Green? Greenwashed? Or Just Miss A Few Details?

A Southern California “Green Renovation Home” just got a lot of press and a Congressional Award…. and then the “rest of the story” came out.   The home was called  Net Zero but actually turned out to be an Energy Hog.    What Happened?   Here’s the article (From a British source…. seems to be arm’s length observation)

This "Zero Energy House" got an award from the California Senate, But it turns out that their definition of Zero only referred to the Electricity. Natural Gas still handled the space heating, quite a big chunk. If they had used Heat Pumps and delivered Net Zero.... Now that would be more impressive!

This is exactly the type of press that we dont need in our emerging industry.  What can we do to prevent it?   See my previous post HERE, agreeing with Henry Gifford that checklist based renovations can miss a few seemingly small pieces of the “House As A System” puzzle and fail miserably.   These failures are worse if grandiose claims have been made and awards accepted, like in LEED buildings or this State Senate awarded Net Zero house that isn’t.

There is always something to be learned from any venture, even if it’s what to not do in the future.   What can we learn from this Zero Energy House that Isn’t?

1.  “Net Zero” is the new marketing darling.    I’ll even be using it myself.   But we can expect Marketeers and GreenWashers to twist and abuse the term.

2.  We must clarify what we mean by Net Zero.   In fairness to the Los Angeles renovator, there are several definitions of the term.   They just chose the lowest and easiest to meet standard  and grabbed the marketing buzz.    (Dont count the natural gas for heating.   So only the electricity is Net Zero)   This should be called an Electric Net Zero Home.

3.  A stronger version of Net Zero is to convert the cost of Therms of Natural Gas to the equivalent number of kilowatts of Electricity.    Then Net Zero would really mean Net Zero.

4.  To avoid having to convert Therms to Kilowatts, we could build our renovations with Heat Pump technology (both the space heating-cooling and water heating) and eliminate gas altogether, go all electric.   Then if we hit Zero… It would really be Zero.   This is the type of Net Zero Houses that you will see on these pages from GreenEarthEquities soon.

Challenge & Quiz:

We know that houses must work “As A System” to work correctly and deliver the expected savings.    Sometimes the (seemingly) small things spoil the final results.    Check out this video from the Register Article.

You’ll see people you know.  Lot’s of pieces and parts of Home Performance are there.   But there are some missing.    What do you think may have been missed that would contribute to such a high heating bill in such a mild climate?

Put your thoughts in the comments section.   I’ll add mine in a week.

In the mean time, let’s be clear with our consumers and colleagues what we mean.    Net Zero is the hot new marketing buzz word that the public seems to understand.   Let’s use it for all its worth toward market transformation but let’s not abuse the public’s trust.

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  1. Tom Smith

    Could not find the video links for the challenge.
    probably a problem between the chair and the keyboard.
    could you post or send a link to the videos?

  2. daverobinson

    The video to watch is in the article from the Register. I’ve copied it into my post. Should have done that originally. It’s a great video,…. see what you think

  3. Sundong Kwong

    Most houses in California are leaky. They have poor or no insulation with big gaps where the roof and the walls, the walls and the floor meet. Look underneath the sinks where the plumping lines coming to the house, there are big holes with nothing covered up. When our heater is on, the heat leaks out through the holes and cracks. so we turn up the heat more. The warm air continues leaks out. We are wasting so much energy without knowing it. I am glad the building industry finally realized that they need to build right and build tight. No more leaky house. No more wasting energy.

  4. Tadas N.

    Right on Dave, the key message is not to abuse or “overstimulate” the public with too much green jargon or less than solid claims. An average person will trust the pro and will be open minded to advice but once that trust is gone it is very hard to gain it back.



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