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Net-Zero and Near Zero Homes

There’s a new buzzword in the green building industry: “Net Zero” and “Near Zero” construction. Homes thus labeled are outfitted with energy-efficient materials (tighter insulation, draft-resistant windows and doors) as well as solar features which enable a home to actually produce energy and, thus, consume less (or no) power from the local grid. If you’ve purchased a net zero or near zero home, lucky you: Keep an eye on utility bills and watch for months when you’ll pay either nothing or only nominal amounts.

If you’re interested in converting an existing home to a net zero or near zero set-up, contact your local utility providers and ask if they, via your state, will let your home “give back” to the energy grid you pull from and can track the progress on utility bills. Once you’ve established local applicability, research options for using solar, wind, or other forms of natural power to power your property. Condo dwellers interested in net zero or near zero can approach their homeowners association about purchasing such power on a multi-family scale. The US government will extend tax credits through 2016 for up to 30% of the cost, with no upper limit, for purchase and installation of “green” power sources, including geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar water heaters, small-scale wind energy systems, and fuel cell-driven energy. For more information about current green energy incentives, check Energy Star www.energystar.gov.

For information about renewable energy incentives in your state, refer to the Database of State Incentives at www.dsireusa.org.