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February 18, 2020
Sustainable homes are not just a design buzzword nowadays, but something any homeowner can benefit from.
Home energy management and sustainable design has been around for a while, but it has only become popular with the introduction of accessible energy alternatives. In fact, USA Today reports that coal-based energy sources have now become more expensive than wind and solar energy. Certification programs like NGBS and LEED have also helped in making green home improvements easier for consumers.
Energy saving home improvements
Not only are energy efficient home improvements good for the environment, they add tremendous value to the buildings as well. Here are eight sustainable designs you can do for your home today:
Make monitoring a priority. Improving your home’s energy efficiency starts with monitoring your monthly energy consumption. Your utility bills are a good starting point but to make meaningful adjustments, you have to find specific areas which you can improve. Many Americans now have digital smart meters where they can access segmented data wirelessly. You can also opt for commercial smart meters with smart sockets to find when and where you expend most energy.
Get a power strip. Some appliances continue to draw power even when they’re turned off. This is called “phantom power”. To remedy this, you can buy smart power strips which automatically detect when appliances are not in use and turn the electricity supply off. It’s a pretty nifty yet convenient way to save energy
Update your appliances. Most appliances include green and energy saving mechanisms thanks to the increasing demand for sustainability. Getting rid of older appliances may feel counterproductive, and not sustainable, but they actually use more power and energy. In the long term it will be a money saving investment.
Improve insulation. Your home insulation’s resistance to heat flow—or R value—determines your energy efficiency. ALISTI Architecture’s Lee Calisti claims creating a good energy insulation envelope in your home is where you should begin. Sealing vents, ducts, and glazing windows help minimize the need for blasting the AC or maintaining heat. For example, instead of adding an attic fan, air seal and insulate the room.
Consider alternative energy sources. As mentioned above, alternative energy sources have now become cheaper. This doesn’t mean you have to be off the grid. Many gas and electric companies now offer optional tariffs which invest in renewable sources for the grid. On the other hand, the US federal government still offers subsidies for installing solar roof panels. Exploring these options can make your transition to energy efficiency and sustainability much faster.
Where to start
Planning. An energy audit, as aforementioned, is key in deciding where to start. From here, you can determine which initiatives you can DIY or will need contractors for. Luckily, it’s easier to find consultants and contractors who can help you in designing an energy efficient home.
Financing. Creating a fully sustainable home can be expensive, especially if you are planning to make the changes in a short time frame. If you don’t have the finances but want to make big purchases, Marcus recommends taking out a personal loan. They note how there are two types of personal loans: secured and unsecured. A secured personal loan will require you to put up collateral, while an unsecured loan is based on the finances of the borrower. If you need to take out a loan, it is best to do so for major sustainable changes that will have a long-term impact on the energy expenditure of your home. This will help you save money in the long run.
Prioritizing. Depending on how you plan to finance your home improvements, you can opt to do these incrementally or as an overhaul. But, as a general rule, try to improve on your insulation first as it cuts your consumption drastically, then move towards other more expensive improvements.