Energy costs are sky high all over the country, and keeping your home comfortable without breaking the bank may seem like an impossibility. The sun breaks into your home every day to heat up your rooms, and your air conditioning system has to work in overdrive to keep each room at a comfortable temperature. Landscaping is a great way to increase your home’s energy efficiency and reduce your summer air conditioning costs. Following a few simple steps will help you use the power of nature to keep your home cool in the summer.
Start by taking a look at your local climate and landscape. You could be living in a temperate zone, a cold area, or a generally warm and dry region. It’s important to remember that the same landscaping techniques will not work in all of these different regions. Every geographical area has its own particular climate concerns that will influence the way you landscape to reduce your air conditioning costs.
In a warm and dry climate, your main concern is the sun. Shade is scarce in these arid climate zones, and the bright sunshine breaks into home with an intensity that causes temperatures to rise quickly. In a climate like this, such as the hot American Southwest, trees that block out the sun and provide shade are extremely beneficial for keeping homes cool and reducing air conditioning costs. Evergreens and tall shrubs are especially well-suited to this task, as they keep their leaves and needles all year round. Look for native plants that will be able to thrive in your dry climate without too much extra care.
Other geographical areas are hot as well, but their heat manifests itself with more humidity. A hot and humid climate requires a different approach to cooling, as a humid home will still be uncomfortably mucky in the stagnant air. The trick to keeping a humid home comfortable is air circulation. Home owners in humid climates should shade the walls of their homes that get the most sun exposure, but avoid planting too close to the home. Landscape in such a way that cool breezes will be directed toward your home to keep the air moving.
In a temperate climate, your concerns are not relegated to a single season. While summers in temperate zones can become uncomfortably hot, winters are equally brutal. In this setting, your goal should be to landscape for a cool summer without exposing your home to the harsh elements of winter. Deciduous trees are perfect for reducing your home air conditioning costs, and they are conveniently native to temperate areas. Deciduous trees will grow lush with thick foliage to shade your home in the summer, while shedding their leaves in the winter to let the sunshine warm up your walls.
Keeping your home energy efficient through landscaping is largely a matter of geography, so think about what techniques will be best in your climate. You may want to upgrade to a more efficient ductless home cooling system as well; ask your local what is ductless air conditioning and what are its benefits compared to other systems. An efficient air conditioner coupled with smart landscaping will keep your home comfortable throughout the whole year.
If you’ve recently looked out on your back deck and you can’t remember the last time that you purchased a new piece of patio furniture, guess what? That’s a pretty clear indication that the time is probably now. Although we may tend to spend more time indoors than outside, the reality is that it’s better for our overall health and well-being if we spent more time in the fresh air. And, the better that our outdoor space looks, the more likely we’ll want to do just that.
So, if your patio has honestly seen better days, we wanted to provide you with a few tips on how you can do a bit of eco-friendly patio remodeling below:
Take care of your deck, first. If you were going to remodel your living room, it wouldn’t make much sense to do that without cleaning your carpet first, right? It’s important to think along these same lines when it comes to your deck. If it also looks like it needs a bit of work, there is some non-toxic deck stain that you can buy. One company that sells it that comes highly reviewed is TimberSoy Natural Wood Stain.
Purchase some “green” furniture. As it relates to the kind of furniture that you should buy, there are a few ways to go about this. You can repaint or reupholster the pieces that you already have, you can go to a local thrift store or garage sale and buy some used items, or you can go with a “green dealer”. They are ones who put forth a concerted effort to sell furniture that is made from sustainable materials and uses low VOC paint. (Gaiam is one store that has a wide variety of “green” furniture.)
Get a solar water feature. Nothing says peace and serenity quite like a water feature does and the good news is that there are all kinds of ones that are solar-operated. You can find a wide selection of them by going to Serenity Health, Simply Fountains, Garden or even Wal-Mart or eBay.
Add some plants. It’s pretty natural to think that since you’re already outdoors, you don’t need more plants. However, not only do plants add to the ambiance of any space, but they also are an effective way to pull toxics out of the air. Therefore, we think that when it comes to patio dÃ©cor, the more plants, the better. Some really nice tall ones include Acer palmatum, Aucuba japonica, Eriobotrya japonica, Hedychium densiflorum and Holboellia coriacea.
Only purchase what you need. Something that a lot of us forget that is a big part of making eco-friendly choices is remembering that it’s important to avoid buying in excess. For instance, there are all kinds of outdoor dÃ©cor accessories like throw pills, patio umbrellas and ottomans that you could put on your patio, but if it’s only going to clutter up the space, that will prove to be a waste of money and resources. So, whatever it is that you decide to buy, make sure that it will be something that you and your family can get a lot of use out of. That’s a sure way to know that you definitely made a wise “green” patio purchase.
College students tend to be a fairly liberal and idealistic lot. An abundance of energy, an open mind, and a freedom from the personal baggage that weighs people down later in life allows you to exude the vim and vigor needed to change the world – just as soon as you earn your degree. And you can start making your mark (or reducing it, as the case may be) before you ever set foot on campus. By paying attention to your packing you can find all kinds of ways to cut your carbon footprint when it comes to preparing to head off to the halls of higher education. Here are just a few steps you might take to make your packing efforts a little greener than the average student.
- Upcycle clothing. You might be tempted to run out and get a whole new wardrobe for college, but you don’t have to blow a ton of dough on newly-manufactured clothing in order to make a good impression on professors, peers, and perhaps even prospective employers. This is not to say that your grungy tees and ripped jeans from high school will serve you well in the collegiate environment; you’re probably going to want an upgrade. But instead of buying new, think about how you can take used items and make them work for you. For example, you can hit up estate sales, yard sales, and thrift/vintage stores in search of gently used items (Buffalo Exchange, in particular, caters to teens and young adults). Since you’ll get them at a discount you can spend a few extra bucks on tailoring. You’ll support a local service provider (a seamstress or tailor), say no to new manufacturing, and get a new-to-you wardrobe in the process.
- Shop second-hand. You’ll no doubt need a lot of new items for your dorm room. And aside from bedding, which you may prefer to purchase new (go organic!), there are plenty of things you can get second-hand, such as storage bins, suitcases, and so on. Better yet, buy what you need when you arrive. This will save you on gas or shipping and show support for the local economy. It might not seem like much, but every little bit counts.
- Opt for reusable. Since most college students are operating on a pretty tight budget, it’s rather surprising that they use so many disposable items, from pens, pencils, and notebooks to toiletries like tissues, cotton swabs, and plastic razors. If you want to go green and save some money in the process, take notes on your tablet, use a washable hankie and washcloths rather than disposable products, and think about less wasteful options for hair removal.
- Forget the appliances. It can be tempting to haul a mini-fridge, a microwave, a toaster oven, a hair dryer and other small appliances with you to campus. But if you truly want to go green, leave these energy-guzzling appliances at home.
- Pack a portable library. Whether you’ve got your heart set on a bachelor’s degree in costume design or you’ve set your sights on the best healthcare MBA degree, you’re going to need a lot of books along the way. And unless you like the idea of denuding forests in the process you might want to consider alternatives to traditional paper literature. Luckily, technology has provided modern students will all kinds of way to store and peruse their library in a digital format. So purchase some cloud storage or get an external hard drive and punch up all of your reading on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. It will not only decrease your heavy load, but it will also help to stop deforestation.
Energy efficiency is on everyone’s mind today, and taking steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle has many benefits. You’ll be doing your part to save the planet, saving lots of money along the way, and making your home more comfortable all the while. Small steps can make a big difference. Be sure to remember these important steps to a more energy efficient home.
- Upgrade to Energy Efficient Appliances
Your appliances are the main consumers of energy in your home, which is why it’s so important to keep them up to modern standards. Energy Star approved appliances on the market today are twice as efficient as the older fixtures that still populate many homes across the country. If your refrigerator, air conditioners and other appliances haven’t been upgraded recently, now is the perfect time to make the leap. New energy efficient appliances will do wonders for increasing efficiency in your home.
- Invest in Quality Insulation
Heating and cooling are major concerns in energy efficiency, as huge portions of domestic energy consumption are connected to this very issue. Maintaining a comfortable living environment in extreme weather requires lots of energy, but insulating your home reduces the burden significantly. Properly insulated walls act as thermal shields for your home, keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Invest in quality insulation for your home to enhance both your comfort and your energy efficiency.
- Say Goodbye to Incandescent Lights
Incandescent light bulbs, like the ones that illuminate homes all over the world, were a brilliant technological innovation over one hundred years ago. Today, they are relics of the past that live on simply because people haven’t cared enough about energy efficiency to change their lights, until very recently. Energy efficient lighting solutions can do a lot for your home. Fluorescent bulbs light your rooms with a fraction of the energy consumption, and LED lights are even more efficient. Best of all, these lights run cool. You won’t be adding extra heat into your home, making it easier to maintain a stable temperature.
- Install Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures
Plumbing is not always a major concern for those seeking home energy efficiency improvements, but it should be. The power it takes to purify water and pump it into your home is huge, and it simply runs down the drain every day. Look for a handyman for hire in your area who can optimize your home plumbing by installing low flow fixtures. Faucets and shower heads like this aerate water before it leaves the pipes, increasing water pressure without increasing waste. This helps greatly in reducing water consumption around the house.
- Conduct a Professional Energy Audit
As prudent as you may be about energy efficiency, new problems can crop up unnoticed at any time. To find those hidden energy wasting problems in your home, conduct a professional energy audit. Energy auditing services can accurately gauge the efficiency of your home and find the major problem areas. Have your home audited by a professional to figure out what you need to do in order to maximize efficiency.
When the weather is warm, that is the time when lots of families plan camping trips. That’s because it’s a nice way to spend quality time with your loved ones while also getting in touch with nature. Yet, if you’re someone who tries to be as “green” as possible when it comes to planning out your camping trip, to others, it might seem redundant to say that you want to make your trip as eco-friendly as possible (being that you will be outside and all).
However, we totally get where you’re coming from because even while camping, there are things that you can do to be environmentally aware. If you’re looking for a few handy tips on how to do just that, we’ve enclosed five of them for you below:
Buy used. One of the important rules of being eco-friendly is recycling and in this case, that means purchasing camping items that are used. You can usually find things like backpacks and tents at your local secondhand store (such as a thrift shop or Army surplus store) or online at websites such as Craigslist and Freecycle.
Totally “disconnect”. We live in a world where most people are constantly checking their Facebook page and talking on their cell phones but one way to make your camping trip a truly authentic experience is to leave all electronic gadgets behind. Take one cell phone in case of an emergency and that’s it. Not only is it a good way to reconnect with the family the old fashioned way (talking face-to-face with one another), but it will keep you from using up extra energy too.
Go to a campground that is close to you. Oftentimes, we’ll tend to go camping on a campground that is far away from where we live but by doing that, we are using quite a bit of fuel to get from one destination to the next. Instead, do a bit of research about the kinds of campgrounds that are closer to where you live. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find one that you’ll really like that you didn’t have to fill up your tank in order to get to.
Take (or build) a solar oven. If you really want to go all out, why not cook your food inside of a solar oven? Etsy, eBay and SolarOven.co are all websites where you can purchase one. Or, if you would like to actually build one yourself, HomeTrainingTools.com has step-by-step instructions on how you and your children can make one together. Simply go to the website and put “build a solar oven” in the search field.
Make your own toiletries. When it comes to what you can make by hand, while we recommend that you purchase your tent from an actual tent manufacturer (just so you can be sure that it’s sturdy and secure), something that you can make yourself is your own biodegradable toiletries. There are all kinds of websites that have recipes for how to create your own eco-friendly body wash, lotion and even lip gloss and lip balm. All you have to do is go to your favorite search engine and put “homemade body products” in the search field. They’re quick to make and just as good as the commercial brands. Enjoy!