While decades ago the pioneers of the green housing movement were only environmental enthusiasts and gifted craftsmen, today, everyone can tweak their home towards energy efficiency. Making your home green and energy efficient not only reduces its carbon footprint, but also leaves you with more money in the bank. Let’s see the easiest and most effective ways to do it.
Switch to energy-efficient appliances
This tip is certainly not the cheapest one on the list, but is very effective, since every new generation of home appliances is more energy-efficient than the previous one. Start with the refrigerator, as it is the device that runs day and night and uses a constant supply of power. Replacing it with the latest Energy Star-rated model can save you 15% of the cost, plus, you might be able to get some discount for the old one. Your community might even have a recycling program that will pay for your old refrigerator and haul it away, saving it from a landfill.
Buy LED bulbs
After heat-dissipating incandescent light bulbs for commercial and home lighting have been retired and outlawed in many parts of the developed world, people have embraced fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). However, the ever-evolving LED technology beats those two in both the lifespan and energy economy. Today LED bulbs last 25 times longer and consume 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. And as their lifespan is coming to the end, they don't burn out at once, but start to dim, still working for some time.
Plant energy-saving vegetation
Apart from aesthetic purposes, energy-conserving landscaping includes trees, shrubs, ground-covers and vines that provide cooler interior in the summer and insulate against heat loss in the winter.
- In colder areas, green windbreaks can be used to ward buildings from cold winds.
- In temperate climates, trees should be planted to shade the east and west facing walls, leaving the winter sun unobstructed.
- In hot and arid regions, planting beds located close to the house help cool it down through evapotranspiration (the release of water vapour from the soil and plants into the atmosphere).
Install a smart thermostat
Heating in the winter and cooling in the summer can easily be one of the biggest home energy concerns. Leaving the heating on when you leave home is an inconspicuous way of wasting energy and your money. Smart thermostats can be programmed so that they only turn on at certain times of the day, for example, by keeping the heat low through most of the day only to crank it up when you return from work, as well as turning it down again an hour or two before you go to bed.
Go with the (low) flow
Replacing the fixtures in your kitchen and bathroom with low-flow models can be a great way to save on your water bills. Low-flow faucets and aerated shower heads have the same efficiency as the regular options, but use significantly less water in a unit of time. By comparison, a standard shower head can use 25 litres and more per minute, while a low-flow shower head uses less than 10 litres. By switching to low-flow fixtures, not only will you use less water, but use less energy heating it up.
Consider solar panels
Solar panels may be a great investment, especially when you start seeing the returns of smart heating metering, low-flow plumbing and power-saving lighting. Have them installed on your rooftop where they won’t get in anyone’s way and won’t ruin the aesthetic appeal of your exterior. For an average-sized household, an ordinary 5kw solar system is an optimal choice, since it pays itself off through energy savings in only a few years.
Get new windows or window retrofits
As a proverbial weak spot in your house envelope, old windows can seep a lot of heat during the winter or cool air during the summer. If they are structurally sound, try making them more impervious by caulking and weather-stripping and adding storm panels.
You could replace the old windows completely with new double-glazed ones (vinyl are better insulated than wood), however before you buy those expensive new double glazed windows consider window retrofits.
In the summer tinted window films can mitigate the effect of unwanted passive solar heating.
Use earth-friendly insulation
Not many people think about how cheap, commercially-available insulation impacts our health and the environment. The negative aspects of all-popular fibreglass batts have been found by a Japanese medical researcher to be comparable to asbestos.
Organic insulation, such as that made from recycled denim, which is basically cotton, is a much better choice for homes, and requires neither special equipment nor protective clothing to install. Combining excellent R-values and organic qualities, Thermafleece is a rising star of eco-friendly insulation, made from 100% sheep’s wool.