Home energy use accounts for almost one-fifth of the nation's greenhouse-gas emissions and one-fifth of its energy consumption, according to national research. The average home spends about $1,900 annually on energy bills, according to Environmental Protection Agency. There are many cost-effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint for new home construction and renovations. Becoming more eco-conscious can be a gradual process, but experts recommend that you begin with an integrated building design that looks at the entire home, which will in the long-term deliver the most financial impact. The following suggestions will help you go green without squandering a lot of green.
Watch Your Utility Intake
Paying close attention to your utility usage is the simplest way to go green, and it costs you absolutely nothing. Simple daily practices such as turning off your lights, television, stereo and any other electronic devices when not in use will make a huge difference on those monthly utility bills. Forego long or multiple daily showers each day to conserve water. To maximize water and energy use, fill the dishwasher and clothes washer to capacity instead of washing when they're half full. And did you know that using a dishwasher is more eco-friendly than washing them by hand?
Green experts advise using appliances until they completely break down. But if you're in the market for new equipment, buying used (and energy-efficient) appliances will save you the most money. Front-loading washing machines reduce water and energy use, as well as the amount of soap required. These washers drain more water from clothes and require less time in the dryer. Energy-efficient appliances can save a homeowner at least $20 a month on utility bills.
Green builders view integrated design as the most effective way to construct a home. This design entails taking eco-friendly options into consideration from the beginning of the home-building or renovating process. Taking a look at the whole green picture ultimately saves money on utilities and prevents the most greenhouse-gas emissions.
When designing a home, green builders and architects often incorporate passive solar design. This process positions the home in a direction that fully utilizes the sun's natural heat and light.
An eco-friendly builder usually predetermines the amount of material needed to construct the home, such as studs and wood. With prefab or modular designs, insulated concrete forms (ICFs) or structural insulated panels (SIPs), builders can shave off costs for trips to the landfill and the need for extra materials. Buying a prefab or modular design is usually results in a quicker process than building a traditional home from scratch, because the materials are formulated in a factory rather than lying exposed to damaging weather conditions.
Contractors are now properly sizing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and using icynene for better insulation, a collaborative effort that conserves energy. Icynene closes up gaps so that cool air doesn't escape and pollutants, mildew, mold, insects and rodents don't enter the home. The result? Less potential for airborne and respiratory illnesses and lower pest- control costs. A properly sized HVAC system reduces energy bills because the system doesn't run as long or hard and works more effectively with the proper insulation.
Universal Design for Sustainability
As you grow older and are less physically active, a universally designed house naturally accommodates your changing needs and proves more sustainable. Building a sustainable home means you can stay there for a lifetime rather than changing homes each time your life changes. Universal design entails wider corridors, placing lower cabinets and shelves at levels where most people won't have to bend or climb, and roll-in bathing areas with lipless entryways. These design methods also add versatility for people of all ages, from young children to elders using a walker or wheelchair.
Repairing and Repurposing
Salvaging old home parts is another, often inexpensive, way to go green. 'Repair, refurnish, restore and repurpose,' says Jesse White, owner of Sarasota Architectural Salvage. 'Repair what you have in your house. That's the least amount of impact. Take a door, for instance. Refurbishing it is taking it off its hinges, sanding it down and restaining it. Repurposing it is making it into something else like a bench.'