A “net-zero energy” home is any residential property that generates more energy than it consumes. And this sustainability trend is quickly taking hold as more homeowners around the globe discover the many advantages of becoming “net-zero.”
Moreover, this movement isn’t limited to residential properties. Commercial properties, industrial parks, government agencies, and entire communities are all taking proactive steps in the same direction.
But what exactly is driving this trend? And how can your own home or community also achieve net-zero status?
The Driving Forces behind Net-Zero Solar Homes
Several factors are helping to fuel the net-zero movement. Chief among these is sustainability. Supplementing grid electricity with greener alternatives like solar photovoltaic (PV) panels allows you to reduce your property’s carbon footprint dramatically.
With enough solar capacity installed, your home can cover 100% of its electricity needs without relying on dirty utility power generated from fossil fuel. In fact, many net-zero homes actually qualify as “net-positive” since they produce so much solar energy that the excess electricity can be fed into the grid. And this helps to lower everyone’s carbon footprint.
However, two additional factors are helping to drive net-zero’s growing popularity:
- Savings: most homeowners pay for monthly grid electricity from their power provider. And whether you live in an expensive utility market or a cheap one, those energy bills never stop. Worse still, utility rates keep trending up as fossil fuel resources become harder to extract cheaply. By solar powering your home with free energy from the sun, however, you’re able to reduce (if not eliminate) those bills. And because of these savings, becoming net-zero is an investment that pays for itself very quickly.
- Policy: many municipalities have started “greening” their building codes by requiring community developers and construction teams to incorporate sustainability into their designs. And because net-zero properties consistently deliver higher savings for their occupants and less pollution for the rest of the community, it’s likely these green building codes will only become more widespread.
(Want more information on Western Canadian Province’s Incentives? Take a read here!)
How Do Residential Properties & Communities Become Net-Zero?
There are many different ways to achieve net-zero status. But whether for retrofits or new construction, most projects use a combination of the following four strategies.
The first step involves insulating your home to prevent heat transfer. After all, you don’t want warm air escaping during the cold months – especially if you live and work in Western Canada. Equally important, you don’t want cooled air to escape during the warmer summer months. Not only is heat transfer wasteful, but it’s also unnecessarily expensive.
Another strategy involves upgrading gas-powered appliances with electric alternatives. This typically includes stoves, ovens, furnaces, and even HVAC systems. Making the switch allows you to power these appliances with solar or renewable grid electricity – instead of fossil fuel.
Making your home (or community) more energy-efficient is another important pillar in the net-zero movement. Common strategies involve:
- Upgrading older appliances with more energy-efficient ones can perform the same amount of “work” for a fraction of the electricity.
- Swapping out traditional lightbulbs with LED or CFL alternatives – both of which now come in a range of luminosities and colours to mimic incandescent lighting. The main difference is that LEDs and CFLs consume less power, generate almost zero heat, and last significantly longer than traditional lightbulbs do.
Becoming energy-efficient delivers immediate environmental and financial savings. Better still, reducing power consumption also helps you save money once it’s time to add solar panels.
To understand why, keep reading.
To truly become net-zero, your property needs direct access to alternative power sources that aren’t dependent on oil, natural gas, or coal. Fortunately, a growing number of utility providers now allow customers to choose grid electricity generated from sustainable sources like wind, hydro, or solar. And whenever possible, you should opt into these programs. That’s because most net-zero homes remain grid-connected. And the less fossil fuel-based electricity you consume, the more your carbon footprint will shrink.
However, you don’t need to wait on your utility provider to offer this option. That’s because you can install your own solar PV system and generate cheaper and cleaner electricity locally. Even a single PV panel can help move the needle. But the more solar capacity you add, the easier it is to qualify as net-zero.
Here are two important things to keep in mind:
- Making your home more energy-efficient means you won’t need as many PV panels to cover your electricity requirements. And this helps to drive down your installation costs, thus, saving you even more money.
- Adding enough solar capacity (coupled with on-site battery storage) allows you to eliminate your utility provider from the equation entirely. Your electricity bills don’t just shrink – they disappear.
As a general rule, we recommend staying grid-connected – even if you have on-site batteries. Doing so allows you to share your green electrons with the rest of the community. And depending on where you live, it may be possible to monetize the excess solar electricity you feed into the grid. Under BC Hydro’s net metering program, for example, customers receive “retail” credits for any solar energy sent into the utility network.
(Learn more about Alberta’s Solar Rebate program here)
Let EVOLVsolar Help Your Home, Business, or Community Become Net-Zero
Becoming net-zero offers many benefits, including higher savings, fewer emissions, and cleaner air. But it’s not something you need to achieve overnight. It’s possible to implement the above strategies in stages, with the savings from each subsequent improvement helping to finance the next step.
Whether you’re a homeowner, sustainability consultant, or project developer, our energy experts are here to help you achieve your net-zero targets. To learn more about our comprehensive solar installation and consulting services, contact us today for a free quote.
EVOLVsolar is Western Canada’s leading solar company. We have one mission: to make solar energy affordable while giving back to the environment. By investing in solar power, you can save money on energy bills, upgrade the value of your property and reduce your energy output. You can expect high-quality solar panel installation, world-class workmanship, excellent customer service and the best solar technology available. Our success has established us as the go-to solar installers in BC and Saskatchewan, and one of the leading solar companies in Alberta. Experience the EVOLVsolar difference by contacting our corporate office today at 1 (844) 276-4004.