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Designing for Net Zero

Designing from the beginning with net zero as a goal is an effective way to cut construction costs. This house was designed from the get go as a passive and active solar home. Simply by designing the placement of windows to maximize solar heat gain in winter and minimize solar heat gain in summer can decrease energy usage by 25%.

Solar exposure in winter

Winter Solstice showing full solar gain

Situated in a perfect southeastern exposure for latitude 37 North, there are large windows on the south side of the home, with 2′ wide overhangs which keep out the hot summer sun but let in the warmth in winter. Thanks to susdesign.com for its tool for determining the width of the sunshades.

Fall equinox showing half the windows shaded

Summer solstice showing windows completely shaded by overhangs

Summer solstice showing windows completely shaded by overhangs







The stairwell is isolated from the rest of the house and acts both as a solar hear sink on a sunny winter day and as an air lock barrier from the cold or hot air outside. All the walls between the stairwell and the rest of the house are fully insulated as if it were an exterior wall. A solar powered attic fan at the top of the stairwell effectively exhausts the hot air in summer whenever temperatures exceed 65 degrees.

solar roof fan

Stairwell insulatedThe heating and air conditioning ducts were all placed in the floor joists between the first and second floor. There is no ductwork in any unheated space.

The plumbing is highly centralized with the bathrooms and kitchen stacked on top of each other in the center of the house. The very few pipes that are on the outside wall are insulated in addition to being inside the 2″ foam outer core insulation.

HVAC ducts