Guide to a Green Home

This Guest Post was written by Frank Newhouse, a freelance writer who studies ways that he and his neighbors can reduce their environmental impact. He currently writes for AC Florida, an HVAC resource for Miami area residents.

Green Home

Energy efficiency has become one of the most important considerations for many homeowners and homebuyers, across the US and around the world. Use this guide to lower your utility costs and reduce your consumption.

Reduce Daily Waste

There are many small things you can do that reduce the amount of waste your household generates on a day to day basis. Switching to compact florescent light bulbs and training all members of your family to ensure that they are turning off the lights when they leave a room will save money and power.

Reduce other types of waste by giving up paper towels in favor of cloth and using a filtration system on your sink rather than buying bottled water.  Stop collecting all of those plastic grocery bags by investing in some cloth or canvas versions. Take steps to make recycling as easy as tossing it in the trash, and consider composting food waste if you have a place to dispose of it.

To improve your thermal envelope, increase the insulation in your walls and use caulk to seal up any leaks around windows and doors. Adding insulation around ducts and pipes will also help to prevent lost heat when water and air are being pushed through your home.

Maintenance is one of the most important aspects of efficiency, and ensuring that all the filters in your HVAC system are clean and functioning properly will also save money and power. Choosing Energy Star rated appliances will require less resources and maintenance and generally last longer than older models.

Pay attention to what fills your trash cans and look for ways to reuse or eliminate those items. In many places milk is becoming available in glass bottles that are returned and reused like in the old days, and cleaning and saving old sour cream or yogurt containers can make expensive plastic-ware a thing of the past.

Long term investments

Some upgrades that will save money over time will require a much higher initial investment. These changes may not be right for everyone, but if you’re able to afford the upfront costs, the savings will continue throughout the life of the home.

Upgrading your HVAC system to a zone control or ductless version will reduce the amount of energy lost moving heated or cooled air through your house, and a programmable thermostat will allow you greater control over how much your comfort costs.

When the time comes to replace your traditional water heater, consider switching to a tankless, or On Demand version. Rather than burning energy all day and night in order to keep a tank full of water hot unnecessarily, they only heat what is requested at the time the faucet is used.

Newer windows and doors have been designed specifically to reduce lost energy by tightening the thermal envelope of your home. They will stop some of the heated or cooled air from escaping, and will protect your home from the heat of the sun more effectively.

Possibly the most valuable resource in need of protection is water, and most of the water wasted in the entire world is literally flushed down the drain. Low-flow toilets will lower the amount of water wasted on every use, as will a front-loading washing machine and an Energy Star certified dish washer.

Landscaping is another area where waste is rampant. The traditional, identical lawns sprawling across America waste an incredible amount of water, and in most cases homeowners burn fossil fuels in their lawnmowers. Consider standing out with a rock garden as desert dwellers have done for so long. If plants or even grass is a deal breaker, choose some that are native to your area, as they will require less water and care.

The most significant investment that any homeowner can make will be putting their home to work generating its own power. Not everyone who can afford to do this will be allowed to, due to the shortsightedness of most homeowners’ associations, but for those who can it is the greenest choice there is. In general, solar panels or geothermal energy are the most realistic possibilities.

Erin Emanuel

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