The Cottle Zero Energy Home: A stepping stone towards the 2020 CA Zero Net Energy mandate

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The Cottle Zero Energy Home

All over the world, a higher level of emphasis is being placed on environmental sustainability as evidenced by the increase in efforts towards energy efficiency and green building. Countries are in constant search of new technologies with the promise of reducing carbon footprint and optimizing the use of available energy without causing harm to the environment. The state of California is one of a few places that is achieving this goal. This is best represented through their ambitious goal of making all new homes zero net energy by the year 2020. Some might think that this is too big of an endeavor, but the state is slowly making the necessary steps to finally show the world that this is possible.

The Cottle Home

As part of commencing the efforts towards zero net energy, One Sky Homes has introduced The Cottle Zero Energy Home, which is the very first of its kind and has been lauded by the California Energy Commission. For those who would like to experience what it is like to be living in such a place, it may not be an easy feat as it comes with a hefty price tag of $2.2 million. More than the luxurious build of the home, obviously, its biggest selling point is its efficient use of energy. Generally speaking, one house in California will most likely consume energy worth over $100 monthly. On the other hand, with The Cottle (in San Jose, CA), the energy consumption is $15 (or usually less, due to standard utility connection fees) monthly.

The Mandate for a Greener Future

The inception of the Cottle Home was part of the idea of transforming the entire state into a greener place and it serves as an example for other states to have similar initiatives. California has recently mandated that all new home construction must be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020. All new commercial buildings in the state must be ZNE by 2030

The Goals of Zero Net Energy

A ZNE home reduces space heating, cooling and water heating loads. More high-end insulation is required, along with air tight construction and advanced home air filtration and conditioning. Appliances in the home should also be of the highest efficiency that is affordable. A ZNE home uses higher efficiency lighting. After the home has been made as energy efficient as possible, a photovoltaic (PV) system is installed to provide the electricity used in the home and offset electricity supplied by the utility, so the home produces as much energy as it consumes (at times, a ZNE produces more energy than it consumes).

The program is to make 100% of all residential buildings, in California, zero net energy by 2020. This may not be an easy feat, but the government is serious about such endeavor. One of their more specific goals is to create awareness about what zero net energy is, what its benefits are, and ultimately, to increase demand of ZNE homes from the public. The government is also aimed towards making sure that technological tools for ZNE homes are available, which will make the shift easier for all stakeholders. It is also paramount to make sure that building codes and regulations are aligned with the policies for zero net energy. Lastly, the government also aims to provide incentives to trigger participation from the public and to ensure the achievement of its goal by 2020.

Not an Easy Path

While the Zero Net Energy policy seems to be very promising, there are challenges that should be addressed. Among others, the most significant challenges are in relation to cost and public awareness. It is without a doubt that these energy efficient homes will be expensive, and this is one major hindrance towards their adoption. To add, the government is also hindered by the lack of public awareness about how ZNE can be done and how they will benefit from its adoption. In the long run, when the public is left ignorant, it may be quite a challenge to have the goal achieved by the year that has been initially set.

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Sustainability Trends

Ideas for a Greener Home

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Use eco-friendly cleaning supplies
  • Favor cloth over paper products
  • Chlorine-free baby diapers/ wipes
  • Choose natural lawn care - stop using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers
  • Use biodegradable detergent and oxygen bleach
  • For clean, safe drinking water without all of the waste - use a water filter and a reusable bottle
  • Install low-flow toilets

Energy Saving Ideas

  • Use CFL or LED light bulbs
  • Use Energy Star labeled equipment
  • Turn off all home and office equipment when not in use
  • Turn off lights when not in use
  • Turn down the thermostat - lowering it by just one degree can reduce heating energy costs significantly
  • Avoid phantom loads (electrical equipment that still uses energy even after turned off) by using a power strip
  • Reduce your water heater temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees
  • Install double pane windows