Net-Zero by Design – Lot Purchase

Site-plan-house-orientation

For optimal performance solar panels should face as close to due south as possible.

In Part 2 of Net-Zero by Design we’ll talk about the Lot Purchase. – In Part 1 of this Net-Zero by Design series of blogs, I mentioned that virtually all of the discovery we make during a Custom Home Design process applies to creating a Net-Zero Energy Home. But there is also much more to consider to create such a unique home. How unique? The Residential Energy Service Network, RESNET reports that as of 2015, there were only 185 Net-Zero Energy Homes in the United States, with 26 of them in Florida.

Energy Smart Home Plans was involved with over half of those homes and a many more that were never HERS tested but produce more energy than they consume. More recent data is not yet available but even if the numbers of Net-Zero Energy Homes is doubled or even tripled since 2015, the importance of working with those familiar with the latest technology is self-evident.

In our previous Custom Home Design series of blogs we talked about how important it is to have a recent survey of the property where the home will be built. Because the orientation of the home is so critical to achieving a Net-Zero Energy Home, it’s best that we are consulted even before your Lot Purchase! New Net-Zero Energy Home customers are not aware of how much efficiency is lost when the solar PV array is just a few degrees off from due south. See Example #1. By the time we are contacted however, most of our clients already own their lot and the home’s orientation has already been decided. If that’s the case…

Roof-real-estate-solar-panels

A 5kW Solar Panel Array meets the energy demands of our 1,593 sq. ft. home, which means it’s Net-Zero (When built to our Energy Smart Home Plan specifications)

“Will the front door face North?” Usually my next question. I ask since the vast majority of Net-Zero Energy Home owner’s do not want the solar panels on the front of the house. There’s also a very practical reason for not planning on a PV array at the front elevation. Even with our super energy-efficient homes, a solar array, sufficient to mitigate the home’s entire energy costs, takes up a lot of roof real estate! The front of the home is where the action is, that is to say, where the roof gets complicated, largely for aesthetic purposes. Our homeowners want cutting edge, energy saving technology designed into their home, but they also want it to be very attractive at the same time. No matter the budget, home owners want to feel a sense of pride when they arrive. Every roof is different, most of our homes have large roof areas to accommodate enough solar panels to mitigate most of your energy bill. See Example #2 The Net-Zero Clearwater below shows how comfortably the roof accommodates the necessary solar panels to get to Net-Zero. For more information on the performance of this amazing home see our Gainesville, Florida Case Study on this home.

Clearwater-solar-panels

The Clearwater Net-Zero Home has a 6.75 kWp Solar Array faces due south and takes full advantage of the Florida sunshine.

Your Lot Purchase is important if you want to get to Net-Zero.

Added to the mix is how narrow and deep, rather than wide and shallow lots are in SW Florida, sometimes making a PV solar array on the rear roof of the house impossible. Then, it’s best for the front door to face East or West with the solar array on the side of the home. In rural areas with enough property, being able to orient the home on the lot where the setbacks allow, is the far easier path. If a Net-Zero Energy Home is your next home, I say engage us as early as possible!

Since I’m often asked, I want to say three words about off-site or remote solar panels. Forget about it. The short explanation is the amount of resistance transmitting that energy any distance results in energy loss that makes the application too expensive for single residences.

In Part 3 of the Net-Zero Energy Home blog series, we’ll delve deeper into what it takes to create a super low energy consuming, hi-performance home and indeed one that is Net-Zero Energy!

Dave Jenkins

Dave Jenkins is a leading designer of Hi-Performance homes for the residential market. His award-winning home designs boast the nation's most energy-efficient homes available. Dave has over 25 years of experience in high-end, residential design and illustration for luxury builders and developers.

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