Residential Resources

These resources are for homeowners, home-buyers, builders, designers, appraisers, and anyone else interested in zero energy homes. A zero energy home is an energy efficient house that consumes only as much energy as is generated through clean, renewable resources such as solar power. This collection of research studies, tools, and guides shows the technical and financial feasibility of zero energy and offers guidance for implementation.

These resources explore the business case for zero energy construction for single-family homes.
A collection of reports and studies that demonstrate the feasibility and cost analyses for zero energy residences.
A cultivated selection of best practices, marketing materials, and assessment guides.

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Green Neighborhood Challenge

The Green Neighbor Challenge is a web tool and social media campaign to help anyone with a utility bill (including renters) find and sign up for green energy in the US. They also aim to help residents access energy saving incentives, learn about energy policy options, and find ways to get involved in grassroots environmental movements.

Building Performance Standard Module: Housing Affordability

U.S. cities, states, and counties are acting with increasing urgency to enact policies that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings such as building performance standards (BPS). At the same time, they also face a crisis in the affordability of housing, where increasing housing costs threaten to displace untold numbers of residents. This document is meant as an introductory brief for jurisdictions working on BPS to develop strategies, policies, and programs that address housing affordability and counteract displacement in that context.

Houses Need to Breathe… Right?

This colorful and easy-read article addresses the common concern “we’re building houses too tight”. It explains the importance of building tight, well-ventilated homes; describes (with great artwork) ventilation system options, implications, and costs; and includes a brief summary of the ASHRAE 62.2 ventilation standard. Written by Max H. Sherman, a consulting building scientist and physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA.

Hours of Safety in Cold Weather

This insight brief from Rocky Mountain Institute is intended to address this knowledge gap by outlining the concept of hours of safety. The concept attempts to define the duration of time that homes can be expected to provide safe temperatures when the power goes out based on key building characteristics (e.g., insulation levels). This metric can be used to quantify the amount of time people are exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures indoors, information that can be used to effectively guide weatherization efforts, emergency response measures, and more.

Zero Energy Homes Show Continuing Strong Growth

Team Zero has concluded its fourth annual inventory of housing in the U.S. and Canada on the path to zero energy operations. View an on-demand, NBI-hosted webinar where Ann Edminster shares findings on the current state of ZE housing, with data on trends, emerging developments, and major influences in this still-nascent but rapidly expanding sector of the residential construction industry. Learn about both dramatic changes from prior years and some findings consistent with earlier inventories. Also hear from a home builder about their own experiences pursuing zero energy performance in residences. Hear from Mandalay Homes about what they see as the future of zero energy, grid-connected buildings.

Directory of Products Used in Zero Energy Homes

Zero Energy Project developed a tool to help designers and contractors find building products that are appropriate for use in a cost effective zero energy projects. These products have been used by contractors in their zero energy construction projects though they are not endorsed by any one organization.

Appraised Value and Energy Efficiency: Getting it Right

While location, design, and price are a home buyer’s main considerations, surveys show that buyers rank energy efficiency as one of the most desirable features, and importantly when there are sufficient energy savings - they are willing to pay a premium price. However, energy efficiency can be overlooked in the appraisal process for a variety of reasons, including a lack of access to quality data, underwriting impediments, and appraiser qualifications. Many appraisers may not be aware of the unique features of an energy efficient home, and this study supports filling the gap.

Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum

This tool assists appraisers in analyzing residential “Green” features and properties. The checklist guides appraisers through a variety of green building opportunities and provides space to note specific green building features including third-party building verifications, efficiency features, renewable energy, location, and incentives.

Building America Building Science Translator

DOE has worked extensively with housing industry representatives and building science experts to create a compiling a new building science glossary that translates technical jargon into an improved consumer experience. Now there is a sizable ‘collective impact’ opportunity to more effectively convey the value of high-performance homes to consumers and the media using these ‘power words.’ It is about time because this value is too little understood.

Santa Monica Residential Zero Net Energy Guide for New Construction

This design guide focuses on the general elements of ZNE homes and provides links to the specific details and requirements of Title 24 (energy code) and Home Energy Rating System (HERS) verification (field verified and tested) as they relate to the City of Santa Monica ZNE ordinance. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, best practices like the ones outlined in this guide can help projects achieve ZNE. This design guide will help low-rise residential new construction buildings to be 15% more efficient than 2016 Title 24 and achieve an Energy Design Rating (EDR) of zero, or less (EDR ≤ 0). The ZNE ordinance compliments Santa Monica’s previously adopted solar ordinance.

DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Label Methodology

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home program has developed a label, to be applied to certified DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes. The program identifies a home as a certified DOE Zero Energy Ready Home and conveys the core value messages of the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home. The document describes the process used to develop the comparison, the methodology used, and the assumptions made.

Your Zero Energy Ready Home Story

The US Department of Energy illustrates the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program marketing materials that are available to support design and construction professionals with sales and marketing of zero energy homes.

The Economics of Zero Energy Homes

This report demonstrates that the cost increase to build a zero-energy or zero-energy ready home is modest—far less than consumers, builders, and policymakers realize—and highlights methods builders and policymakers can use to drive increased market penetration. Costs are expected to continue declining over time as this market matures.

Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks

As part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama administration proposed that energy efficiency should be factored into mortgage underwriting upon the sale or refinancing of new and existing homes. Little empirical evidence, unfortunately, exists on the relationship between energy efficiency and mortgage risks. The study examined the performance of mortgages backed by ENERGY STAR certified homes, using a unique dataset. The results show that default and prepayment risks are significantly lower in such certified homes. These results offer support for considering energy efficiency in the mortgage underwriting process.

Residential Zero Net Energy Building Integration Cost Analysis

California Public Utilities Commission commissioned the study of how an influx of PVs will impact the distribution grid, if left unmitigated. The purpose of this study is to analyze the grid integration costs of customer-sited PV over the next ten years under a base scenario of trajectory PV growth compared to a ZNE policy scenario that requires 100% ZNE on new homes by 2020. Note that the costs identified in this report are distribution interconnection upgrade costs only, and do not include other costs associated with large amounts of variable generation across the system.

Making the Financial Case for Net Zero: Feasibility Study

Efficiency Vermont and Maclay Architects provide a cost comparison for single and multifamily residential, commercial, and community zero net energy (ZNE) goals. The presentation looks at the code standard and ZNE-ready standard and compares financial input and outputs to calculate cost estimates for the design.

Literature Review of Miscellaneous Energy Loads (MELs) in Residential Buildings

Southern California Edison commissioned a study that evaluates the relative certainty of existing energy estimates of miscellaneous energy loads (MELs) in residential buildings. The researcher conducted a literature review of existing MEL studies and to identify their respective underlying methodologies. This report provides an overview of alternative methods of estimating energy use and load disaggregation techniques using non-intrusive load monitoring, which has the potential to improve accuracy and lower the costs of estimating MEL energy use. This literature review is, by nature, a backward-looking study, and does not reflect the most up-to-date usage or energy consumption of new devices coming to market. This study is a review of existing estimates to clarify the uncertainty of existing data and identify the best available information for existing stock.

The Connected Home – A Series of Evolving Systems

In 2018, two research firms, New Buildings Institute and Research Into Action, Inc, presented their investigation on top connected-home technology trends. The presentation provides a broad overview of where the connected home sector is now and future projections.

What We Learned Getting to 2 Million ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes that is Positioning Zero Energy Ready Homes for Exponential Growth

This paper highlights the lessons learned from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes program. The ENERGY STAR Certified Homes program includes 17 years of experience and 1.2 million certified homes. The paper examines why the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decided to launch its own voluntary high-performance zero energy home labeling program. Documented lessons from ENERGY STAR Certified Homes helps future users to ensure successful projects including five barriers that make market adoption a significant challenge for Zero Energy Ready Homes compared to ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, and how lessons learned can be applied to other home programs targeting zero energy performance.

Smart Market Brief: Green Multifamily and Single Family Homes 2017

Dodge Data and Analytics and the National Association of Home Builders surveyed home builders about the level of their green building activity, the costs, and benefits of building green, and the practices and features that they most widely use and value. The summary of surveys demonstrates that a high percentage of single and multifamily builders and remodels are engaged in green building and even more expect that involvement to grow.

Residential ZNE Market Characterization

The joint California Investor-owned Utilities contracted a team to conduct a market characterization of zero net energy (ZNE) new construction homes in California. The study characterizes the residential ZNE-type new construction market by estimating the market sizes and exploring trends for ZNE and ZNE-type homes, assess residential energy rating systems, and financing opportunities for ZNE-type homes; and assess drivers, barriers, and opportunities to messaging, building, financing, and purchasing residential ZNE-type new construction. The study found that ZNE-type homes are in the innovator stage of market adoption.

Zero Net Energy Primer

Net Zero Energy Coalition (NZEC) summarizes the 2016 Residential Zero Energy Buildings Study. NZEC documented more than 8,000 residential units in the US and Canada, with the highest number (3,137) in California. Significantly, more than 90% of these homes are in developer-initiated, multi-unit projects, demonstrating that these pioneering developers believe that ZNE makes solid business sense – and not just at the high end of the market. The inventory includes thousands of units of ZNE workforce housing and production homes, in a wide range of US climates. The takeaway is that ZNE is highly affordable with an experienced project team.