A new research study conducted by Curtin University has revealed that Zero Energy Homes continue to have low acceptance amongst buyers despite the obvious comfort and financial gains from living in an energy efficient home.

Funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living, led by Curtin University’s Dr Josh Byrne and carried out in partnership with industry and government, the research has validated Net Zero Energy Homes in Melbourne, Townsville, Canberra and Perth housing developments as achievable and affordable. However, the study also highlighted a market that was slow to pick up on easy opportunities for improved energy efficiency and thermal comfort.

While average costs for the Net Zero Energy Homes researched were about 6-11 percent higher than the standard, buyers would stand to achieve approximately 88% energy cost savings every year. But this important advantage was ignored by the market in favour of lower prices or ‘shiny’ features.

As part of the research project, potential buyers were made to view a Net Zero Energy Home, each one designed to mitigate local climate, save energy, remove reliance on gas and use rooftop solar to meet the same, or more, of the average annual energy demand.

Most major efficiency gains came from the additional insulation, glazing upgrades and energy efficient appliances such as induction cooktops and air source heat pumps, with only a small 3-4 KW photovoltaic (PV) system required.

According to Byrne, most potential buyers were positive about the homes; however, their mind-set was a barrier, despite the estimated future energy cost savings averaging 88% per year, equivalent to $1,750.

“First home buyer budget limitations and the fact banks don’t lend on future savings, were flagged as market uptake issues by builders in the study, also saying many investor buyers were not concerned about what type of homes they put their renters in, so would be the last to come on board,” said Byrne.

This resistance from buyers came despite the fact that the Net Zero Energy Home cost only about $20,000 (6-11 percent) more than a standard comparable home, but featured better insulation, high performance glass, increased shading, efficient appliances and solar energy systems; their energy savings would pay back this extra cost in about ten years.

“Some of the builders in our study aired their frustration with industry and market apathy as they see upgrades from current home builds to Net Zero Energy as simple, easy and affordable. Some believe regulation is the only way,” said Byrne.

This new study has clearly demonstrated the financial feasibility of Net Zero Energy Housing, making it an attractive proposition for stakeholders.

“Overall there’s really no reason for future residential developments not to be Zero Energy Homes, but more work is required to educate the public, the industry and governments to make this business as usual, not the current approach,” Byrne concluded.

The study has been detailed in two reports: Design Review and Cost Analysis. Also watch the four-part video series released as part of the research.