A carbon-neutral home, also referred to as a ‘carbon zero’ or ‘zero emission’ home, is a sustainable dwelling that generates as much renewable energy as it consumes, resulting in zero carbon emissions.
These thoughtfully designed homes not only benefit the environment but also prove advantageous for your finances by eliminating expenses for electricity, gas, and other household services.
While the upfront cost of constructing a carbon-neutral home may appear significant to some, it is essential to consider it as a long-term investment. The initial expenses incurred will be recouped repeatedly in the years to come. In fact, recent calculations by the Alternative Technology Association suggest that solar panels, a crucial component of a self-sustaining home, can pay for themselves within 2-6 years, depending on the location in Australia. Beyond that, it becomes a profitable venture.
However, achieving a carbon-neutral home goes beyond solely relying on solar panels. So, how can we ensure our homes are future-proofed with a zero-emission construction?
Opting for an off-the-plan home may be alluring, but it often fails to account for the unique characteristics of your specific site, potentially leading to suboptimal orientation. Each site experiences variations in light, heat, and breezes, making it crucial to consider these factors. Without site-specific considerations, a home might receive inadequate sunlight during winter and excessive heat during summer.
Collaborating with an architect who will tailor the design to your site ensures the incorporation of passive heating and cooling principles. By leveraging the natural elements, such as cool breezes in summer and the orientation of northerly sun in winter, a custom-designed home maximizes energy efficiency. In certain climates, it can even eliminate the need for artificial heating and cooling altogether. Additionally, a passive design capitalises on natural sunlight, reducing reliance on energy-consuming artificial lighting.
2. PRODUCE YOUR OWN (CLEAN) POWER
Generate your own renewable energy by strategically installing solar panels. When estimating your energy requirements, take into account the unique energy needs of your new build, which may differ from your previous home due to the adoption of passive home methods, a new layout/size, and potentially new appliances. If you’re partnering with Modscape to bring your new home to life, we can assist you with these calculations.
Australia boasts the highest average solar radiation per square meter of any continent globally, so take full advantage of this abundant resource. By incorporating battery storage, you can store any surplus power for periods with less sunshine, ensuring you never have to rely on purchasing electricity from the grid.
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
Opt for materials that complement the passive design strategy, such as double or triple-glazed windows or low-e glass (Modscape homes are equipped 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%. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that your windows work in harmony with your home’s energy efficiency goals.
Additionally, minimise your home’s energy demand by selecting low-energy appliances. Incorporate solar hot water systems, opt for water and energy-efficient appliances, choose low-flush toilets, LED light bulbs, induction cooktops, and heat pump water heaters. These choices will help keep your energy consumption low without compromising your lifestyle.
Enhance your sustainability efforts by cultivating your own food in the backyard or rooftop garden. Not only does this practice provide fresh produce, but it also contributes to the thermal mass of your home, helping to regulate indoor temperatures by keeping it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Additionally, consider investing in a rainwater tank to further increase your self-sufficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
Moreover, after settling into your new home, make it a habit to regularly monitor your energy production and consumption. This allows you to identify areas where adjustments and improvements can be made. With advancing technology, there are always opportunities to further enhance our environmental impact and strive for a better 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.