Economics For Zero Energy Homes Are Changing

The economics for zero-energy (ZE) and zero-energy ready (ZER) homes, or homes that produce as much energy as they use, is changing. According to Green Building Advisor’s Alisa Petersen and Michael Gartman, ZE homes are often marketed as luxury, due to their high-cost premiums, but they have quietly become cost-effective. The duo looked over the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Economics of Zero-Energy Homes: Single Family Insights report and learned the following.
1. ZE homes already approach cost parity
Contrary to popular belief, ZER homes fall under a 3% incremental cost in most parts of the country, with that cost dropping under 1% in select locations such as Houston, Texas. Developers may even be able to construct these homes at cost parity in locations with stricter baseline codes (our analysis assumed construction meeting the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code) and aggressive incentive offerings from local utilities (which we did not consider in our work). The solar panels necessary to bring those ZER homes to ZE bring the incremental cost to 7% to 8%; however, a wide array of solar financing options can be used to cover part or all of that additional cost.
2. Costs will continue to decline
Although the results of this report show that constructing ZE homes can be economical for most homeowners in most locations today, it’s important to understand how costs are expected to change in the future. Industry progress and demand for super-efficient building components is expected to drive cost savings over the next decade. Specifically, our projected cost decline is a result of PV costs dropping, reduced PV system size requirements (due to equipment efficiency gains), and efficient equipment becoming more mainstream.

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