Mediaplanet: What are some common misconceptions surrounding net zero homes?

Mike Holmes: I often hear people say that net zero homes are expensive, that they are just a fad, or that they don’t make an environmental difference. Yes, the purchase of a home is the single most expensive purchase of people’s lives— however, with traditional homes there are many different options, sizes, and price brackets available. Net zero homes are heat-efficient, which means you will spend less per month on heating costs—  in some regions you can sell unused energy back to the grid for more savings. As more homeowners adopt net-zero technology at home, we should start to see them become much more affordable for all homeowners. Another misconception I often hear about is that existing homes can’t be made energy-efficient. You can make small upgrades to your current home that will lower your energy consumption.

MP: What are the benefits of living in an energy efficient home?

Mike Holmes Jr: One of the biggest benefits I often talk about with energy efficient homes is improved indoor air quality. Optimal indoor air quality takes into account air-flow, heat and moisture. The air inside your home can actually be more polluted than the air outside of it.  Using heat recovery ventilators (HRV) and air exchangers will help circulate air flow and remove unwanted moisture and pollutants, creating a comfortable or optimal indoor temperature with less variation. These mechanical systems are designed to use less energy and thus cost savings on your energy bills and lower maintenance costs.  Another benefit in an energy efficient home is using renewable clean energy, like solar panels, as it lessens our reliance on fossil fuels and provides a positive impact on the environment. In my energy efficient home, I have an 8-hour battery backup of stored energy from my solar panels (photovoltaic) and all my excess energy goes back to the grid for more cost savings on my bill! A durable, energy efficient and well-ventilated home should appeal to anyone thinking of selling their home in the future.

MP: What changes are required to transform your existing home into a net zero home?

MH: I always suggest that homeowners start from the outside and work their way in. The first thing I would suggest is looking at your building envelope. A home that is properly insulated, with minimal air leakage around doors and windows, will use every bit of energy it expends to run the house efficiently. When you have a tightly sealed house you can invest in ways to keep your energy and resource usage low. Make sure caulking and weather-stripping around doors and windows is intact, and replace as necessary.

If your HVAC system still has some life left, consider adding a digital programmable thermostat to your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit. It’s an easy project that you can do on your own. Plus, they save you money, help provide consistent temperature throughout your home, and improve your home’s efficiency.

Switch from regular fluorescent light bulbs to LED light bulbs. They use around 90 percent less energy than traditional lighting.

Another easy way to conserve water usage in your home is to switch old toilets for low-flow models. These models reduce the amount of water you flush down the toilet.  You can also swap your faucets and shower heads for more efficient fixtures.

I’d also suggest collecting your rainwater in barrels or cisterns. This will give you a renewable source of water to irrigate your lawn and garden instead of using treated water from the taps.

Another change that is easy and can be done gradually is to be smart with your landscaping. Keep your yard natural, preserve your mature trees, and introduce native plants to your area that will require less watering.