What is a Zero Energy Ready Home?

While most of us take steps to minimize energy use, some aim to eliminate energy use altogether – at least the use of nonrenewable energy. Zero energy ready homes are dwellings that are extremely energy efficient. So much so, they can be mostly or completely powered by a renewable energy system. 

Many environmentalists would say the goal is for all homes to be built zero energy ready and for existing homes to all be improved so that energy use is minimized as much as possible. That’s definitely the goal of the The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home Program. 

The Zero Energy Ready Home Program has resources for homeowners, buyers and builders on how homes can be built to reduce energy consumption. But the improvements go beyond energy efficiency. The aim with zero energy ready homes is to also increase quality of life, comfort and health with smarter home design and construction. 

Requirements for a Zero Energy Ready Home

Zero energy ready is actually a designation that has to be earned. The DOE has laid out a list of requirements that a home must meet to be considered zero energy ready. The requirements include:

  • Receiving ENERGY STAR certification 
  • Getting Indoor airPlus certification
  • 40-50% more energy efficient than the average new home
  • Home is built by an official Zero Energy Ready Home Program partner
  • Meeting state energy codes that exceed the program requirements

Basically, these are homes that are close to being net zero energy, but they aren’t quite there. They’re designed so that they could easily become net zero energy in the future. For example, a home may be wired so that a solar panel installation can be installed for maximum solar capture. All of the groundwork is there, just not the solar panels themselves. 

These homes shouldn’t be confused with ENERGY STAR homes. Zero energy ready homes actually go quite a bit further to increase efficiency and the longevity of the home. 

Benefits of Zero Energy Ready Homes

So why would someone go through the trouble to earn all of the certifications and pass all of the efficiency tests to get the zero energy ready label? It turns out there are a number of benefits when you have a zero energy ready home. 

Reduces monthly costs.

The biggest reason people want a zero energy ready home is the potential cost savings. The more energy efficient a home is, the less it will cost to power every month. The savings are so significant that improvements and upgrades pay for themselves over time. 

Incubates you from energy price increases.

A fixed rate energy plan makes utility costs more predictable for the course of the contract, and the same is true for a zero energy ready home with its own solar array. 

Gives you energy independence.

A number of people make their homes zero energy ready and net zero energy because they like the idea of being energy independent. No matter what’s happening with the grid, when you have your own power there’s less concern about your supply to a large degree. 

Feel better about having a lower impact.

For some homeowners, simply knowing that they are having a lower impact is a big reward. It provides peace of mind and guilt-free energy use. 

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