on-site renewable energy source.
Therefore, you can install smaller, less expensive solar systems if you reduce your electricity demand.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Zero-Carbon Home?
The cost to construct a zero-carbon home is slightly higher than the average house. However, minimising the additional costs can reduce the pricing and make it more affordable.
For instance, one report found a cost uplift between 3.5%-5.3% in building a zero-carbon home. This means a standard property that costs $240,000 will cost between $248,400 and $252,720 to achieve a zero-carbon house.
Building a zero-carbon home might be slightly more expensive, but the savings from energy efficiency will more than balance things out. Therefore, your return on investment increases as you lower your energy needs.
Plus, you can receive tax incentives from the government, reducing the installation costs for solar panels and other renewable energy sources.
Building Zero-Carbon Homes for a Brighter Future
Zero-carbon homes are within reach, and achieving this goal is not much different than the major changes made in the past. This includes shifting to central heat and fibre broadband. The only difference is that these new transitions will benefit homeowners and tackle climate change.
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