Utility bills, deleted.
A positive-energy home not only produces 100% of the energy it needs for heat, lighting, and appliances but generates enough extra solar power to run an electric car thousands of miles a year! Amazing, right?
What is meant by "net-zero-energy" and "positive-energy"?
Quite simply, net-zero-energy means that a home produces as much electricity over the course of a year as it uses for heating, cooking, lighting, and other household needs. A positive-energy home also produces enough electricity for its own needs, plus enough surplus electricity for other tasks, such as charging an electric car. In both cases, the source of on-site electricity is usually solar photovoltaic panels, usually the most practical and cost-effective renewable energy solution for our region.
Is a positive-energy or net-zero-energy home "off the grid"?
No. While our homes produce their own solar electricity, they are still connected to the electrical grid.
Does solar work in the Pacific Northwest?
Yes! Although our region receives fewer hours of sunlight over the year than elsewhere, solar panels are more efficient in cooler places like the Pacific Northwest. Our long summer days more than offset our overcast winters. And, the fact is, solar panels still produce power on cloudy days.
Does all a net-zero-energy or positive-energy house's power come from the sun?
People considering a net-zero-energy or positive-energy house often ask, “If I'm connected to the grid, I'll still be using dirty power at night and on cloudy days, right?” The answer is sort of, but not really. It’s far more efficient and cost effective to connect one's solar panels up to the city’s electrical grid. That way you can put power into the grid during sunny days, when you’re producing more than you can use, and take it out at night and when it’s cloudy. It’s like setting up your own little clean solar power plant, which means less electricity needs to be generated in the traditional way, avoiding all the associated negative environmental consequences. We like to compare it to a bank. When you have an excess of cash, you make a deposit. For all practical purposes, it’s still your money when you go to withdraw it from the ATM later, even if it was mixing with everyone else’s money on the bank’s balance sheet.
What features allow a house to be net-zero or positive-energy?
Our houses are designed from the ground up to take advantage of the sun. A passive solar layout means lots of windows facing south and few facing north. We often choose structural insulated panels (SIPs) for their excellent insulation values, air-tightness, and ease of construction. Most of our homes incorporate heat pumps, which pull warmth from the ground or the outside air, to heat water or air at up to 300% the efficiency of a traditional electric systems. Triple-pane windows can be a cost-effective way to bring in lots of light and passive solar heat without losing much heat at night. Energy-efficient appliances are also a must. By conserving as much energy as possible, our homes can offset 100% or more of their usage with a roof-sized solar electric system.