A carbon-neutral home (also known as a ‘carbon zero’ or ‘zero emission’ home) is a self-sustaining house that creates the same amount of renewable energy that it expends, therefore creating zero carbon emissions.
These carefully considered homes are not only good for the environment but are fantastic for your hip pocket, as they eliminate bills for electricity, gas and other household services.
For some, the cost of building a carbon-neutral home may seem jarring as it does add to the project cost. However, a home is a long-term investment, and those initial costs will be paid back over and over in the coming years. In fact, recent calculations by the Alternative Technology Association estimate that solar panels (an important element of a self-sustaining home) pay themselves off in between 2-6 years, depending on where you are in Australia. After that, it’s all profit.
A carbon-neutral home isn’t only about solar panels, though. So how can we future-proof our homes with a zero-emission build?
Buying an off-the-plan home can be tempting, however they aren’t catered to your individual site and can therefore lead to poor orientation. Light, heat and breezes affect every site differently, meaning a home that doesn’t take your site into consideration could be absorbing next to no sunlight in winter, and a whole lot of it in summer.
Work with an architect who will design your home specifically for your site in order to create passive heating and cooling. This means the design will take advantage of cool breezes in summer and northerly sun in winter, minimising – and in some climates eliminating – the need for artificial heating and cooling. A passive design will also make use of natural sunlight so you aren’t depending on artificial (and energy-draining) light.
2. PRODUCE YOUR OWN (CLEAN) POWER
Produce your own clean power with strategically placed solar panels. When it comes to estimating how much energy you will need, keep in mind your energy needs for the new build will differ from the old, based on the adoption of passive home methods, a new layout/size and potential new appliances. If you are bringing your new home to life with Modscape, we can help you with these calculations.
Australia has the highest average solar radiation per sqm of any continent in the world, so make the most of it. With battery storage, you can also save any excess power for less-sunny months so you are never caught out having to purchase power from the grid. Read more about solar power here.
3. FOCUS ON INSULATION
Ensure your home makes use of high-quality, high thermal insulation in the floors, walls and ceiling. It’s also important to reduce air leaks and ensure you have drought-proof seals (Modscape uses structurally insulated panels (SIPs) for insulation in the floors and walls with ‘R’ values of R2.8 and R3.7 respectively, whilst the ceiling is insulated using wool batts with an ‘R’ value of R7). When considering insulation, also think about suitable internal window coverings, as this acts as insulation to keep heat from escaping out of the house in winter and leaking into the house in summer.
4. CHOOSE SUITABLE MATERIALS
Choose materials that enhance the passive design strategy, such as double or triple-glazed windows or low-e glass (Modscape homes come with double-glazed windows as a standard but can be upgraded). According to the Residential Baseline Study for Australia, double glazed windows can reduce winter heat loss by up to 70%, so ensure your windows are the kind that won’t be working against you.
Also reduce the demand of your home by choosing low-energy appliances. Utilise solar hot water, choose water and energy efficient appliances, low-flush toilets, LED light globes, induction cooktops and heat pump water heaters in order to keep consumption low without compromising your lifestyle.
Bonus! Grow your own food in the backyard or in a rooftop garden (this also helps with thermal mass, keeping your house warmer in winter and cooler in summer) and invest in a rainwater tank for extra self-sufficiency and even lower carbon emissions.
And don’t forget, once you’ve moved in, regularly monitor your energy production and consumption to see if there are places you can adjust and improve. Technology is constantly advancing and we can always keep doing better by the planet.
All Modscape builds are custom designed for your site, taking advantage of passive house strategies in order to create a home that uses the lowest amount of energy possible. All options discussed above are available in a Modscape home. To enquire, visit the ‘contact’ section of our website.
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