It’s no secret that the human race has been less than kind to our planet. There is significant evidence that the damages we’ve done will have alarming results in the not-so-distant future. While it’s more likely our kids and grandchildren who will be left to deal with the mess of generations before them, there are things we can do now to start making changes.
But what can we do?
For starters, we can start living a little more environmentally and energetically conscious. For example, energy-efficient homes and an eco-friendly mindset together can exponentially reduce your contribution to the global energy crisis.
What Do Energy-Efficient Homes Have in Common?
We know that, in our society, you can’t just give up driving, using electricity, showering, etc. That would be ridiculous for us to ask and even more ridiculous for you to try. However, by living in energy-efficient homes, people can make a difference on a large scale.
Did you know that the planet’s fossil fuels are running out? It’s estimated that we have just over 50 years left of natural gas and oil and possibly 150 years (optimistically) with coal. Imagine if everyone cut their energy usage in half, what it could do.
Mainstream efforts will eventually catch up to the crisis. Unfortunately, however, there’s a lot of money to be had in the fossil fuel industry, which will only rise as they become rarer. It’s up to us, as homeowners, as earthlings to make efforts to protect the planet.
How can we make our homes more energy-efficient? What do energy-efficient homes have in common?
The first and most important factor of energy-efficient homes is energy-conscious homeowners. For example, low flow faucets are great, but it won’t matter if you’re letting your sprinklers run all day. Practice awareness when it comes to using power and water in your home.
To be more mindful while using water, wash your dishes and clothes in cold water, rather than hot, which will take a load off your water heater and energy bill. Additionally, be mindful of keeping the faucet running while washing dishes, brushing your teeth, etc. Finally, learn the best and most efficient time to run your sprinkler for your yard or garden.
In terms of electricity, get into the habit of turning off lights in rooms you’re not using. Additionally, avoid using space heaters which use a lot of power to heat an area. Lastly, be sure to unplug electronics when you’re not using them, as many stay running on “rest mode” to maintain clocks, settings, etc.
If you’re looking to save on natural gas (assuming that’s what you use for heat), there are a few steps you can take. For one, utilize the sun’s rays to heat your home during the winter by opening your shades and blinds to let the sunshine in.
Additionally, be a little less high-maintenance when it comes to your home’s temperature. Your home doesn’t have to be 75 degrees in the winter and 65 degrees in the summer.
Homebuilders have a large part to play in determining how energy-efficient a home is. If you have the option of building a new home, you can even seek our Certified Green Professionals (CGPs) who specialize in energy-efficient homes.
What do they do differently?
House and room orientation to the sun are incredibly important in terms of keeping your home warm during the winter while minimizes your energy consumption. As mentioned above, a properly oriented house and rooms with large windows can significantly heat a home. However, it’s up to you to learn when to open the blinds in each room to maximize your heating potential.
Energy-conscious homebuilders also use high thermal mass materials for insulation. These materials work to slow down heat transfer during temperature shifts and work well for both cool and warm temperature maintenance. High thermal mass materials are concrete, stone, water, and brick.
Additionally, your home builders should make sure they’re installing an air and moisture barrier between the exterior wall and the insulation. This will prevent air and moisture from seeping into your home and affecting temperatures.
You may also opt for cooler roofing materials that reflect or dissipate heat rather than absorb it. Asphalt shingles absorb the sun’s heat and can add to your cooling costs. Tile, slate, and clay roofs, on the other hand, can help keep costs down.
A Thermal Envelope
If you’ve spent much time looking into energy-efficient homes, you should be familiar with the term “thermal envelope. It refers to the sealed thermal environment you create within your home, which can be optimized based on well the home is sealed.
You can improve your thermal envelope by ensuring all the windows and doors are properly sealed. You can use a sealant and/or weatherstripping anywhere air is making its way into the home.
However, you should also look into socket sealers to prevent air from outside making its way in through the wiring channels of your home. This is a surprisingly common source of temperature loss in a home, as our walls are full of channels and cavities connected to the exterior walls.
Of course, energy-efficient homes wouldn’t be complete without energy-efficient appliances. If you’re building a new home, this is the optimal time to pick out the best appliances to cut back your energy consumption and save a little money on your energy and water bills.
Instead of a water heater that works to keep a 50-gallon tank of water heated at all times, get an on-demand (tankless) water heater. They are incredibly energy efficient and can be used for large families with no problem.
You also need to make sure your HVAC system is up to snuff. Most of the energy households use is to maintain temperatures in their homes.
Next, you have all of your kitchen appliances, such as the fridge, oven/stove, dishwasher, microwave, toaster, coffee machine, etc. We suggest buying Energy Star certified appliances and electronics for your home, which is a government-backed company designed specifically to create energy-efficient products.
Energy Star appliances also include washers, dryers, HVAC systems, and just about anything else you’d find in your home. This includes all of the electronics you would find in your home as well.
Incorporate Solar Energy
Another thing many energy-efficient homes have in common is alternative, renewable energy sources. While converting your entire house to run off of solar energy might be a stretch (at least at first), many homeowners incorporate solar power over time.
A solar system converts energy from the sun to charge a battery bank. How much power you want to convert and store is up to you. The battery bank can be wired to certain areas of the house or directly to certain appliances.
Once you create a powerful enough solar system, you can eventually have the entire house running off of it. Just keep in mind that solar energy will be affected by cloudy days, short winter days, etc. There are only so many usable hours of sunlight (for solar energy) in a day, which are far fewer in the winter than in the summer.
Low-Flow Water Appliances
We also recommend low-flow water appliances, toilets, faucets, and showerheads for energy-efficient homes.
Low-flow showerheads typically put out less than 2 gallons of water per minute, compared to the standard 2.5 gallons. While this may not seem like much, think about how many showers take place in your home (and for how long) each day, week, month, and year. The numbers add up quickly, especially when you take into account the costs associated with heating that water.
You can also get low-flow toilets, washers, dishwashers, and faucets. We recommend all of the above.
One way homeowners can cut their energy costs down is by using automated thermostats. Automated thermostats can run on a schedule that can change the temperature of your house based on the time of day.
For example, why keep your home at 72 degrees in the winter all day long while you’re not at home? Or 68 degrees in the summer?
Instead, back off your thermostat by 10 or 15 degrees while you’re at work. People will argue that your HVAC has to work harder to get back to the right temperature, which will cost more. However, studies show that it will save you 5 to 15 percent yearly.
Light bulbs may not seem like a big-ticket item when it comes to saving on energy costs, but the right light bulbs can make a significant change. LED light bulbs, for example, are 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs and can last up to 60,000 hours.
While you may immediately assume these light bulbs will be dimmer and less effective for lighting your home, think again. These bulbs come in many different colors, shapes, sizes, and levels of brightness.
Looking for More Homeownership Advice?
If you like the idea of energy-efficient homes and are looking for more ways to improve your efficiency, be sure to check out the rest of our articles. We also have everything from interior and outdoor designs to home improvement projects. Good luck!