Understanding Net Zero

When I retired from Xerox in July 2013 we knew that we wanted to build an energy efficient house but we really didn’t know what that meant. I’ve always been interested in energy efficiency and solar energy so those were areas where I started my research. I’ve got a mechanical engineering degree and over the years I’ve undertaken numerous remodeling projects in our existing house. During my research I came across Green Building Advisor which is a great resource for building energy and building science advice. When I found the NESEA site I was really excited because I was drawn to the idea of a community of building energy professionals.

I’ve always been excited to learn new things and ideas so I was immediately drawn to the Building Energy Masters Series. I ended up signing up for and completing Marc Rosenbaum’s course titled ‘Zero Net Energy Homes’ in the spring of 2014. The course has a lot of good information and steps through the building science, design parameters, and considerations to design a net zero energy house. Marc’s energy model that’s included in the course has inputs for the parameters required to ultimately size a PV solar array to get to net zero.

I also attended my first NESEA conference at BE14. After the conference there were three main things that really stuck out in my mind : 1) I was really developing a passion for all this building energy stuff; 2) there were a lot of very smart people at the conference and there was a great culture of trying to do the right thing for the environment; 3) there still seems to be a fair amount of discovery that is taking place with building science. An example of this is the varying opinions on ventilation rates, which rooms to provide supply air and which rooms to pull exhaust air and whether to use an ERV or HRV.

In the fall of 2014 I attended HERS rater training at Performance Systems Development (PSD) in Ithaca, NY. The course was taught by two very knowledgeable instructors, Ethan MacCormick and Emelie Cuppernell, who had numerous real life examples to support their review of building science in addition to training the use of REMRate software.

About the same time that I attended BE14 I decided to start a company to do residential energy modeling and consulting in order to put my new knowledge to work and to help people make informed decisions with respect to their energy usage and carbon footprint. I continued my learning by attending BE15 with the New Energy Works Timber Frame Homes team of Ty Allen, Todd Campbell and Jonathan Orpin, who we are working with to design our home.

Building our CreekSide Net Zero house will allow me to ‘walk the talk’ and to put my new learning into practice.

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