Unscrambling Energy Efficiency Lingo

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Photographer: Ron Ruscio

Energy efficient home terminology can make anyone feel lost without an industry translator by his or her side. Terms overlap in literal words and have vastly different meanings, and lengthy lists of requirements and benefits of each term exist without corresponding fundamental definitions. The following helps navigate four of the most common energy efficient home terminologies:

Energy efficient home (n.): a home that utilizes less energy than a traditional home without compromising services to home owners and occupants

Energy efficiency can be achieved through things such as improved thermal envelopes, solar oriented construction, low-e windows, and efficient appliances. Note that energy efficiency and energy conservation are different in that conservation efforts reduce or eliminate services in order to save energy. Read more about what it means to be energy efficient from Brighton Homes, a 2014 EnergyStar Partner of the Year (link to http://www.brightonhomes-idaho.com/about/green_building/).

(Net) Zero energy home (n.): a home whose energy production and consumption are equivalent

Energy production, perhaps most commonly addressed through home solar panel installation, must be equal to the family’s needs. To help achieve net zero energy, the home should be designed in a holistic, whole-house approach that strives for efficiency and reduces energy consumption without sacrificing services. To see a built example of zero energy homes, take a look at Kaupuni Village in Hawaii (link to http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/53401.pdf).

(Net) Zero energy ready home (n): a home that is outfitted with the necessary structural, technological, etc. support to install energy producing technologies

Net zero energy ready homes are appropriate for home owners who plan to install energy producing technology in the future but do not have the means or goal to do so at the present time; however, when it comes time to install such technology, the home just needs to be, almost literally, plugged in to harness the produced energy. Take a look at this San Marcos, CA home by KB Home (link to http://energy.gov/eere/buildings/downloads/building-america-doe-challenge-home-case-study-kb-home-san-marcos-ca).

(Net) Positive energy home (n.): a home that produces a surplus of energy that is superfluous for the operation of the home

These are homes that can receive credit for the excess energy returned to the grid that is produced by the energy technologies and saved by energy efficiency measures. To read more about a built net positive energy home, see the Mission Zero House by Matt and Kelly Grocoff (link to http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/homes/mission-zero-house-net-zero-retrofit).

Have you heard any other energy efficient home words or phrases lately? Leave them in the comments below!

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