We all know its savvy to save, but what if everybody could cut their home energy bill to zero? Greenstone Homes, one of the area’s leading builders predicts that one day we’ll to do just that.
Sounds great, but how is it accomplished? A net-zero, sometimes referred to as a zero energy home, is the answer. It’s just like any home - except it’s better. A zero energy home combines advanced design and superior building systems with energy efficiency and on-site solar panels, resulting in renewable energy generated from the sun. Zero energy homes are ultra-comfortable, healthy, quiet, sustainable homes that result in energy savings and, therefore, have the ability to offer a greatly reduced or even a zero energy cost for its occupants.
Greenstone Homes, which has been building homes throughout the Inland Northwest since1983, recently built a net-zero concept home in their Rocky Hill neighborhood, nestled in Liberty Lake. The home produces enough energy onsite to meet the occupants’ needs. Drew Benado, building division manager for Greenstone Corporation, says the home is creating a lot of interest. Fans of the local builder are not surprised they are one of the companies blazing the trail for "green" building in the Inland Northwest.
In addition to solar panels and increased and more complete insulation, Greenstone uses an advanced framing technology, and the company has been committed for some time to using low-emissions paints and carpeting to improve air quality. Building "green" involves a lot more than just the use of generated energy from elements such as sun or wind. Benado says there’s a big emphasis on completely insulating the home, and that even 5-star energy appliances play a role in the "green" endeavor.
These homes are so efficient that sometimes more energy is produced than needed. Tom Lienhard, Avista’s chief energy efficiency engineer, says that excess energy can be credited for future months when the occupant may need to use more energy. Lienhard suggests thinking of Avista as a battery for energy, only using it when needed. At the end of the year, any leftover balance its zeroed out; hence, the moniker net-zero homes. Basically, these homes are regular grid-tied homes that, when built to "green" standards, are so air-tight, well insulated and energy efficient that they produce as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year, leaving the occupants with a net-zero energy bill, and a carbon-free home.
Lienhard recommends that if someone is interested in adopting renewable energy products such as solar grids into their life, the first step is to reduce their energy consumption. This is a smart prerequisite to investing in renewable products. After reducing consumption and making your home as energy efficient as possible, only then should one look at matching renewable products to the level of required energy left to tend to. Common ways to reduce your energy are turning off lights, buying appliances with a good energy rating and insulating your home from top to bottom.
Global climate change is one of today’s most pressing issues with most of people in favor of taking meaningful action. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) claims that buildings alone are responsible for 40% of the primary energy used in the United States. In addition, buildings account for 72% of the electricity consumption and are responsible for 39% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. "Green" building has the opportunity to reduce these staggering statistics dramatically. Zero energy homes are a cornerstone of a reduced carbon future -- one that is not reliant on fossil fuels.
Owning a net-zero home puts you in control of where your home’s energy comes from. Jim Frank, founder of Greenstone Corporation knows renewable energy is the future of home building nationally. Frank says that the state of California already has mandates in place for builders to exclusively build energy efficient homes by 2020. It is not known how soon Washington State will follow, but Lienhard reports that the state has good incentives and tax credits in place for home owners and businesses to adopt renewables.
This summer, Greenstone is adding what may be the area’s largest solar ray system to Kendall Yards, the corporation’s thriving urban mixed-use neighborhood. The 35-kilowatt community-based system will supply all the energy for the businesses and common spaces, which includes the business district street lights and charging stations. Although Frank says the corporation wasn’t named Greenstone 35 years ago with "green" building in mind, it now seems quite appropriate as he assures us there’s more to come.
You can learn more about the Greenstone net-zero concept home located in the Rocky Hill neighborhood at 2101 N. Wolfe Penn St Liberty Lake. It is open for viewing, from noon to 4 p.m., weekly, Thursday through Monday. No reservations required.
Laurie Allen is a freelance writer, and a realtor with Windermere City Group, LLC.