Energy Efficient Homes Are Not Unicorns, They Are Horses.
Zero is Hero.
Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement for Shahrukh Khan’s upcoming movie. But, hey, if you’re interested in living in a net zero home, I’d recommend you spend the next 7 minutes reading this. It will change the way you look at your living spaces today.
What exactly is a Net Zero Home?
Simply put, it is a home which produces all the energy that it consumes. It does not actively borrow any energy from its environment.
So, how do you create a Net Zero living space?
Interestingly, adopting alternate energy is only the final step in making your home net zero. Every other step that needs to be taken before that, for energy efficiency, forms the foundation of such a home.
A New Direction To Building Houses?
While Vasthu Shastra is great to have on the checklist, it is important that we energetically evaluate the direction of the building, roof, and windows. Getting this right will optimise the light, energy, and temperature inside the house.
In India, an alignment towards the North is recommended for all openings in the building. Whereas, South facing is ideal for countries like the USA and Canada. (Read More: A Guide To Smarter Building Orientation)
That brings us to the unavoidable question that looms in the air when it comes down to the discussion around the affordability of sustainable living.
Does going green mean having to go broke? The answer is a resounding “No!”
Let’s indulge in some number crunching to understand that answer.
The 900 sq. ft. average Indian household spends around INR 40,000 in a year on utilities (electricity, fuel, maintenance costs, and more). This comes at the cost of having to come up with some form of jugaad to get through extreme weather situations.
Of course, that cost keeps on escalating at 15% every year.
On the other hand, to build a net zero home, it costs about INR 10 Lakhs. One-fourth of the cost is for your typical 3 kW — 5 kW Solar power system. Another fraction goes towards the geothermal heating-cooling system. The rest goes towards insulation, upgrading windows, and smart electrical fixtures.
Yes, the initial costs are high, but you get your returns in about 7 years at an average rate of 14–15%, which is higher than putting your money in a bank. Also, you are safeguarded from the hike in utility prices, apart from having the satisfaction of not contributing to carbon emissions and in-turn, climate change.
Energy efficient homes is not an alien concept. Net-zero caters to everyone who lives in a building. Whether you are renovating an existing property or building a new one, here’s what you can do.
1. Go Net Zero in phases. You need not go all in. Say, you could start with replacing inefficient fixtures and appliances with efficient ones. This step has the fastest rate of return.
2. Avail a subsidy and/or a loan. Local and national government bodies are constantly funding those who want to switch to a sustainable form of living.
3. Solar can pay for your Net Zero costs. The excess power produced from your Solar panels can pay off your loan.
Is Net Zero all about the brick and mortar?
Number crunching apart, the journey towards Net Zero living begins with a change in beliefs, attitude, and behaviour.
We really need to dig deeper to fully understand the impact of human behaviour on our own world. We care a lot about the status quo, e-wallet cash back, fastest route to avoid traffic, and other things that involve day-to-day living. But, is the energy we consume given the same level of importance?
How often have we shown an urgency to switch off a light in the corridor that was running unnecessarily? We succumb to the bystander effect in such a social situation.
Now is the time we start thinking about these questions because the energy crisis and climate change are not far-fetched textbook concepts anymore. They are real and impending.
Ironically, heroes can be zeroes.
Written by Aravind Kannan