Zero Energy Is Now Affordable

When it comes to building a zero energy home, CK Builders has the experts that know what technologies are the most cost-effective for our climate zone. If you have your own architect, we are happy to work with them, but you should call us at the outset of the design process to maximize the cost effectiveness of the design. Key design decisions are made in the first hour of the design process: location of the home relative to shade trees, orientation of the house and glazing to optimize passive solar features, and layout of the “plumbing core” to shorten plumbing lines, line losses and wait-time for hot water. Passive solar features by themselves can cut heating and cooling loads by over 50% with only a 3% increase in building costs.

The Stern House, built by CK’s Energy Division Manager, is a case study and research home that heats and cools itself without any use of energy or mechanical systems at all. During a recent heat wave (100+°F.), the residents reported the house remained a comfortable 72 degrees for days. In the winter, a thermal mass in the second floor equal to a 14” thick concrete slab is warmed by the winter sun, and keeps the house warm for days at a time without use of the back-up heat system. This thermal storage battery is far less expensive than a conventional ducted heating system, and will last 200 years without service and without monthly fuel bills. This home has a data acquisition system to measure exactly how it uses energy and maintains comfort. It will be the subject of an in-depth analysis in the coming year.

With every energy feature, starting with foam insulation under the concrete slab to heel-trusses in the roof assembly, the key is to understand that for a few dollars here and there you are drastically reducing the heating and cooling loads without resorting to expensive technologies. The cost of building “net zero energy” is only about 12% greater than conventional building methods for a typical 2000 s.f. home. The additional cost pays for itself within 10 years and continues to pay dividends for the next hundred years. Building any other way simply does not make sense.

Incorporation of space-age phase-change materials can make multi-story passive solar features affordable while altogether eliminating the need for a forced air heating system. With every energy feature, from foam insulation under the concrete slab to heel-trusses in the roof assembly, the key is to understand that for a few dollars here and there you are drastically reducing the heating and cooling loads without resorting to expensive technologies. The cost of building “net zero energy” is only about 12% greater than conventional building methods for a typical 2000 s.f. home. The additional cost pays for itself within 20 years and continues to pay dividends for the next hundred years. Building any other way simply does not make sense.

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