If you happen to be interested in issues like pollution, waste, recycling, conservation, deforestation, and other eco-friendly concerns, you are probably looking for ways to adjust your lifestyle in order to live up to your green sensibilities. And while you can take strides on many fronts by driving an electric car or using mass transit, buying organic and locally-sourced foods, recycling and buying recycled and sustainable products, and so on, one of the best ways to cut your carbon footprint is to stop sucking up energy in your home. You can do this by making the switch to clean, green solar power. However, building a solar-powered home isn’t as easy as slapping some panels on the roof, severing ties with your power provider, and calling it a day. There are several things you need to consider if you want solar power to deliver on its potential. Here are a few that could have you saying yes to solar, or alternately, heading in a different direction.
- Cost versus reward. Although getting off the grid and switching to solar power can definitely save you money over time, you need to understand that it is not without expense. For one thing, the average home will need $25,000-$50,000 worth of solar panels to operate. That’s a lot of dough up front. But you’ll also have to maintain your panels if you want them to continue functioning properly. Some of this you may be able to do on your own. For example, you can buy solar panel kits for a fraction of what it costs to purchase completed panels, but you will have to assemble them. And you might have to hire help to install them. You can also clean, inspect, and repair your panels as needed. But you need to seriously weigh the costs before you invest in solar panels. They may not pay off as anticipated, although of course, the benefit to the environment also factors in to your decision.
- Your climate. If you live in a southern state with a climate that predominately experiences sunshine, you are probably going to see excellent value from investing in solar panels. But if you are constantly plagued by cloudy days and storms, chances are you will need a supplemental form of energy to power your home. This isn’t to say that you have to draw from the power company, however. You might consider a residential wind turbine or water power of some sort, depending on your region and what best suits your needs.
- Home orientation. For those who live in the northern hemisphere, south-facing slopes offer the best opportunity to collect sunlight for energy. So you’ll want to make sure that any structure you build with the intent of placing solar panels on the roof conforms to your orientation needs.
- Storage. If you get sunlight on a regular basis (i.e. daily) you might not need a lot of backup storage for energy. But if you go days or even weeks without seeing the sun, additional storage could help to ensure that you have access to green energy even when the sun isn’t shining.
- Incentives. You might think that all of the green tax energy incentives have expired, but some have been extended. The Solar Investment Tax Credit, for example, is in effect until 2016, allowing you to claim up to 30% of your investment in residential solar systems when you file your income tax return. This is excellent news for anyone looking to build a solar power home. And you might even want to check with your state to see if any additional incentives are offered. When you contract with a company like Icon Solar to make the switch, make sure to ask if they know of any incentives that can help to make your up-front costs sting a little less.
Whether you’re looking to greenify your current home or you’d rather purchase a structure that is specifically designed for conservation, efficiency, and an all-around eco-friendly lifestyle, you should know that the options available to you are constantly changing and improving. And what was popular last year may be old hat compared to newer technologies on the market. So here are just a few green home construction trends that look to become more widely used in 2014.
- Smart home technologies. You might think it’s pretty handy to use your smartphone or tablet to remotely control lights and electronics or adjust the thermostat, especially if you’re the type that’s always wondering if you left the TV on when you walked out the door this morning, or if you keep forgetting to program a schedule for your digital thermostat. But smart home systems can also help you to cut consumption and save money by powering down remotely during times when you’re not present to enjoy the electronics in use in your home.
- Spray foam insulation. Fill and batting will do the job of regulating your interior temperature, but over time they can deteriorate, settle, and otherwise lose some potency. Spray foam, on the other hand, hardens in place and stays put, which can help when it comes to ensuring that your interior spaces are evenly insulated and that air isn’t flowing between the inside and outside around gaps.
- Air-tight interior. Growing interest in the Passive home process (a certification program similar to LEED) has really raised awareness of the importance of having an air-tight home. Any time air is leaking around window and door frames, vents, pipes, ducts, or any other potential points of ingress and egress, you’re wasting your bought air, so to speak. But with proper insulation and sealing throughout the structure, you stand to significantly reduce waste and overall usage, increasing efficiency and making it much easier to regulate your interior temperature. Of course, you will need fresh air, so don’t forget that sealing your home could include adding some kind additional ventilation system.
- High-performance roofing. Not every climate is suited for solar panels on the roof, they may be out of the price range for some homeowners, or they simply might not make financial sense, even if they’re environmentally sound. But there are alternatives when it comes to the roof that could help you to conserve energy, and high-performance roofing is one such product that looks to gain traction in the coming year. Newer products not only help to reflect sunlight (and heat) away from your home, cutting down on the need for electrical cooling options, but they are also designed to be visually appealing, something that homeowners are bound to appreciate.
- Overall efficiency. The latest green trend is to leave piecemeal improvements behind and focus on whole-home systems that ensure every part of the building process takes conservation and efficiency into account. And you don’t necessarily have to submit to LEED or Passive standards, either. You can take smaller strides to increase efficiency in every area of your home, even if you don’t necessarily get off the grid completely. Your builder will secure NY or LA cranes for rent, bring in building materials, and create your structure from the ground up. But at every step of the way, there are eco-friendly options at your disposal. And considering how much you stand to save over time when you select green materials and building practices, it could be worth some up-front expense.
Every homeowner loves being able to extend their living space into the backyard where they can relax and entertain. However, if you live an eco-friendly lifestyle, it may be a bit challenging to continue these choices in your yard unless you have a plan. Usually outdoor living accessories, furniture, and appliances are not green and can waste energy and resources. Instead of being wasteful, make mindful decisions and choices in your backyard living spaces when designing decorating and furnishing that area. Here are 5 tips for creating an eco-friednly outdoor living space in your backyard.
- Outdoor lights help to keep your space safe while allowing you t enjoy it even when the sun goes down. Light walkways and use other lights at night to illuminate your outdoor space. Instead of using regular energy wasting lights, consider eco-friednly options or even use solar powered options! These lights are outside, so they can collect the sun’s rays all day for use at night!
- Recycle things to be used in your backyard. When creating a green space outside, it is essential to keep the mantra “reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle” in mind. Find ways to use older things in this yard and give them new life and purpose. This will not only be green because it deuces consumerism and waste, but it can also help to save you a significant amount of money on purchasing all bran new things. If you must purchase items, try to purchase them second hand at a tag or garage sale instead of new from a store.
- No outdoor space would be complete without a grill! However, traditional grills are often not eco-friendly due to the energy they use. Consider alternatives instead to ensure your grill is eco-friendly. Instead of non eco-friednly coal, use natural lump coal, corn-power, or natural gas.
- Reduce how often you use the garden hose. Try to reduce how often you water plants, and avoid watering if it rains since they will not need the extra water. Instead of using water from the hose to wash off your patios areas, choose to sweep with a broom instead. This can cut back on water waste tremendously.
- Textiles help to make the outdoor space more like an indoor room by adding comfort and style. When using textiles for pillows, cushions and table cloths, be sure to use organic fabrics and materials. Also make sure that they are all natural as well for an eco-friednly decor.
Making these smart, mindful decisions in your backyard space can help you to continue living a green lifestyle. When creating your dream outdoor space, consider your needs for entertaining net relaxing, while also being aware of your impact on the environment. Use solar lighting, reuse and recycle furniture instead of buying new patio furniture in greater Boston, choose sustainable ways to power your grill when barbecuing, reduce water use, and choose textiles that are organic and all natural. These decision will make a huge difference in your yard but will not force you to sacrifice anything to make your backyard cozy, comfortable and stylish.
When it comes to making your home more energy efficient, there are all kinds of things that you can do. You can use LED light bulbs. You can install a programmable thermostat. You can purchase a low-flow showerhead. And those are just some of the things that you can do to save money on your electricity and water bills.
But if you’re looking for another way that doesn’t cost you any money, have you ever considered conducting a whole home energy audit? It’s basically a process that helps you to thoroughly inspect your home to see why (and where) you may be inadvertently wasting energy. If you’d to know some of the main benefits that come with doing one, we have provided you with five reasons why it’s a good thing to do twice a year below:
It lowers your energy costs. As we’ve already mentioned, by far one of the best reasons to conduct a home energy audit is that it will help to lower your energy bills. That’s because things like air and water leaks, worn insulation and faulty appliances can cause you to use up more energy than usual. But if you are able to repair these things, you will end up spending less money on your electricity and water as a direct result.
It reveals potential health risks. Hopefully, you have a carbon monoxide and radon detector in your house so that you can be alerted to any potential gas leaks. But when it comes to fungus like mold and mildew that can grow in your house due to moisture, sometimes they go undetected until you end up having an allergic reaction or a respiratory infection. However, with a home energy audit, you can know if your monitors need new batteries or if you have fungus growing in your house, which can be a real lifesaver.
It purifies the air. Did you know that according to many reports, indoor air pollution is actually 2-5 times more toxic than outdoor air pollution is? That said, something that your HVAC unit has are air ducts and when they clog up, they can end up blowing debris, dirt, dust and dander into the air. Thanks to an energy audit, you can detect if your air ducts need to be vacuumed or even replaced, which ultimately improves your air quality.
It is good for the environment. If you were asked what 6 common energy-saving myths are, what would you list? You might be surprised by the fact that one myth is that all new homes are energy efficient. The reality is that what makes a house eco-friendly is the layout and the appliances that are inside of the home. So, if you happen to live in an older house, by conducting an energy audit, you can purchase what your house needs in order to be “greener”. And when you do, you are ultimately reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that go into the environment.
It makes your home more comfortable. When your windows have drafts or there are missing pieces of insulation in your attic, not only will it cause you to waste energy, but it can make the temperature in your house fluctuate too. This is just one more reason to conduct a home energy audit. It will help you to keep the rooms in your house at a comfortable temperature all year round. For information on how to do your own energy audit, visit The Daily Green and put “DIY energy audit” in the search field.
Although life comes with all kinds of changes, if there’s one thing that’s a constant, it’s our bills. No matter what, every single month, we can expect to walk out to our mailbox (or check our email account) and see things like an electricity, cable and of course, a water bill. But when it comes to your water, did you know that there are certain things that you can do that will help to decrease that amount that you use, which ultimately reduces the amount on your water bills?
If you would like to know about some of the quick and easy home modifications that you can make that will help to reduce your water usage, we have provided you with five of them below:
Conduct an energy audit. One of the first things that you should do is conduct an energy audit. That’s because it will show you the areas in your house where you might have air leaks, faulty appliances or water leaks. And if the audit happens to reveal that your toilet is leaking or you need some new pipes in your basement, that will definitely explain why you are paying more for your water than you should. For instructions on how to conduct an energy audit, visit Energy.gov and put “DIY energy audit” in the search field.
Add a low-flow showerhead. Most of us enjoy a nice warm shower; however, if there’s anything that uses up gallons and gallons of water in just a few minutes, it’s that. The good news is that there is something that you can do to significantly reduce the amount of water that you use while you’re washing up: install a low-flow showerhead. You can find them at your local home improvement store, they cost less than $50 and they can save you as much as 30 percent on your energy bills annually.
Use a timer in the bathroom. Speaking of taking a shower, something else that you can do is put a timer in the bathroom. If you happen to have children, they will enjoy this because you can make a game out of it. Just set the timer to 5-7 minutes and tell them that if they get out of the shower, completely clean, before the timer goes off, they’ve won!
Put bottles of water in your refrigerator. Something that all of us need is plenty of water, right? Well, rather than relying on your faucet every time you would like a glass of water, how about filling up some bottles and storing them up in the refrigerator? That way, whenever you want a drink, it will be ready for you and you won’t have to turn on a faucet to get it.
Be responsible with your appliances. One of the best things about the internet is that you can find instructions in everything from getting steps to replace your thermostat to learning how to be more responsible when it comes to your appliances. Well, as it relates to your washing machine and dishwasher, try and only use them when you have a full load. Not only will it reduce the amount of water that you use but it will help to save you money too—and that’s always a good thing.