By Kari Rau
With media coverage of popular buzz words like ‘climate change’, ‘be green’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘carbon neutral’, etc. it can be difficult to manage and comprehend the ever-changing renewable energy mantra.
Having a Net Zero home is increasing in popularity as more people want to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and the grid and build sustainable, efficient homes. The definition of net zero means “the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on site”, according to the World Green Building Council.
One of the first things to consider if this is attainable for you is to evaluate your utility energy usage and determine effective ways to reduce it. This part is often overlooked by consumers since residential solar and wind are marketed so heavily to easily and quickly turn your home into a clean energy burning machine. While these renewables will absolutely offset you reliance on the electrical grid, it is also important to examine your current energy usage and determine ways to decrease it.
“After all, decreasing your overall energy usage saves you money and can help control the size of the renewable system you want to install”
Two thirds of the average home’s energy bills come from heating, cooling, and hot water. You are spending a lot of money to heat and cool your home and heat your hot water heater! Do you have the most efficient system installed? A geothermal system is the most energy efficient heating and cooling system there is. Check out this video for a quick explanation here. It uses heat from the earth, by way of geothermal loops to heat and cool your home. Simply put, in the winter warmth is drawn from the earth through a loop carrying a water solution to a heat pump inside the home. The heat pump concentrates the earth’s thermal energy and transfers it to air circulated through duct work or to radiant heat in flooring. In the summer, the process is reversed and heat is extracted from the air inside your home and transferred to the big heat sink in your yard (the earth) by way of the geothermal loops. As an added bonus, the waste heat from the compressor can be used to heat water for bathing, cooking, washing, etc. Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? There’s more!
Another great benefit of geothermal is it is clean and you don’t even know it’s there! Clean, as in there is no onsite combustion of fossil fuels in your home! And invisible as in there is no loud, ugly, outside air conditioner ruining your outside aesthetics in the summer and inside, the heat pump is about the size of a furnace yet operates quietly and efficiently. So you get quiet, comfortable, safe, efficient, environmentally friendly because you are reducing your carbon footprint, AND saving money. A geothermal heat pump can save you money because for every unit of energy used to power the system, 3-4.5 units are supplied as heat. Where as a fossil fuel furnace may be 78-90% efficient, a geothermal heat pump is about 400 percent efficient!
To continue to plan a comfortable, energy-efficient home and decrease your overall energy usage try installing LED lights and Energy Star rated appliances. Take a good look at how you live in your home. Focus on what you really you use and how to make it as efficient as possible. For those of you that love your gas stove, I challenge you to try an electric induction cook top. Every bit as efficient as gas but safer! You can live with out natural gas hooked up to your home!
Installing energy efficient doors and windows, and adding adequate insulation in your exterior walls and roof also can keep your utility bills down. You may want to also evaluate passive solar building design where you look at windows, walls, and floors and their ability to collect, store, reflect and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in winter and reject solar heat in the summer. This too will aid you in achieving a net zero home and decrease the overall size of your renewable system(s) as well as your impact on Mother Nature.
Kari Rau is Chief Idea Officer at Colorado Geothermal Drilling, Influence Executive Colorado Geothermal Drilling, Geothermal Enthusiast, Advocate for Womenprenuers and Small Business, & Serial Chips and Queso Addict.