Sensible Net-Zero by Design

Sensible Net-Zero by Design


The energy consumption of new home construction today is basically between these 3 options.

This is the 6th and final blog of this Net-Zero by Design Series. By now it’s plain to understand that a Net-Zero Energy Home is not just any home covered in solar panels, with awful windows and poor insulation. I actually see homes covered in solar panels, every now and then and figure that the homeowner’s first call was to the solar panel salesman. That’s the last call a homeowner should make if a Net-Zero Energy Home is your goal!

Step 1 The first order of business is to find the right lot. Remember in the first Net-Zero Energy Home Blog we talked about the home’s orientation. We just don’t want that front door facing south.

Step 2 is finding an architect or home design professional (Custom Home Design) who understands the process of getting you there, preferably one who’s actually done it. It would not hurt to ask what their experience is with mechanical systems and how they incorporate them into their home design. If the answer is “the mechanical system is someone else’s job,” it’s best to move on. At the very least, the potential designer should have a good understanding about the importance of the system as well as designing the ducts in conditioned space.

Step 3 Finding the right builder is perhaps even more critical.

Talk to your builder


Tavernier built as a true Net-Zero Home in Ft. Myers, Florida.

My questions for a builder prospect would be:

1. Have you built a Net-Zero Energy Home?

2. What is the energy history of homes you built? (To the extent the builder knows the answer to that question is a good indicator how important the customer and the performance of the home is to the builder.)

3. Ask the builder if they HERS test their homes, BEFORE ADDING SOLAR, and if so what HERS number is typical? (50’s is good, 40’s is great!) It would not hurt to ask to see the document. A HERS score higher than 60 will mean more expensive solar panels than a hi-performing home offers. Simplifying it a bit, a 70 HERS home will require 25% more solar panels to reach Net-Zero than a 45 HERS rated home.

The Tavernier shown above is a beautiful example of a True Net-Zero Home.

When I interview builders I always ask what square feet per ton of AC their homes perform at. Many do not know what I’m asking, several have said “industry standard, 500 – 600 square feet per ton,” and some have said “that’s my HVAC guys’ department.”

Sensible Net-Zero

The first and the last builder I would not consider introducing to my customers. The builder who quoted the 500 – 600 square feet number may understand the significance when they learn homes built from our Energy Smart Home Plans routinely perform at better then double that, remarkably well over 1,300 square feet per ton! Unlike the window’s SHGC, the higher the square foot per ton number, the more energy-efficient and better built is the home, frankly.

A quality builder is more likely to be willing to try something new. How they respond to the questions above will tell you a lot about just how conscientious they really are. And of course you can spend a lot of money on solar panels and AC units, but why spend more than you really have to? We offer sensible Net-Zero by design.

To start the process, you should begin by calling me, Dave Jenkins, the owner of Energy Smart Home Plans and Wright Jenkins Home Design, my luxury custom home design business. If you are planning on building either a super energy-efficient or Net-Zero Energy Home in Southwest Florida, I’d be happy to introduce you to an Net-Zero Energy Home owner and the builder who constructed their home! I can be reached at my office at 239.498.1088 or on my cell at 239.218.3508.

Thank you for following this blog series, please share with your friends and family. We appreciate your comments, and questions are always welcome.

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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