Zero Energy

Net-Zero Energy Story

Tommy Williams Homes has long been identified with building among the most energy efficient homes in Florida. With every home we build we continue to improve upon the efficiency of our homes. So, the energy usage of our homes has been getting lower and lower. This, in turn, drives our homeowner’s electric bills lower, and lower,...and lower.

So, who better to take the quantum leap from low energy usage to Zero energy usage? Since we already build homes as efficient as money and market economics allow, the question was: can we introduce a passive, renewable and readily available alternative fuel to run the home and have it make economic sense?

After a great deal of research by our Building America partners at The Florida Solar Energy Center and with the help of one of the architects of energy efficient home building, Ken Fonorow, we decided it was time to find out.

 

How It Works

The phrase “Net-Zero Energy Home” means that when you add up the amount of energy the home creates, then subtract the amount of energy the home uses, the net is zero.

Every day this home will absorb solar energy from the abundant Florida sun. This energy will be converted (by a small box in the garage) to electricity for the home to use. Now, since this is Florida “The Sunshine State”, the home will typically produce more energy during the day than it uses. The excess energy created will be sent back to the utility company. You can even watch the electric meter spin in reverse as you are now charging the electric company for the extra energy you are not using. And you get to charge them the exact same rate they charge you.

At night, when there is no solar energy available, your home will simply use electricity from the utility company and they will charge you just like a traditionally fueled home. At the end of the month the bill from the utility company should be something in the range of Zero dollars and Zero cents or $0.00. Now, some of this depends on the lifestyle of the homeowner. Penguins, for example, may still have a small amount of extra air-conditioning energy usage they’ll have to pay for. On the flip side, savvy homeowners who live comfortably yet efficiently may actually receive a check back from the utility company.

 

Why Now?

Since it takes less energy to fuel our homes, less solar is needed. And since the cost of solar energy has been the biggest hurdle to producing affordable solar homes, less solar means less cost, less cost means we can build it and sell it for less. And, when you take into account all of the rebates and tax credits available to the buyer, the net cost of upgrading from our typical, high-performance home to our new “Net-Zero Energy” home is about the cost of an upgrade to wood floors and granite counters or roughly $10,000 - $15,000 (and even less when you factor in the new proposed property tax exemption.) As our non-renewable energy sources dwindle, fuel costs continue to rise. Most experts expect this upward trend in energy costs to accelerate in the coming years. This coupled with the proliferation of greenhouse gasses, the risk to our environment and the prospects for future generations, we think the real question isn’t “Why now?” The real question is “Why wait?” So, we didn’t.