Net Zero Homes: Why it's easy to build one now!

NREL Special Presentation Lecture Series
A Net Zero Energy home produces as much energy over one year as it uses.  With recent advances in technology and construction techniques, it is not as hard to reach this goal as some might think.  By lowering the energy usage of a home through passive solar design, high levels of insulation, and energy efficient systems, coupled with photovoltaic panels producing electricity on site, we can design a NZE home today.  Peter Ewers will show several NZE homes designed by his firm, Ewers Architecture, and share some of the lessons learned through the design and construction process.  Come hear what to do, what not to do, and what might be coming in the future for NZE homes.
Peter Ewers has more than 30 years’ experience designing a variety of residential and commercial projects.  He has been a licensed architect for 27 years, practicing in Colorado for the past 23 years.  Peter founded Ewers Architecture in 1998.  Peter is an advocate for sustainable design through speaking engagements at venues including the World Renewable Energy Forum, AIA 2030 Challenge classes, NREL Special Presentation Lecture Series, and more
Recorded for the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) by Martin Voelker.


  1. 007vsMagua on September 17, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    How is building a double 2 "x 4" wall cheaper than building a 2" x 6" wall? How are structural insulated panels able to support a roofing system with a heavy snow loads? In Alaska I remember installing horizontal 2" x 2"s on the interior of exterior 2" x 6" walls, on two foot centers, and filling in with 1.5" of dense foam board insulation. One can always hang their clothes outdoors to dry.

  2. BO4wd on September 17, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    So you drive a tesla and want us to go electric?! You work for e.musk?

  3. steve Pailet on September 17, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    not taking long for pv to become a tiny portion of the budget. This morning was looking at 395 watt half cell panels .. 20% efficient.. $96 for each panel. Using micro inverters they are down to around $100 for 320 watt output per channel. So what does this mean? $5000 for a 20 panel array that will put out more than enough for most homes.. This is less the power panels racking and installation.. still a darn site better than what it costs with some installers who are working paying on that $40,000 bass boat.

  4. nomebear on September 17, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    Four years ago we purchase a hybrid heat pump hot water heater and we love it. The fact that we can change it to the demands of the season are important to us, and the unit also acts as a basement dehumidifier. There are too many trees that block direct sunlight so solar panels were never an option. Our electricity is from hydro, but more people are driving electric in our city so I see a shift in power demands. Just on my street alone I can count over 30 electric and hybrid automobiles, and I’m driving one of them.

  5. Joe Schlotthauer on September 17, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    California can’t even keep up with air conditioning demands, now imagine everyone driving an electric car…
    And where does all of this electricity come from anyway…

  6. Energy Efficient Builders on September 17, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    The absolute best way to do exterior walls and full foundation that is an R-40 and masonry is to use Solarcrete. ICFs are not the way to go. Check out

  7. JoeSchmoe on September 17, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Color me interested

  8. High Cube Housing on September 17, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    bragging about his tesla. lost all credit

  9. Danny 'Dharma Zen' Tseng on September 17, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    $$$$$$$$$$$ Great video! I’m the Founder, CGO (Chief Green Officer), and Chairman of Florida Energy & Sun (FES), a clean utility & energy conservation/efficiency company. To cut your kWh/mo. in HALF or MORE withOUT a single solar panel & save $, please enjoy a FREE copy of our "10 Energy & $$$-Saving Tips" guide at: (for a longer, "88-Point Energy Efficiency Checklist," (a $10,000 value) click-on $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  10. Aaron Ulrich on September 17, 2020 at 4:00 pm
  11. BaronVonSTFU on September 17, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Easy to build but how is the average person going to afford this? Unless these ideas can be implemented on a large scale, and unless the majority of the population can be sold on the idea, this will not have any sizeable impact.

  12. Barbara Smith on September 17, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    No mention of a ventilation system in a tight house.

  13. Craig M on September 17, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    We dont need to know how to build net zero for another 50 yrs. We just learned how to frack baby.

  14. Jose Gonzalez on September 17, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Will there be any oxygen left over to breathe after the "really good job of sealing the house"? How healthy is breathing in a sealed house? You seem like really smart guy. What’s the life expectancy of the occupants vs un unsealed house. Is energy savings more important than living a long life span? Just asking.

  15. The Dirty Downlow on September 17, 2020 at 4:09 pm


  16. tekleab schewai on September 17, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    For Net Zero Buildings design, first comes: "REDUCE BUILDING FOOTPRINT " on top of your 4 MUST steps.

  17. Paul South on September 17, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    If your not driving a Tesla? Put me off straight away . Your just promoting a different way of destroying the world . All of the rare earth minerals and composite compounds going into the manufacturer , you may as well be promoting nuclear fission generation . Big thumbs down

  18. Craig Castanet, D.C. on September 17, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    political doublespeak is a bad thing

  19. azeezee on September 17, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    He had to flex the tesla at the start lol

  20. Harry M on September 17, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    if you have to buy any form of energy, be it electricity, gas, oil or even firewood, you are not net-zero. period.

    theres no better thermal mass than phase change materials.

    what rubs me the wrong way about ground-source heat pumps is that people keep calling them geothermal. that heat is not geothermal, not at depths of a few feet. it’s just solar heat that’s been stored in the ground. to get real geothermal heat, you have to go DEEP, like 1000s of feet.

    yep, induction cookers are the way to go. expensive, but they have lots of advantages.

  21. Pinksnowbirdie on September 17, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    I think if a power grid in an area uses mostly nuclear energy that it’s very close to zero if you take in some of those essentials to making a Net Zero house

  22. stapme on September 17, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    You lost me at…I just got my Tesla…

  23. Dale Page on September 17, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Want to be preached to by an arrogant male version of AOC? You found it.

  24. Energy Efficient Builders on September 17, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    We have been doing this for the past 40 years. We learned from experience and doing many buildings. He has some of the answers but not all of them. He has also made a lot of mistakes. Thermal mass of the building including all of the ground under them is very important, along with foundation, insulated to at least the same as the walls with no thermal breaks between. Double stud walls where used in the 70’s ,have way too many thermal breaks, but there is a better way to go. The walls, foundation (including the basements), and roof just need to be the same at about an R-40. We build buildings not just talk about them. Check out our system at and see what is the absolute best way to go to get to zero net.

  25. Ed Parachini on September 17, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    What an idiot and he thinks he’s an expert when the fist thing he says you should be driving a Tesla. electrics aren’t any more energy efficient than a gas burner. After all where do they get their power from magic????

  26. derby1251 Glenn on September 17, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Costs need to come significantly for average Joe but it’s what is necessary and the right thing to do for planet. Fossel fuel industry still has too much of government ear. Lobbying must stop so the people can be heard.

  27. Bannock Chief on September 17, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Unfortunately the production of photovoltaic devices creates dangerous toxic byproducts that we have yet to know how to process and the use of such technology automatically negates any efficiencies gained by the design of the rest of your home. Unless of course if you don’t mind poisoning other peoples environment in order to claim your home "net zero."

  28. r loveland on September 17, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    I think a Dodge Challenger Hell Cat is the future.

  29. Kenz300 x on September 17, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Air sealing, super insulation, triple pane windows, solar panels, battery storage and an electric vehicle charger in the garage. All good things to do. There is a Climate Crisis we all need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.

  30. Jose Gonzalez on September 17, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Heat pump drier, impressive!

  31. OrdinaryLogic on September 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Great presentation! At minute 48 you discuss the amount of electricity that is generated from solar panels oriented in different directions and your graph is representative of a specific location, but I think it depends on where you live. I wonder what a similar graph looks like in northeast America. I bet there is much discrepancy among south-east-west-orientations

  32. Hayrdnell Cayaspo on September 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    hey ,if anyone else wants to learn about use of solar energy for home try Magonsi Solar System Expert (just google it ) ? Ive heard some decent things about it and my brother in law got excellent results with it.

  33. ArthursHD on September 17, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Buildings with high enough water consumption could benefit from waste heat recovery system, rain water catchment system. Computing waste heat can be used to heat water or air where it is available. There are washing machines with hot and cold inlet – could benefit from water re-circulation system, Open Source hardware and software. Stuff should last a long time, be easily repairable, upgrade-able part by part, easily refurbish-able and lastly easily recyclable. We should make a couple of DC standards for appliances like 48v DC standard for small PV systems and a higher voltage one for large systems with a battery and/or electric vehicle, so there are less losses in the system.

  34. Robert Montgomery on September 17, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    I own a Tesla. I am so green. NOT

  35. Danilo Borjel on September 17, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    There are several factors in average cost to install solar power system . One plan I found that successfully combines these is the Ewans energy roadmap (check it out on google) it’s the most helpful blueprint i’ve seen. look at all the amazing information .

  36. Samuel Stark on September 17, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    good content but this dude’s a douche

  37. Jason Voss on September 17, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    I wonder if it would be worthwhile combining a hot water heater with the kitchen refrigerator/freezer. Obviously the refrigerator puts out waste heat, so why not use that to heat your hot water.

  38. Energy Efficient Builders on September 17, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Loved your presentation. We have been building zero net for over 30 years now using Solarcrete. Check out their web site at

  39. Christopher Calder on September 17, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Super-insulated homes are great. The renewable energy hoax/fad is a deadly scam. See *The Renewable Energy Disaster* at

  40. George folgers on September 17, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Another you tube babbling video.
    Intelligent person with great info, does not know how to get to the point.

    People dont have time to listen to extra babble. 7.58 into video gets to subject

  41. Craig M on September 17, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Trump 2020!

  42. Space Ace on September 17, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Notice No mention of the house size which is a MAJOR factor to energy use – size equal dollars = arch and contractor fee/profit but also effects ( maintenance cost / finance cost / building cost and directly energy cost s)

  43. Sammy Van Horenbeke on September 17, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Regarding the power buy back issue, about ’45, when generating more than you need. I know my though is it out of the box. As generating currencies are a huge power waste, but when you’re a gamer, there are services that pay you to rent out your computing power. This solves 2 issues, first you ‘consume’ all the power you generate second you get a fairer price for it, especially in peak.

  44. Mark Brand on September 17, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    How is the cost-to-r-value on the straw bales? Doesn’t it smell? I love the idea if it works well! Very enviro friendly.

  45. wissem naoui on September 17, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    sound is sh*t*

  46. Kon Tiki on September 17, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    You mentioned the initial cost of Geo Thermal systems can be expensive but once installed are there any maintenance costs involved in this in comparison to others?
    Also, why did you not talk about the new Thin Film Solar Panels that can even be stuck on your walls and windows that are new entrants in the market? i really see thin films really used everywhere since they are cheap and literally can be printed.

  47. Michel Rea on September 17, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Most of this stuff (Tesla & fancy homes) is only accessible to the well off. ???

  48. Mark Schroter on September 17, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    There is a local guy here in my city in Canada that has developed a system using steel and polystyrene that almost eliminates concrete in buildings. This is a game changer. I am waiting for someone with a budget to order up a tiny house and I will use this system. Polycore by S I Construction Systems

  49. Robert Montgomery on September 17, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Making EV batteries destroys the environment.

  50. SeaJay Oceans on September 17, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    You have great Net Zero ideas. I was wondering your opinion of foam concrete ?
    It seems to be a good way to build or fill fast and inexpensive walls that make good use of available resources, and a fast developing technology.

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