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All Electric and Zero Net Energy Homes

July 20, 2018

By John Matheny. When building a new home or doing a major remodel, an important consideration is how it will be heated and cooled, which appliances to use and evaluate constructing an all electric Zero Net Energy home. Natural gas for ambient and water heating was long seen as the most efficient and cost effective option, but advances in technology have made it entirely possible to have a Zero Net Energy home, with all electricity coming from the sun and not fossil fuels.

In a Zero Net Energy building, the total amount of energy used in a year is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy produced on site, and adds less overall greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than similar structures. Although a Zero Net Energy building may occasionally use non-renewable energy and produce greenhouse gas, at other times it reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas production by the same amount. An All Electric Home with a grid-tied solar system reduces greenhouse gas emissions efficiently and effectively.

Briefly popular in the 1970s, the All Electric Home is making a comeback. It lost popularity when people realized heating with electricity was extremely inefficient. The trend then shifted back to heating with natural gas and propane. Since then, major breakthroughs have been made in heat pump technology. This link explains how heat pumps work:

A split pump allows one unit to be both an air conditioner and heat source, and multiple units work together to heat and cool a home. Split pumps only use electricity, so their energy consumption can be offset by a grid-tied solar installation. In addition, many of these systems do not use forced air or ducts, so they are quieter and cleaner.

In general, the cost of removing an existing furnace or HVAC system and replacing it with a heat pump system can be cost-prohibitive unless the system needs to be replaced. For a new building, a heat pump is cost-effective in the long run and provides a more comfortable environment.

Water heaters and clothes dryers are now available with heat pump technology, making them much more efficient than older counterparts. Many Foodies will not want anything but a high quality gas-powered stovetop. No worries, there are multi-fuel ranges that use electricity to heat the oven, and natural gas or propane for the stovetop. Infrared and induction stovetops are available for completely clean-energy options.

Switching from carbon-based fuel to a grid-tied solar installation is positive from an environmental perspective, and also provides financial benefits by reducing long-term energy-related expenses. For more information on the Zero Net Energy Home:

Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), our local Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) offers incentives for those who rebuild with no gas hook up. For more information, visit their site:

Please contact Solar Works to learn more about how solar can help you achieve a more energy-efficient home or business.