We all know that it takes a lot of planning to buy or build a new home. We need to research how big of a home we can afford, how to get all of our belongings to our new digs, and the area that will make our family the happiest. If we’re also trying to find an earth-friendly home, there are even more considerations we need to make.
From our hybrid cars down to our reusable grocery bags, we’re all trying to live greener, more environmentally-friendly lifestyles. But the biggest energy consumer in all our lives is our homes. Here’s what to look for when considering the purchase or construction of a new abode.
The Big Stuff:
HVAC is going to take the biggest monthly bite out of your budget and put the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so anything we can do to cut down that cost is a win-win. Consider radiant underfloor heating, a geothermal heat pump, and hybrid solar-powered air and heating. Pellet stoves are cost efficient and burn a variety of waste products for heat.You can also choose to heat and cool your home in zones, which can be an efficient way to handle thermoregulating in an older house with a less up-to-date HVAC system. If you’re building from scratch, make use of passive solar energy, and ensure your house is built to take advantage of natural light and heat sources, with high ceilings to maximize summer heat dissipation. Good insulation will help to make the most of whatever system you have, so consider upgrading in the attic. Installation of a solar roof is pricey, but over time, it can pay for itself.
Location, Location, Location:
It’s no good to have a marvelous green home if you’re commuting two hours a day in your pollution-mobile. Make sure you are purchasing in a location that will cut down on your travel time each day. If you’re building or retrofitting a home, make sure that your plans are in keeping with local regulations and the rules of your homeowners association. It would be a shame to install a lovely solar roof only to find out it’s not legal for your area.Make sure you’re considering placement of any prospective home in relation to its environmental impact; avoid wetlands, floodplains, and wildlife conservation areas, and pay attention to the potential for habitat destruction.
Methods And Materials:
The dirty little secret of the green movement is that some of the items we think are environmentally friendly really aren't. Every time something is created, there is a cost in terms of power and materials to the environment. The manufacture of solar panels creates toxic heavy metal pollution. Availability of materials may be a concern, and some green materials or methods are not permissible under certain building codes. The initial cost of building or retrofitting with green materials can be substantially higher. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Green Lab Think Tank states that a new construction building that is 30 percent more efficient than an existing building of similar style and use would take 80 years to have a more beneficial environmental impact than the extant one. In many cases, the most environmentally-friendly building is the one that already exists.
The Little Things:
Still, there are plenty of things we can do to make new and older construction homes more eco-sensitive and sustainable. Installation of low-flow faucets and toilets conserve water. CFL and LED lighting cuts down on power bills. The use of rain barrels to collect runoff for lawn and garden reduces consumption of treated municipal water supplies. Consider swapping out your resource-heavy lawn for more nature-conscious xeriscaping. Even converting to paperless billing will have a major impact in preserving trees and forests.
Sustainability has become a watchword, but it’s also a practical way of living our lives. Concern for the environment is reshaping our living spaces and the contours of our daily lives. We can all make small changes to the ways we live to make life better for all of us. Good stewardship of the earth starts at home. Reducing our carbon footprint and limiting our impact on the natural world will benefit all of us, and those yet to come.
Thanks to Gene Williams for this article. Gene has decades of DIY experience and loves sharing his knowledge with others. Please visit his website for more information or to contact him with your DIY questions.