Builders are zero-ing in on net-zero housing — whether or not it makes economic sense:
In Greenfield, Mass., where Rural Development is putting up duplexes, the premium for a net-zero home is as much as 15%. For example, it has one three-bedroom home on the market for $240,000, compared with about $203,000 for a comparable home without net-zero features, says Anne Perkins, a Rural Development director. Most of that extra cost is for solar systems, she says.
Eight of Rural Development’s net-zero homes built so far have been purchased. One selling point: energy bills that can run more than $2,700 a year are cut to about $700, and total energy savings allow buyers to recoup the purchase premium in roughly 12 years after tax incentives and rebates are included.
A 12-year pay-back period after tax incentives and rebates are included is not impressive at all. The problem is that solar systems generally aren’t cost-competitive, but they’re necessary to declare a home net-zero, rather than simply energy-efficient.