7 Tips to Designing a Zero Energy Home

Tax Breaks For CanadiansDesigning a zero energy house (ZEH) is a complex procedure. A properly functioning ZEH is like a well composed concerto; all systems need to be working seamlessly together to create a masterpiece. The most important requirements include a well insulated building envelope, efficient HVAC, a reliable source of renewable energy and energy efficient appliances. All of these components must work together to create a home that is healthy and produces as much energy as it consumes. Here are 7 tips to designing a ZEH so harmonious, it would make Mozart proud.

1. Location, location, location

Your home needs to be correctly oriented. Consider the placement of your home so that solar panels will be facing south. Ensure that a south facing wall has plenty of windows so that you can take advantage of passive solar energy to heat your home. Ensure that your south facing side is not obscured by trees or neighbouring buildings. Take into account the prevailing wind direction and how best to orient the house.

2. Seal the deal

Heating and cooling uses the lion’s share your home’s energy. You must create an insulated building envelope to ensure that the interior temperature stays constant. Building with ICFs is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to create an insulated building envelope. Use insulation and building material with a high R-value. Install windows with triple glazing to regulate the solar input throughout the year. Well insulated walls are not enough to create a secure building envelope. You need to insulate floors and roofs too. Amvic Systems make Amdeck floor and roof system; insulated concrete systems that ensures the best overall seal for your building envelope. Make sure that the envelope is airtight; air escaping through gaps, holes, doors or windows minimizes the effectiveness of your insulation.

3. Let the sunshine in

Utilize the sun’s heat in the winter months by using passive solar heating. Have south facing walls where the sun can shine in and heat materials such as concrete, bricks, tiles or water. Again, ICFs make a perfect thermal mass as their concrete interiors heat up during the day and disseminate heat at night. Concrete also reduces fluctuations in temperature.

4. Keep it cozy

Get the most energy efficient furnace that you can afford. Modern furnaces have reached the dizzy heights of 97% efficiency. You can also take advantage of the earth’s constant temperatures with a geothermal pump and ground heat exchanger.

5. Optimize your appliances

Energy Star appliances are the most energy efficient on the market. Check the labels on your appliances to ensure that they are Energy Star rated. Energy Star appliances consume less energy and will help you to achieve your ZEH status. Use energy efficient lighting to reduce energy consumption. Use tankless water heaters. Instead of having a large tank of heated water waiting around for someone to take a shower, the tankless water heater heats water on demand. Its super efficient and has the added advantage of never running out of hot water.

6. Rely on renewable energy

Install efficient solar panels or wind turbines to create all the energy you need for your home. If you are a resident of Ontario, you can make money on your solar system by taking advantage of the microFIT program. Feed-in-tariff (FIT) systems are implemented in over 75 countries, states and provinces in the world. Contact your local municipality to find out what incentives they offer to home owners who install wind or solar systems.

7. Take a tax break

Investigate the provincial and local grants that are used as incentives to encourage the installation of energy efficient components. In Ontario, the ecoENERGY grants provide up to $5 000 to homeowners who take the initiative to make their homes more energy efficient.

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