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Zero Energy (Net-Zero) Homes

In simplest terms, a zero net energy home is a building that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of the year. With Federal and Statewide initiatives in place, it is very likely that more energy efficient and net-zero homes will become a new norm in the near future.


Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) has coined the term “Zero Energy Ready Home which is identified as a home with a whole new level of performance and rigorous requirements that ensure outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health, and durability. In 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) set the goal to ensure that all new residential and commercial construction will be zero net energy by 2020 and 2030 respectively. Read on for facts about and examples of net-zero homes as well as the names of builders in the Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara area who specialize in building these homes.


  • Recent studies have indicated that the efficiency components of a new zero net energy home have an incremental cost, after incentives, of just $2-$8 per square foot. (California Zero Net Buildings Energy Cost Study, Davis Energy Group, Inc., PG&E, 2012).
  • Zero net energy does not necessarily mean no utility bills. At certain times of the year the building will be putting more energy into the grid than it uses, however, due to seasonal changes and use patterns utility bills will not be zero.
  • The energy used in buildings is the second largest contributor to California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With rising energy costs, and increasing climate-related impacts and natural disasters, ZNE buildings help reduce our demand for energy and provide more resilience to climate impacts.


Read more about the California program here.

Read about the Federal Zero Energy Ready Home here.


Net-Zero Homes and Builders in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Santa Clara


  • A prefab home built for a Stanford Professor in Palo Alto features solar panels on the roof and enormous lithium batteries designed by Tesla Motors for energy storage. See it here.
  • A 2,500 sqft straw-bale home in Santa Cruz that uses locally sourced materials and one of the first Altherma air-to-water heat pumps in California. This device draws heat from the air outside and uses it to warm water both for domestic use and to power the in-floor radiant heating on the ground floor and in the upstairs bathroom. Read more here.
  • Here are two construction companies building high quality, pre-fab homes: blu Homes and Bone Homes.
  • Here is a Santa Cruz construction company that specializes in Green Building and Net Zero homes: Paxton Construction.

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