Residential and business properties often need large amounts of energy for heating, cooling, lighting, and other functions. In 2015, direct greenhouse gas emissions from homes and businesses accounted for approximately 12 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
A resource-and-energy-efficient home not only saves money in the long term, but also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional homes. Plus, you can enjoy a few tax benefits and government subsidies. Although it is easier to make your home energy-efficient if you are building it new, you can employ other techniques to make your existing home energy efficient.
Here are a few things that you can try from guest blogger Ann Neal.
1. Conduct Energy Audit
The first step towards creating an energy-efficient home is to conduct an energy audit. Careful energy assessment will help you determine your current energy consumption and potential measures for saving energy. Call a certified energy auditor to find out the current status of your house’s energy expenditure. Make sure to hire a local auditor because he/she will be better aware of the local climatic conditions, fluctuations in energy demand, and the availability of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
Though hiring a professional auditor is the best way to determine the energy-efficiency of your abode, you can also conduct the energy audit yourself first so you can discuss your findings and questions with the auditor. However, be prepared to get a little dirt on your clothes as you go through your heating, wiring, and plumbing systems when exploring these areas of your house. You will need a flashlight, a pair of safety goggles, a helmet, a pair of protective gloves, a ladder, a screwdriver, and work clothes. Check your central heating, water heating, lighting, and air conditioning systems along with electronic appliances such as the computer and the microwave.
2. Energy-Efficient Lighting and Appliances
One of the easiest ways to reduce your energy bills is to replace your existing lighting and appliances with energy-efficient lighting and electronic equipment. If you are still using incandescent bulbs in your house or garage, replace them with energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs. If every household replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL, the United States could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equal to 800,000 cars. However, CFLs use only about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, while LEDs use about 90% less energy. Just imagine how much energy LEDs can save!
Though LEDs are costlier compared to CFLs, they last longer and save more energy. They are also eco-friendly as CFLs contain mercury. Mercury is a hazardous heavy metal. So, disposal of damaged and defunct CFLs is a problem. Plus, LEDs are excellent for decorative lighting in bedrooms, dining rooms, TV rooms, and living rooms. Try mixing both types of bulbs in different parts of your home. For example, you can use LEDs for lighting your work desk and in your dining room, while using CFLs in the bedrooms and the living room.
Similarly, you can also replace your old kitchen appliances with their energy-efficient counterparts. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created an energy-efficiency label called ENERGY STAR for electronic appliances. Make sure to turn off appliances such as fans, washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, and exhausts when they are not in use.
3. Renewable Energy Sources
You can save considerable energy costs in the long term by investing in a suitable renewable energy system for your home. You can begin by installing a solar water heating system, reducing the cost of electric water heaters. Solar water heaters come with a heat flow meter that controls the temperature of the water. Thus, you can get hot water supply according to your needs at virtually no cost. They can work throughout the year except in the rainy season.
You can also install a rooftop solar power system if possible. It will meet a part of or all of your electricity needs. However, you will need to consult a professional to see if your roof can support such a system. You will also need to determine your specific energy expenditure. Alternatively, you can also use a small wind-powered system or a micro-hydro power system to meet your energy demands in an environment-friendly manner.
However, all of these need considerable one-time investment. If cost is a primary constraint, buying a solar oven would be a great start. It is cheap compared to the electric or gas variants. Unlike a conventional microwave oven, the operation cost of a solar oven is virtually zero as it uses solar light to cook food. You can bake, boil, steam, or roast in a solar oven. The food cooks slowly. As a result, you don’t need constant monitoring, require less water, and the food is healthier and more flavorful.
4. Landscaping for Shading
Did you know that a well-designed landscape can not only make your house look beautiful, but also make it energy-efficient? In fact, a well-planned landscape can reduce an unshaded home’s air conditioning costs by 15% to 50%. In a shaded neighborhood, the air temperature can go down by 6 degrees than areas without any trees.
Make sure to plant deciduous trees to the north as they will provide shade in summers while allowing sunlight to warm your house in winters. Avoid planting evergreen trees to the north as they will obstruct sunlight during winters, increasing your heating costs. If you do plant them, make sure they don’t block direct sunlight.
The shade trees should be at least 10 feet taller than the windows to get maximum shade. Always keep some space between your walls and your shrubs to enjoy natural insulation in summers as well as winters. Shrubs and groundcover plants can reduce the temperature of the surrounding air considerably. You can also plant shrubs and groundcover plants near windows, doors, and balconies to allow cool breeze in summers.
5. Thermal Insulation
Using thermal insulation is also a great way to reduce energy costs. It can keep the cold from entering your house during winters, making it warmer than the surrounding environment. During summers, it prevents heat from entering your home, keeping it cooler.
If your heating or cooling costs are too high, know that the insulation in your home is inefficient, damaged or incomplete. You need to replace or upgrade it immediately. Increasing the insulation can lower the load on your heating and cooling systems.
Usually, a combination of spray-foam and rigid-foam is concealed in the walls to avoid this problem. It provides a durable and cost-building envelope that works just like a woolen blanket. However, designers and architects have also used an environment-friendly material such as hay bales as the insulating material.
An energy-efficient house not only reduces your energy costs, but also helps reduce greenhouse gas emission. Thanks to modern technology, most energy-efficiency measures are now cost-effective. You can take small steps towards creating a resource-rich and environment-friendly dwelling. Hopefully, the above five tips will help you in this regard. Do share your experiences in the comments section below.