Zero Energy Buildings vs. passive solar houses

Zero Energy Homes and Passive Solar Houses are two concepts of very energy-efficient homes.

Passive Solar Houses are designed according to a strict set of energy-efficient standards, defined by the German Passive House Institute. They are especially intended for cold climates.

Passive solar homes are designed for energy savings. They are super-insulated and very air-tight buildings, able to reduce heat loss to a minimum.

Zero energy homes

Typically, Zero Energy homes are all-electric buildings. According to the California ZNE Residential Action Planning Effort definition, a «Zero net energy (ZNE) building produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. These buildings achieve ZNE first through high levels of energy efficiency, and then through the addition of clean, on-site renewable power generation, typically solar PV.»

Zero Energy PV Powered Homes
- Power comes from PV modules on rooftops
- All-electric homes
- Homes have also to massively insulated and very air-tight, to keep power consumption to a minimum.

In practice, most of these zero energy homes are connected to the electric grid - to feed excess power back into the grid during the peak daytime periods, and to get electricity from the grid during the periods when power generation is insufficient.

But the concept can be a bit different.

The European Union intends to implement Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (NZEBs), beginning in 2018 for new public buildings and 2020 for all new buildings.

According to the Article 2 of the EPBD Directive a Nearly Zero Energy Building is a "building that has a very high energy performance. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby”.

These buildings have to be very high energy efficient, that is, with high levels of insulation and airtightness and very efficient windows; and should have a good solar orientation and proper design and architecture. That's critical to allow small or relatively small solar photovoltaic systems (or other renewable systems).

See, for more details: Zero Energy Buildings

Which is the Best: Passive Houses or the Zero Energy Homes?

There isn't a true devide between Passive Solar Houses and the Zero Energy Homes.

The Zero Energy Building concept is more recent. But the two concepts are intertwined.

The implementation of New Energy Buildings is not advantageous or possible without the approach behind passive solar houses, that is, high levels of thermal insulation and air-tightness, in order to keep power consumption to a minimum and to allow (relatively) small solar PV systems (or other types of renewable energy).

Without such approach, photovoltaic systems (or other renewable systems) are too expensive to install and may not ever be able to meet all the household power consumption, even in climates with very favorable sunlight conditions.

energy zero buildings

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