Consider installing a home energy monitoring system. This will help you to have direct feedback to understand usage and possibly help modify behavior. These can range from under $200 on up.
Home performance upgrade inspection. You can attempt to do this inspection yourself with a checklist or get a professional with test equipment and trained in building science. A HERS rater (resnet.us) can model improvements to net zero. A solar professional (nabcep.org) can help determine solar, or other renewable options. I will try to put some blogs together in the future on self efficiency and solar inspections.
Review incentives (dsireusa.org) and financing options. Get performance improvement quotes. Look for performance guarantees. Schedule improvements and watch results with your energy monitoring system.
Building a new home from scratch with net zero and smart design can be easier and cheaper than retrofitting all the way to net zero. Most homes can take a small investment and turn it into a very smart return. There are other advantages to home performance improvements such as healthier indoor air quality and greater comfort.
Joe Bowling is president and founder of Energy Wise Solutions, a renewable energy/energy efficiency company based in Charlotte, N.C. The company provides services for homeowners and businesses including home energy audits, solar consulting, solar equipment sales, NABCEP certified installations, solar repairs and solar thermal, and green building verification for LEED, Energy Star and NAHB Green Building.