Zero-energy home sets bar high for homeowners conscious of energy efficiency

The building that many green insiders claim is the most energy-efficient home ever built produces about 40 percent more energy than it consumes, which should help its owner justify the home's $1.6 million price tag when his utility bill arrives each month.

In addition to the green mainstays observed in most energy-efficient homes, such as Energy Star appliances, Michael Yannell's Chicago home boasts features that only the greenest homes possess – fencing made out of recycled materials, low-flow plumbing fixtures, lighting provided exclusively by LED and CFL bulbs, a roof designed to collect rainwater, solar panels, dual flush toilets and even a grey water system that uses recycled washing machine water to run the toilets.

By all accounts, the market for zero-energy homes is far from reaching its peak. Outside of California, these homes are quite rare. Still, the global market for this $225 million industry is expected to climb to $1.3 trillion by 2035, according to Pike Research.

"Following the surge in LEED and other green building certifications worldwide over the last few years, zero energy building has emerged as the holy grail in green building design," research analyst Eric Bloom told BusinessGreen.

Until the market for these energy-efficient homes surges in the next few decades, homeowners should rely on home inspection professionals with energy audit experience to reveal the ways they can best save money through trimming their energy costs.

The Yannell home likely has optimal heating and insulation systems, parts of which can be replicated by average homeowners. While many of the other features are either too expensive or unlikely to benefit homeowners in certain parts of the country, proper insulation can make a difference in any home.