Go Green: Securing Your Future with a Net-zero Home

One way to reduce your carbon footprint and help with the environment is with a net-zero home. While going for net zero on electrical consumption was too costly to be viable in the past, today, it is practically free.

Doing Your Part for the Environment

Close to 20 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions stem from residential power consumption. The nation still relies primarily on fossil fuels, with renewable sources of energy making up a mere 10 percent of power production.

Nuclear power, which makes up 20 percent of the nation’s power production, is in decline, and most states plan to discontinue most of their plants. That 20 percent gap in power production won’t be filled by renewable sources of energy, so expect the US to produce more greenhouse gases once the nuclear plants go down. One problem with renewable or green sources of energy is that they are unreliable. Wind and solar power both falter during nighttime (or completely die off in the case of solar). Hydropower is reliable, but it requires huge tracts of land to be submerged.

Certain studies have shown that hydropower plants produce almost the same amount of greenhouse gases as coal-burning power plants. Every time you use power from the grid, you are sending greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. One way to reduce or cut your carbon footprint is to reduce your power consumption or even produce your power.

Reducing Your Power Consumption to Zero

An average home with three to four bedrooms will consume 25 to 30 kilowatt-hours per day or 850 to 900 kWh per month. Heating and cooling will make up 40 to 60 percent of energy consumption. Getting your home insulated can cut your power consumption to 18 to 23 kWh per day, and getting new appliances with Energy Star labels can cut another 1 to 3 kWh.

Even if you take no measures to cut your power consumption, a 10-kW solar power system should be enough to power your home. A 10-kW system can produce 10,000 to 15,000 kWh per month, more than enough to cover your home’s energy use, with the excess power going to the grid to create a buffer to cover nighttime consumption.

Solar Power Is Practically Free

Going solar might seem expensive. However, modern solar power systems are practically free. A 10-kW system can cost less than $10,000, easily covered by a loan from the bank or a mortgage lender. The average US home spends $100 to $120 on electricity every month; the savings on your electric bills should be enough to cover your monthly payments.

Producing your own power also protects you from price hikes (such as the ones hitting Colorado and Idaho) as power companies shift towards green energy. Solar power systems are usually guaranteed for the first 25 years (at 80 percent efficiency), but they can last up to 35 to 45 years. Your panels will pay for themselves in 10 years, and you’ll still have $100 worth of savings for another 25 to 35 years.

Use the Earth for Heating and Cooling

Another great option to reduce your power consumption is by relying on the Earth for your home’s heating and cooling solutions. Geothermal heat pumps can take the place of your heater and air conditioner.

Heat pumps are especially effective as a heating option. Most US homes spend $600 to $800 on heating using natural gas. Heat pumps will eliminate the monthly spending for heating and the greenhouse gases associated with burning natural gas. Heat pumps can cost around $8,000 to $15,000. They take longer to pay for themselves (around ten to 18 years). However, they can last for more than 50 years.

Go Further with an Electric Car

If your home is at zero on natural gas and electricity use, you can go to the next level by doing the same for your vehicles. Your daily commute to the office can produce more than four tons of carbon dioxide every year. A single gallon of gasoline will send close to 20 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. Electric cars do away with these emissions, especially if your home is already at net zero when it comes to electrical consumption.

Most of the time, solar-powered homes will produce more energy than they consume. Power companies won’t be sending money your way for excess production, but you can direct that extra power to an electric vehicle. While electric cars may cost an extra $2,000 to $5,000, the savings on gas (around $2,000 per year) can cover the extra cost in just one to two years.

Go net zero on power and emissions with solar power, geothermal heating, and electric vehicles. Save the environment and save a few bucks while you’re at it.

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