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What is the difference between off-grid and net-zero homes? Off-grid and net-zero are two terms that can get tossed around when talking about alternative energy. It’s important to understand: off-grid and net-zero are not the same things. They are two very different ideas! Off-grid homes are entirely removed from the established electric infrastructure. These homes are, quite literally, off the electrical grid. A net-zero home uses alternative energy to reduce or remove its impact on the electrical grid. It is still connected to the grid, and net-zero homeowners may be receiving a rebate from their local energy utility to sell back energy.
You could argue that an off-grid home is net-zero; they are, in fact, two different ideas. Any home can be net-zero, but not all homes can be off-grid. Is one really better or worse than the other? Choosing off-grid versus net-zero homes is a decision that is unique to each household and their particular needs and desires.
Most people that decide an off-grid lifestyle is for them also intend to build a house. Usually, the home is specifically designed for being off-grid and using alternative energy sources. If you choose to go in this direction, building a home is something you’ll need to consider.
It can be more expensive to build, but it is easier to customize a home you design yourself. Plus you can make it suitable for things like wind or solar energy. In addition, by building, you can better take advantage of how you place your home. You can build it so that it gets more heat from the sun in winter. You have the freedom to design a home that creates shade to reduce cooling costs. A pre-built home removes these choices from you. They are important considerations as well since heating and cooling are a significant draw on your electricity.
Learn more about what it means to live off-grid versus homesteading – we break it down for you here!
A net-zero home can be almost as rural as any off-grid home. You may be using a well and septic system to handle your water and waste needs. You might not have regular garbage service, and your nearest neighbor might be a mile away. But a net-zero home is still connected to the energy grid, even if they do not use grid energy. Net-zero homes tend to have more insulation and better windows than homes that aren’t net-zero. Greater insulation helps to prevent air leakage. This, in turn, reduces the amount of energy needed for things like heating and cooling. However, they also generally need whole-house ventilation to keep the air circulating in their homes.
If you’re considering going net-zero with your home, one of the first things to pursue is energy-efficient appliances. The goal of being net-zero is to return any energy you borrow from the electrical grid. You do this by making your own electricity on-site through alternative energy like solar. This allows your home to be as energy-efficient as possible. An inefficient home will have an energy debt. You’ll have to pay this ‘debt’ in the form of your utility bill.
Alternative Energy Homes for Homesteaders
Only you can decide if building an off-grid or net-zero home is suitable for your family. There are many different considerations for each. Plus, solar energy rebates have made adding solar panels to your home a very popular option for many people. Even those not interested in a homesteading lifestyle are using them.
The technology for solar panels has evolved over the years. They’re now able to pick up energy even in places where winter can be a burden. Plus, they’re even more effective in cold weather than hot! Whether you choose to build an off-grid home or go net-zero, everyone should consider alternative energy. It is worth investigating ways you can incorporate energy efficiency and alternative energy generation for your home. The lowered utility costs can make the changes well worth it. Plus, you may even be able to get a rebate back from your utility company by selling them electricity.