Going Green! Making Your Home More Environmentally Friendly

Jon Fesmire | Jul 25, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

Making your house a green home primarily means using energy more efficiently, and even generating energy. Your home will leave less of a carbon footprint, and over time, will save you thousands of dollars or more. Keep in mind though that there will be initial investments along the way, one for each new improvement or appliance.

Of course, we’re all familiar with Energy Star appliances. These items, from microwaves to air conditioners, are made to be energy efficient and save you money. The following are some other ideas you may want to learn about.

Hire an Energy Auditor

Rather than go around your house guessing at what you can do to improve it, we recommend you hire an energy auditor. An energy audit typically costs between $300 and $500, and will reveal all sorts of ways to cut your home’s energy consumption, from sealing drafty windows, to insulating the walls, to replacing old appliances.

Now, take what steps you can afford. If you can’t afford to hire an energy auditor, you might be able to replace your refrigerator or air conditioning unit with one that’s Energy Star compliant. Those alone can save you several hundred dollars per year.

This article will also help you figure out what parts of your house could use improvement. Let’s explore the parts of a green home.

Structural

Technology keeps marching forward, but it doesn’t do a lot of good if we don’t use it. We get new computers and smartphones regularly, but what about home improvements? Yes, these cost money out of pocket, but can save you a lot in the long run.

Roofing

For example, roofing has come a long way. Typical dark roofs absorb the heat from the sun and are therefore much hotter than the outside temperature. How much hotter? Try up to 60 degrees! That heat warms up your home, so that in warm climates, you have to pay more for your air conditioning to cool down your place. That’s why top story apartments and rooms get hotter than down stairs rooms.

Enter cool roof technology. A cool roof coating will reflect the sunlight, so that a cool roof is only about 10 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. That, in turn, means you can turn your air conditioning down, saving on your electricity bill every month.

Yards

Have you heard of the urban heat island effect? It’s why cities can be so much hotter than the surrounding countryside. Think about the pavement we walk on every day. That heat makes it so that you will definitely want to wear shoes outside or risk burning your toes. It also stays in the air, making hot areas hotter.

The same thing can happen around your house if you have a rock garden rather than a lawn. Yes, it’s a toss up in some ways which is better. A rock garden doesn’t need any water, but it can significantly raise the temperature around your house. Grass and plants, on the other hand, lower the temperature and produce oxygen.

In order to cool your yard even more, plant a few trees. They will provide cooling shade and as we know, trees are great for purifying the air. Other possibilities include bushes and flowers native to your area, and even edible plants. To avoid a heating effect, stay away from rock gardens, cement, and astroturf.

Windows

It seems like we’re calling everything smart these days, but for good reason! And smart windows are now part of that family of technology that simply works better.

Smart glass can block out the heat-producing light of the sun. In other words, on a hot day, you can let the light shine into your home without it turning your house into a sauna.

Another problem with windows is when the frames let in outside air. Your energy auditor can find those spots on windows and doors as well, and you can use techniques like weatherstripping to stop this heat exchanger and save energy. Sealing leaks in this way helps keep cool air in during the summer and heat in during the winter.

Power and Resources

Solar Array

Nearly all the energy on Earth comes from the sun. That’s why it’s funny that we are just starting to really harness that power directly. An array of solar panels on your roof will allow you to do just that. The government may also offer a tax credit or other assistance to help you get started, though this may vary depending on when you read this article.

A solar array powering your home can help cut your energy costs drastically. Some families using solar power actually sell electricity back to their local power company.

Solar Water Heater

Today, you can heat water for your home efficiently and (after the cost of the unit and installation), do it for free too.

A solar water heater consists of a solar collector and a storage tank. There are different types, depending on your climate and needs. Active solar water heating systems heat water in a special solar panel array and pump it into the house. Passive solar water heating systems allow the water to flow on its own.

Heat Pump Technology

There are two major strategies when working with heat. One, that older technology uses, is generating heat. Unless you’ve upgraded, your water heater and clothes drier convert electricity into heat. (If you have a solar water heater, it does the same, but through sunlight, saving you money.)

Heat pump technology uses the other strategy. Put simply, it uses heat/cold transfer, sending heat into your clothes drier or water pump and transferring out the cold. It still uses electricity, though not as much as the first method, and can save you a lot of money over time.

Wind Turbine

When you think of a wind power generator, thoughts of giant windmills or the large arrays of wind turbines you see on hills may come to mind. Of course, technology moves fast, and these days, there are wind turbines available that take up little more room on your roof than a satellite dish. Some are larger, but you can set them up in your backyard.

Today’s home wind turbines can, even in areas with little wind, generate anywhere from some of your home’s energy to all of it.

With any of these technologies in place, you’ll start saving on your power bill. As a homeowner, you can probably use all of them if you like. If you rent, your choices will be more limited. Either way, there’s always something you can do to improve your home’s efficiency.