What the Heck Is a Net Zero Energy Building?

©. NZEL/ I can't even figure out the flow chart

On MNN, I am doing a series about how new smart technologies are going to affect the way we live and work.

Al lot of smart technology is going into making homes net zero energy. I have never really understood this concept, thinking it is better to use less energy than it is to keep adding solar panels and fancy heat pumps until you net out at zero. But it's popular, because it is so well suited to suburbia, like that high tech robotic dinosaur of a NIST House on its vast treeless lot.

Then when you start looking at it closely, it gets worse. There are dozens of different definitions, standards, interpretations and designations. We have covered a carbon positive house and a carbon negative data center and they are both doing the same thing. It is a mess. On MNN I try to make some sense of it and end up throwing up my hands. More: What the heck is a Net Zero Energy Building?