Living in a net zero energy home and producing more energy than we use is fun for many reasons. I chuckle when people dismiss energy efficiency and going net zero as too costly. The most expensive thing you can do is keep your old energy-wasting appliances, let your old windows continue to leak air, welcome the mice and other critters into your un- or under-insulated attic and walls, and keep paying erratic energy prices for the next 30 years.
Net zero energy is not a challenge. It's a choice.
Here are some numbers from my 112-year-old folk-Victorian home that may help you choose the path to net zero energy.
The number of dollars we paid our utility company in 2012
The number of kilowatts we sent back to the utility company that we did not use
Our balance on our utility bill as of December 13, 2012. Note that is a minus sign before the dollar sign. They owe us.
The number of years until our solar loan is completely paid off. And we'll still have no energy bills ever again.
The number of miles per gallon that we are getting in our Chevy Volt.
At home we plug the car into our solar-powered house. We've traveled from Ann Arbor to Chicago, Toronto, and Pittsburgh, in addition to using the car for all of our other non-walking/biking transportation. But we've used less than 10 gallons per month. I'm embarrassed by this. One friend is getting 140 mpg, and another is getting 243 mpg in their extended-range electric Volts.
The approximate amount we'll get back from our utility company for Renewable Energy Credits for the amount of solar energy we produced this year.
Loads of laundry we did in 2012. The average U.S. family does 400 loads of laundry. So, you can have all the same comforts without relying on dirty fossil fuels dug up from the ground thousands of miles away. And did I mention that we don't pay a utility bill?
The gallons of hot water we saved this year by using high-performance, 1.5 gallon-per-minute shower heads. Check out this video and Environment Report story about the new generation of shower heads.
The amount we reduced our geothermal heating and cooling energy use by installing a smart thermostat.
The number of watts used by each of the new LED bulbs we installed in our dining room chandelier. Each one of the incandescent bulbs we had when we moved in used 15 watts. The five LED bulbs combined use only 15 watts. The LED bulbs can be dimmed, they contain no mercury, they don't give off as much heat (90 percent of the energy of the incandescent bulbs were wasted as heat), and they can last for 25 years. LEDs are offered in a greater variety of designs than any previous type of bulb. There are even bulbs designed for historic light fixtures. (Read LED Lights for Historic Houses.)