Energy Efficient and Zero Energy Home - Is There Any Difference?

‘Sustainability’ is a word on everyone’s lips these days. For you as a homeowner, this development probably evokes climate change and other environmental topics, but it also spells out financial savings and improved well-being.  As many good things, sustainability begins at home, and we at BIY believe in designing and building your home to be sustainable right from the start. To start you off right, we will need to know whether you are aiming for an energy-efficient home or a full-on zero energy home. The two may sound synonymous, but there are important differences that will impact your lifestyle and purse accordingly. Let us dive right into it! 

The Makings and Marks of an Energy-Efficient Home 

It may be tempting to pin your home’s energy efficiency on its appliances. Although it is true that it pays to invest in energy-efficient household items, the bulk of your energy costs is buried in your heating bill. This bill, in turn, depends largely on the design of your home and on its physical properties. Here is where BIY’s expertise comes into play. 

Designing a home to be energy-efficient takes careful planning. Whether we are dealing with a remodel or a totally new construction, we leverage the expertise of our teams of architectural designersstructural engineers, and quantity surveyors in order to create, build up, and budget your self-build project according to the latest building standard and your personal specifications. An interior designer and a paint colour consultant will help you put the finishing touches, but none of that truly matters until we have established and met your energy-efficiency goals. 

Tackling Energy Efficiency Systematically 

For starters, we will take a comprehensive whole-house systems approach in order to incorporate all relevant variables into the planning of your energy-efficient home. These include your lifestyle and behaviour, your home’s location and respective climatic conditions, and the sources of light, water, and energy that you will depend on. At this stage it is wise to consider switching to renewable energy sources and explore various options of incorporating them directly in your self-build. Solar panels on the roof or solar water heating are the most common examples. 

A range of other energy-efficiency hacks may also interest you, such as: 

The Final Frontier: Your Zero Energy Home 

All the measures above can be incorporated into your bespoke self-build home, but they will not necessarily attain the ‘zero energy’ medal. The European Union’s Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings from 2010 defines a ‘near zero building’ to require very little energy input that is satisfied by renewable energy, ideally produced on-site or in close proximity. 

If the idea of waving good-bye to your energy bills and sporting energy credits by generating more than you use interests you, going the zero-energy route might be the thing for you. The BIY experts will be more than happy to design your attractive and sustainable zero energy home with you. Unlike efficiency hacking, however, going for the gold has larger implications. 

Zero Energy Requires an Initial Investment 

Aside from the energy-efficiency measures we already covered, going for the big zero means implementing more advanced structural and design decisions. For starters, both the exterior and interior of your home would require special insulation that will restrict airflow and heat loss and gain during the changing seasons. If you wish to have a basement, this means pouring concrete, spray-foaming and dry-walling it for optimum results.

To further cut your energy spend, a geothermal heating and cooling system can cut your footprint by more than half. Although it may seem expensive, it pays off over time. Be sure to tell BIY your long-term plans for the self-build home, so that we can advise you on the right amount and kind of investment you should pour into it! 

Sustainability as a Lifestyle Choice 

When you weigh your energy-efficiency vs zero energy options, you should consider the wider implications the two labels carry for your everyday life at home. Designing for efficiency is generally less obtrusive and accommodates a variety of lifestyles and behaviours. By most accounts, increasing your home’s energy efficiency scores will not have a noticeable impact on your life, if you do not count the savings. 

Going zero energy, on the other hand, may come with some caveats. The most obvious one is the higher initial investment that may be a challenge, even if it is guaranteed to pay off in the long run. Another is the necessity to generate your energy on-site, which may be unreliable or cumbersome at times, though can you argue against the benefit? For a thorough discussion of all options and implications, BIY is here for you!