101 Alernative Energy: Zeroing In

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By Sarah Rich
It’s become increasingly common to hear the term“zero energy” or “zero carbon” used to describe buildings that achieve complete energy sustainability by generating as much energy as they consume
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Zero-energy homes require no input from nonrenewable off-site power sources, emit no net greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and sometimes feed surplus energy back into the grid. Many combinations of passive and active gener-ation can be used for designing a zero-energy structure, depending on what’s appropriate for local climate, budget, site regulations, codes, and individual preferences.     

Passive efficiency strategies are best implemented during the construction phase. These include things like orientation on the site for maximum southern sun exposure during winter months, natural ventilation systems, strategically placed windows and shade trees, and thermal mass that can absorb and retain heat. More active strategies include geothermal heat pumps that recover energy from ground sources, and wind turbines placed on site.

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