NetZero Starts with Passive Solar at EarthCraft Design/Build

What is a NetZero home? The Department of Energy calls these Zero Energy Buildings or ZEBs. By this classification such a structure generates enough energy to cover its annual energy consumption. This can happen on-site through “active solar” electric panels or solar heated water, or off-site from solar or wind farms.


According to researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory these buildings are also known as a zero net energy (ZNE) building, net-zero energy building (NZEB), net zero building or zero-carbon building. In the U.S. buildings consume about 40% of the energy produced annually. Reducing consumption cuts costs because the fuel used to heat and cool homes is expensive. At EarthCraft, President Mark L. (Ron) Hixson has anticipated the costs only continuing to rise.

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Although there is a huge emphasis on active solar, EarthCraft focuses on “passive solar” cutting costs for the life of the home. Passive Solar is a no-brainer where you orient the house to the sun. It doesn’t cost a dime folks! Green building has economic advantages to you, all it is is orienting the house to the sun.

Our homes are designed to consume less energy to begin with, drastically reducing the need for active solar, and making the most of the many incentives for including those in home design.

The process starts with orienting the building to make the most of the abundant sunlight here in the Boise Valley, shining an average 210 days per year, generating about 8,000 hours of energy to make use of. In the winter months south-facing windows gather sunlight which is contained in the home in two ways.

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The “envelope” is the enclosing layer of the house, insulation, framing and all. EarthCraft can create an airtight envelope for your home using the latest in modern insulation techniques.

You can choose to do straw bale construction, that’s off the charts as far as performance. A renewable, locally sourced resource that offers high insulation value.


For the summer months the roof is designed to hang far enough over the south facing windows to block the sun, keeping the home cool.

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The desired temperature is held by thermal mass such as a slab-on-grade foundation, where the concrete pad is set directly on the earth, or over a layer of gravel for drainage. In the winter the floor holds the sunlight, and in the summer acts as a heat sink, remaining cool (especially with minimal sunlight exposure).


From here the jump to an off-the-grid home can be a short one, implementing what little energy generation is needed to keep a well designed and built home warm, cool and powered for residential use. EarthCraft maintains relationships with active solar energy providers who can help to make the most of tax credits and incentives. We work with On Point Advantage, an excellent energy auditor, and affiliate Energy Star rated product providers, enabling us to help you source the right products for your home project that will meet your energy needs and dreams now and into the future.