Protecting the environment is a major concern nowadays, and companies from all business fields are adopting eco friendly methods and techniques. However, there is also a significant opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of the residential sector.
When green design features are deployed in homes and multifamily buildings, they often bring an economic benefit as well. For instance, energy efficiency measures reduce electricity and gas bills, while water conservation measures reduce the corresponding water bill. Given that environmental sustainability is gaining importance, these measures can also make properties more valuable in the real estate market.
Reduce your utility bills and carbon emissions with a green building design.
This article provides some recommendations that can reduce the environmental impact of homes, apartments and other residential properties.
Smart HVAC Systems
In most residential buildings, HVAC systems consume more energy than all other appliances. However, a large amount of the energy used by HVAC appliances is wasted due to inadequate insulation, leaky ductwork, and air leaks through windows and doors. All these factors influence the efficiency of heating and cooling a home.
To optimize the amount of energy and performance of HVAC appliances, make sure the entire building envelope has adequate insulation. Investigate about the types of insulation, their pros and cons, and the recommended applications. For example, spray foam insulation is suitable for existing properties, but insulated concrete forms (ICF) are better suited for new constructions because they must be embedded in walls.
Other steps to enhance HVAC performance include weatherization around doors and windows, and replacing windows and doors with newer and more efficient newer versions. If this is not possible, tints can be added to windows to reflect UV rays and reduce heat transfer.
Efficient Light Bulbs
Everyone has lighting fixtures at home, so one of the first things any homeowner should do is replace all inefficient incandescent light bulbs with newer and more efficient versions. LED lamps are recommended, since they last longer than incandescent bulbs while having only a fraction of their energy consumption. Long-lasting bulbs also produce less landfill waste, since there is no need to replace them at short intervals.
Renewable Energy Sources
By definition, renewable energy comes from sources that are naturally replenishing, such as sunlight and wind. Unlike fossil fuel reserves, which can be depleted, these resources remain available in the future regardless of present usage. For example, sunlight remains available independently of how many solar panels are installed today.
The sun is a natural powerful source of energy that can be gathered using solar panels. While their upfront cost can be high, the long-term ownership cost is very low. High-quality solar panels have a very long service life of over 25 years, and they can adapt to almost any property with an available space is not covered by shadows.
Other sources of renewable energy include wind, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal power. These are more difficult to deploy in a residential building, but you can ask your electricity provider about the energy sources that power your home. Small wind turbines may be viable in some cases, but they lack the versatility of solar panels.
The main drawback of wind and solar power is their intermittent nature, since the energy input cannot be controlled. However, this will start to change as energy storage systems decrease in price. Hydropower facilities can provide electricity on demand if they have a reservoir to store water, but they are only viable with specific site conditions. Also, individual homeowners will rarely have a chance to use hydropower directly, unless the property has a small river flowing through.
Water Efficient Fixtures
Lowering your water usage is beneficial for the environment and for your utility bill. Some cities have lawn watering restrictions and programs to reduce water usage. There are many water conservation home features that can be incorporated, such as low flow faucets adapters and efficient toilets. Practices like smart irrigation and rainwater harvesting can also be adopted to save water and money, while generating a positive environmental impact.
Local Building Materials
Locally sourced materials should be your first choice for both new construction and major renovations. This reduces transportation costs, minimizing the carbon footprint of the construction process. Wood, aggregates and masonry are normally easy to find, and they represent the largest share of materials in residential construction.
Besides opting for local materials, consider reusing and recycling. By doing so, less construction waste ends up in landfills.
You should look for the ENERGY STAR label when purchasing any appliance that uses electricity or gas, and the WaterSense label in the case of plumbing fixtures. Both programs are managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and products are only labeled after a rigorous testing procedure by an independent laboratory - manufacturers cannot label products on their own.
Another way to make appliances more efficient is through smart technology. Some appliances have built-in controls that optimize efficiency, helping users reduce their energy consumption. There are also external devices such as smart thermostats, to be used when appliances only have basic controls.
By making sure your house is environmentally friendly you are:
- Reducing your carbon footprint.
- Helping sustain natural resources.
- Saving money on utility bills.
In an ideal scenario, every building should achieve net-zero energy consumption and emissions. Energy efficient appliances, weatherization techniques, water conservation, green practices, and renewable energy sources have gained popularity in recent years. Green measures in your home contribute to the common goal of environmental protection and sustainable construction.