When you’ve got your eye on a zero energy home design, it’s also the right time to be thinking about location. Your home’s location can be an important component of  zero energy living. And you will reap rewards aplenty! A truly remarkable home is one that lowers home energy demand, makes as much energy as it uses and provides a quiet, healthy environment. Directly related to this, your home’s location in a city, town, or community may lower your energy use, reduce your home’s overall cost, and trim transportation costs.

Do your location homework before you buy. List amenities that you’d like to be able to reach by foot or bike. Use Google Maps Street View feature to take a look at what is within close proximity to your potential site. The key question is how far you and members of your household are able and willing to walk or bike. Your destinations might include schools, churches, work, grocery stores (ones you like to shop), dining out, or simply recreation. While Google Maps won’t rate your safety score or traffic volume, it does allow you to determine what your new home’s location offers in terms of proximity to specific, useful services. This is an important step in truly understanding how much savings your home will provide. Another exceptional resource is Walk Score, which analyzes walking routes to nearby amenities. Use this site for a quick reference and then determine how closely it matches your zero energy goals. Be sure to consider topography in your analysis. Will that big hill be a hindrance to climb with a bags of groceries and two kids in tow?

It’s about more than fuel savings. Driving can be time consuming and stressful. Parking can be tedious and expensive, too. Walking and biking also offer health benefits resulting in other savings. Both activities provide opportunities for face to face interactions with community members, instead of being isolated in a car. Selecting a location suitable for walking and/or biking before you build or buy will give your family more time together, better health, more connection with your neighbors, and more money saved.

Location is key to zero energy home success and a big part of the happiness factor that is generated by living in a zero energy home. When calculating your costs and benefits, be sure to include the health gained and connections made through walking and biking along with the energy – and money – you’ll save. As you set your goals, reflect on the full range of rewards from a zero energy lifestyle.


Robin Sullivan is a Zero Energy Project contributor and volunteer.