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What Does Zero Net Energy Mean to California Homeowners?

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

Starting this year, new single family homes and multi-family residential buildings of up to three stories in height will be required to be Zero Net Energy properties.

Zero Net Energy or ZNE means that all of the energy used to supply the property with electricity must be generated at the property so that electricity is not consumed from the public utility grid. California made this decision in 2013 to required new homes to be ZNE starting in 2020.

If you have an existing home and are planning to significantly remodel and/or add to it so that it becomes classified as a new home, your property will need to be ZNE.

Currently, the only viable option in urban and suburban neighborhoods to create electricity on a property is through solar panels (AKA photovoltaics). So, ZNE homes will need to have solar panels designed to cover all the energy needs of the home. California also allows for some reductions in the amount of solar panels if a battery backup system, such as the Tesla Powerwall, is installed at that home.

Complicating matters, is that many municipalities have hastily adopted REACH codes, meaning that no new natural gas infrastructure will be allowed. That means that new homes also need to heat water, and heat the environment without the use of natural gas.

Be sure to consult with your local municipality and architect about the ZNE requirements for your new homes while still in the early design process. Planning ahead will help you prepare for the cost and won’t compromise the design quality of the home you desire.

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