Article by Tom Trent:
Greening Your Home Saves Money
and Helps the Planet
Did you know that the energy used to construct and operate the buildings we live and work in is the largest source of CO2 emissions, surpassing transportation and industry? And that the quality of indoor air, where we spend much of our time, is 2-4 times worse than outdoors?
From the problems of global climate change to concerns about individual health, there is a compelling need to take action to make our existing—as well as new—buildings cost less to operate and be healthier places. When remodeling or building, you can choose less-toxic, sustainably-harvested materials and energy-saving approaches and methods that will make your home contribute toward overall sustainability and be more in tune with our common environment.
Small Steps Add Up To Big Benefits
This doesn’t mean you have to move into a yurt on a solitary ridge top. You can get started Greening your home in small ways. Every little change you make will save you money by reducing energy and water consumption.
First, dump those incandescent light bulbs that use 95% of the electricity they burn to generate heat, not light. Changing 5 of the most frequently used bulbs in your house to compact fluorescents can save $100 per year, and they last 7 times as long. Next, install aerator inserts in your kitchen and bathroom sink faucets. These little jewels can reduce water use by up to 50%. This is a simple, inexpensive way to get ahead of the curve on water conservation (which may become mandatory this year). If you don’t already have low-flow showerheads and 1.6 gallon/flush toilets, these items should also be installed.
Bigger Steps Are Eligible For Tax Credits
Further steps toward Greening your home involve more up-front expense, but they are permanent improvements that will start paying you back the day they are completed. Many of the houses in our communities were built long before 1980, when the Energy Code was adopted state-wide. And many of the homes built since then are not energy-efficient by the standards needed today to address the issues of climate change and health. So most of the buildings we frequent are energy wasters as well as being less healthy and comfortable than they could be.
High school science taught us that hot air rises and that heat travels toward a colder area. Inadequate attic insulation is a huge source of heat loss that can be remedied fairly simply. Adding insulation provides bang for the buck. There’s an important choice to be made here, though. Most fiberglass insulation contains urea-formaldehyde—a toxic chemical—that off-gasses into the air inside the building. Spend a few extra dollars for encapsulated, formaldehyde-free insulation and you will not only start saving on heating costs but also improve your home’s indoor air quality.
Single-pane windows are another major source of discomfort and heat loss. They also promote the growth of mildew/mold. What happens when warm indoor air makes contact with cold single pane glass? Heat energy is conducted outside and the sharp difference in temperature causes moisture to condense inside, which makes a perfect place for mildew/mold to thrive. The cost of replacing out-dated windows with Energy Star dual-glazed units is a big investment that can be offset in part by income tax credits (this also applies to insulation).
Other Ways To Make A Difference
When your major appliances need replacing, view it as an opportunity to really start Greening things up around the homestead. Shop carefully for the Energy Star models that can make a big dent in utility bills (which means they help pay for themselves). For example, a front-loading washer can do the same job with half as much water. Converting to a gas dryer is also a smart move if you already have gas to the house. Refrigerators with top or bottom freezers, and without ice makers and water dispensers are the most efficient.
The yard and garden are other areas of opportunity, especially for water conservation and even producing some food. Having native plants, grouping plants that need similar levels of watering together, and replacing turf with a myriad of other aesthetically pleasing and functional plants are some of the things that can be done. Others have more expertise in this area than I do.
My focus is on Green Building and Remodeling and retrofitting existing buildings with healthy, energy- and resource-efficient materials and practices. Starting with the first of several solar homes I built over 15 years ago, I have been committed to Green Building long before the term became popular. A Certified Green Building Professional with Build It Green, I can work with you at any level of project you may have in your mind…or your dreams.
I invite you to let me enable your journey toward a sustainable future. Get in touch and let’s schedule a walk-through to develop a step-by-step plan for Greening Your Home.
Read other Articles by Tom Trent