7 Ways to Make Your Home Green

7 Ways to Make Your Home Green

Montecito's Lotusland (credit: Gabriel Millos, Flickr)

Montecito's Lotusland (credit: Gabriel Millos, Flickr)

The largest opportunity to make America’s housing market more green is renovating existing homes to minimize their use of energy.  Newly constructed homes often incorporate green features, if not a LEED certification.  It is much easier to implement green materials and construction strategies when starting from scratch, but the biggest gains can be made by modifying and updating the current inventory.  Read on to find out about some of the options that exist for greening up your home.

 

1.) Insulation - One of the most important factors in lowering energy costs, insulation helps keep your home cool during hot weather and warm during cold weather.  It also reduces the amount of noise heard between rooms and from outside of the house.  The metric you’ll want to focus on here is “R-value”, which measures the ability of the insulating material to resist the transfer of heat through it.  The higher the better!

2.) Building Envelope - Just as you might feel a draft in your car if one of the doors isn’t quite shut, you’ll feel a draft in your house if it’s envelope isn’t sealed properly.  It is paramount to seal/caulk all doors and windows, as well as areas of the structure where materials join together and have the potential for air gaps.  While getting fresh air from the outside is often a benefit, you want to make sure you do it in a controlled and deliberate manner that doesn’t waste any heated or cooled air from inside the house.

3.) Water efficiency - Two ways to be water efficient that don’t even occur inside your home: having rain water collection equipment and having a rain water direction strategy (recharge groundwater instead of letting water go into the gutter).  Inside the home, simple steps like taking short showers and minimizing toilet flushes can yield big savings of water and money!

4.) Windows - One way to improve the performance of your windows is to use low-emissivity glass which reflects much of the sun’s energy, keeping your house cooler.  In addition, dual pane or triple pane windows feature increased resistance to heat transfer.  Skylights can also help the interior environment of your home by introducing the natural light we need to be happy!

5.) Appliances - This is one area that might be more familiar than the others.  Why?  Energy Star ratings.  Introduced in 1992 by the DOE and EPA, the Energy Star rating system can now be found on more than 65 different types of household products.  Learn more at www.energystar.gov.

6.) Solar Panels - There are two ways in which solar panels save energy for you: 1.) creating electricity or 2.) creating heat.  The former method gets much publicity, and rightly so.  In an increasingly tech-oriented world, electricity has never been in greater demand.  Add the proliferation of electric cars, and many people have considered the addition of solar panels to their roofs.  But solar panels can help in another, less-publicized way: they can create heat.  This heat can be transferred to an open or closed water loop, and helps to either provide warm water or warm air (in the form of radiant heating systems).  

7.) HVAC - This acronym stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.  In short, the systems that control the temperature and quality of the air in your home.  From installing a new furnace, to switching to programmable thermostats, to upgrading to radiant floor heating, there are numerous opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of your home in this area.  Most of the points covered above play a role here, too.

 

How many of these improvements have you already implemented?  How many are on your radar?  We can all start by becoming aware of the issues and potential fixes, and then deciding which ones are most important to us.  

Whether you believe in climate change or not, we can all agree that the technology exists to help us reduce our consumption of energy.  The benefits of such a change are far-reaching, but the solutions are within us.  The biggest impact we can have on our energy consumption is changing aspects of our lifestyle (shorter showers, native landscaping, rain water capture, alternative transportation, etc.), but we can also use the tools at our disposal to advance the energy efficiency movement.

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