What is a net-zero home?
A net-zero — or zero carbon — home is a residence which is powered and heated entirely by renewable energy. Since all of the energy comes from renewable sources, often from solar power, the home generates no carbon pollution. These homes are also highly energy efficient. There are more and more homes in Tompkins County that are going net-zero — maybe even one of your neighbors!
Having a net-zero home has many benefits, including saving money on energy bills, having a safer and more comfortable home, and reducing your environmental impact. These homes also contribute to the renewable energy sector, supporting local jobs and businesses!
Read about three simple steps to achieving a net-zero home:
Three Steps to a Net-Zero Home
Weatherizing your home involves sealing up all of the cracks and leaks in your home. By sealing cracks and adding insulation, you can reduce the energy that’s required to heat and cool your home, reduce your energy bills, and make your home more comfortable. That is why we encourage you to take this step first — ”reduce before you produce!”
Energy audits, also known as home energy assessments, are available to most New York state residents at no cost, and they can help you determine specific energy improvements for your home that will reduce your energy use. Having an energy assessment done can qualify you for incentives, rebates, and low-interest loans to help you get the work done on your home. Households that are income-eligible can also have 50-100% of the cost of energy improvements covered by state and federal incentives.
2. Renewable Heat
Once you have made sure your house is snug and well insulated, you can consider how to heat your home using renewable fuels. Biomass, which includes heating with wood and wood pellets, and heat pumps are two good places to start.
Wood & Wood Pellets
Modern wood stoves are significantly more efficient than older models, reducing air pollution. Pellet stoves and boilers use pellets made from sawdust and low-quality trees. Pellet stoves are cleaner burning and more efficient than wood stoves, and many pellets are made in this region. State rebates of $1,500-$2,500 can cover half the cost of a quality stove — or more! Sometimes a single wood or pellet stove can heat an entire home, especially if it’s already been weatherized.
Heat pumps can either be air-source or ground-source (also known as geothermal). Heat pumps, using methods similar to that of refrigerators, utilize electricity to move heat from one space to another to warm your home. They also provide cooling! When paired with solar panels, heat pumps can be carbon-neutral. Modern heat pumps can work well even in temperatures well below freezing.
3. Go solar!
There are now three solar options that make it easier and more affordable for almost anyone — even renters — to go solar.
As the most traditional way of going solar, residential solar involves solar panels on-site at your residence. Up to two-thirds of the cost of installation can be covered by state and federal incentives!
Community Solar Purchase
This involves purchasing solar panels that exist on a solar farm. This is especially convenient for people who want to participate in solar but do not have space on their property, or even for renters. Through the process of net-metering, you can use, monitor, and get credit for the electricity as if the panels were on your property.
Community Solar Subscription
Subscription solar involves purchasing electricity directly from a solar farm in our area without owning the solar panels. This is a good option for people who are renting their homes or are unable to purchase a solar system. These contracts are generally cheaper than utility rates — a 10% discount is a common offer.
Free subscription solar is also available to low-income residents — both homeowners and renters — through NYSERDA’s Solar for All program. Residents have access to an average of $10 solar credits on their monthly bill with no costs, fees, or payments required to participate.
4. Almost done!
If you have done the three steps above, you still may be aware that there are few more things keeping you from being totally net-zero. You may have a few more appliances that use fossil fuels. Your water heater and stove are two common ones. Fortunately, there are very affordable heat pump and electric water heaters, as well as electric stoves — induction ranges are particularly efficient.
Article by Maggie McAden, Intern
We’re Here to Help
Get Your GreenBack provides free, unbiased energy advising for all residents and small businesses and non-profits that want to go net-zero. Contact us and let us know how we can help