Throughout the Unites States, builders and buyers alike are investing in net zero energy (NZE) housing, or residences that generate as much energy as they consume.
The U.S. Department of Energy says NZE housing is at least
more efficient than the average home or apartment.
NZE housing typically includes efficiency measures such as Energy Star appliances, air and water heat pumps, light-emitting diode illumination, and insulation of walls, attic, and foundation.
NZE housing requires a combination of energy efficiency and solar power to be realized, but the extra cost that entails is offset by a shorter return-on-investment period. Regional factors have little relevance to payback periods, because electricity rates and labor costs are the main contributors.
According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, while not all homes in all regions can be NZE, they all have the potential to be highly efficient, if they are fully electric for central heat and water heating; gas-heated homes can still achieve net-zero electricity use. NZE buildings also avoid mold through ventilation systems to circulate outside and inside air while maintaining their efficiency rating. To further enhance indoor air quality, NZE building requirements recommend using materials that do not emit volatile organic compounds.
Efficiency should be the core of national, state and local energy policy. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that, since 1990, advances in energy efficiency have supplanted the need for more than 300 large power plants, averting the release of hundreds of millions of tons of air pollution and saving consumers nearly $790 billion.