People are finally starting to realize the importance of going green. Fortunately, the benefits of having an environmentally friendly home are more than sufficient to make people take the plunge. Some of the steps that people take to make their home more environmentally friendly are expensive, but there are also a variety of cheap ways to make your home environmentally friendly. They all need a little bit of elbow grease, but the results are more than worth the effort.
- 1 How To Conserve Energy In Your Home
- 2 How To Generate Clean Energy For Your Home
How To Conserve Energy In Your Home
The most beautiful phrase that an environmentalist can hear is “I want to know how to make my home environmentally friendly.” The first thing that most of them will suggest when they hear that is energy conservation, and for good reason. Nothing has a greater impact on the environment than energy use. Mines pollute the environment when they dig coal out of the ground, and then power stations release carbon dioxide into the air when they burn it. Anything that can reduce the need for that pollution can help the environment.
Conservation is also easy. There are a variety of lifestyle choices that can cut back on energy use, but there are also cheap home improvements that can do even more good. Most of them focus on reducing the energy that goes into heating and cooling a home, since that’s the biggest power consumer in almost every home in the world. It’s also a major expense in most homes, so one of the biggest benefits of having an environmentally friendly home is saving on the monthly heating bill.
Check the Windows
High and low temperatures will always tend to equalize over time. In practical terms, that means that a warm house in a cold environment will lose heat and a cool house in a hot environment will warm up. When that happens, people have to dedicate more energy to recovering that heat or cooling their house once again. That means that the best way to save energy is to make that process happen as slowly as possible.
Some structures transfer heat much more quickly than others. In most homes, the windows are the place where most heat enters or leaves the building. There are two ways to minimize the loss, by making sure that the windows are in good condition, and by installing energy-efficient windows.
The easiest way to get started is to examine the windows and look for any damage that could allow heat to enter or exit the home. The windows should fit in the window frame as tightly as possible, since gaps will make the heat transfer more quickly. Cracks in the glass will have the same impact. Filling the gaps and fixing the cracks won’t make a huge difference, but it’s very easy to do and every little bit can help.
The biggest gains come from installing energy-efficient windows. They rely on a variety of layers and coatings to inhibit the flow of heat through the window. This costs more than repairing old windows, but it can also increase the value of a home. It usually reduces the energy used for heating and cooling by 10-15% in most homes, so it can be a worthwhile investment.
Maximize Thermal Mass
Windows aren’t the only places that lose heat. Every inch of the home that is exposed to the air loses some energy. Every building has something called “thermal mass” that measures how much energy it can store to prevent temperature fluctuations. The more thermal mass the building has, the slower the temperature will change inside it.
Most homes rely on insulation to gain thermal mass, but most of them have room for improvement. Simply adding more insulation is an option in some cases, but it’s usually better to remove old insulation and replace it with a superior material. That can be expensive, but nothing does more to reduce a home’s dependence on artificial heating and cooling. Some homes rely exclusively on thermal mass to handle their climate control, but it’s hard to manage that without building an entirely new structure.
People who are building a new home or expanding an old one have more options. In general, stone and brick buildings have more thermal mass than wooden structures. Pressed earth and CEB are especially good, and both of them are made from compressing dirt until it is solid enough to be used for building. They’re cheap, they don’t pollute the environment during construction, and they’re the best option for conserving energy. That makes them a great choice for renovations and expansions. It’s rarely worthwhile to destroy an old home just to rebuild it with better materials, but everyone should consider them for newer constructions.
Automate Heating and Lights
The best way to conserve energy without significant effort is to turn off heaters, lights, and other appliances when they aren’t in use. It’s possible to do that by hand, but people often forget to do so. The solution to that problem is automation. It’s relatively cheap to get lights that turn on and off when people enter or leave the room, and those will cut down on the energy use from people forgetting to turn them off. A thermostat that will automatically turn down the heater when the home’s residents are at school or at work will make a bigger impact, and it’s just as easy to install in most homes.
Choose Efficient Appliances
Appliances don’t consume as much energy as heating and cooling, but they still have a significant impact on the power bill. Refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, and ovens all consume a lot of power because they also need to control temperatures. Most of the regulations that govern energy use are relatively recent, so older appliances tend to be especially egregious offenders.
It’s possible to reduce a home’s energy use by replacing old appliances with newer, more efficient models, but that’s also expensive. It’s normally best to look for energy efficiency when buying a new appliance, but to maintain older ones when possible. Damaged machines usually waste energy due to leaks, so fix problems as soon as they appear. It’s also possible to reduce energy consumption by lowering the water temperature for a washing machine, letting dishes dry naturally instead of using a dishwasher’s dry cycle, and by turning down a refrigerator’s power setting. It won’t do as much as replacing them, but it can still make a big difference without reducing their effectiveness.
Plant Trees for Shade
Plants are nature’s air conditioner. They absorb energy from the sun to produce glucose during photosynthesis, and any energy that they absorb is energy that doesn’t stick around as heat. Simply growing a bunch of plants can reduce the average temperature in the area, but it’s best to arrange them to maximize the result.
Planting a row of trees near a window will provide shade that blocks a lot of energy from entering the home. They also absorb carbon dioxide, so they can help heal the damage that the atmosphere has already suffered. Choose trees that are taller than the window to make sure that they provide adequate shade, and consider choosing fruit trees to cut down on the family’s food expenses when they start to bear fruit.
Cool Down with Paint
Dark surfaces absorb more heat than light surfaces. A house’s color may seem insignificant, but it can actually save money on heating and cooling. Houses that are in hot areas where staying cool is the main concern should be painted a light color, while houses that need to conserve heat should be painted a dark color. The impact won’t be massive, but painting a house is relatively cheap and easy for people to do on their own, and it will make a difference.
How To Generate Clean Energy For Your Home
Energy conservation will do more to reduce an environmental footprint than anything else, but nobody can reduce their energy consumption to zero. Adopting green energy is a great way to save money in the long term and protect the environment, but some people hesitate to install a full solar or wind system in their home. People who want to find out how to use renewable energy in home without purchasing a large solar array need only look to passive solar power and solar-powered appliances.
Small-Scale Solar Power
A home doesn’t need to rely exclusively on renewable energy to help the environment. That’s certainly preferable, but even a partial conversion can make a difference. There are two primary ways to generate solar power on a small scale. Many people simply install solar panels that can’t cover all of their energy needs and supplement them with energy from the grid. It’s cheaper than installing a full set of panels, and it leaves the option to increase the system’s capacity later, so it’s a good solution for many homes.
It’s also possible to use solar power to run individual devices. Most of these solar devices are aimed at campers who want to take a few comforts into the wilderness, so they have a few things in common. They’re usually portable, fairly durable, and they’re designed to power small devices. It’s difficult to power an entire oven with these portable solar cells, but they are enough for a camp stove. They are also a good option for people who need to power a computer or another small device. Even a system that can’t power a device on its own can charge one over time, so many people can benefit from these systems.
Passive Solar Power
When people wonder how to use renewable energy in home, they usually think of active generation that produces electricity. That’s a powerful option, but nobody should overlook passive solar power. Passive solar power heats a home with sunlight rather than using that light to generate electricity and run a heater. That makes it very efficient, but the home does need to be prepared to make use of it.
A home that is going to use passive solar heating needs to have windows that face towards the sun. In the northern hemisphere, that means putting them on the southern side of the home, and vice versa. The home should also have as much thermal mass as possible, to help prevent the home from losing heat faster than it can gain it.
Those requirements mean that most homes that want to rely exclusively on passive solar heating need to be built with it in mind, but that many homes can use it to supplement their heater. People who want to use it as a partial heating source can improve the effect by placing dark surfaces near their windows. The dark surfaces will reflect less of the light than lighter surfaces, so more heat will stay in the home. Closing windows and shades at night can also help to prevent the loss of heat, which can cut down on energy bills and help a home to get by with less thermal mass.
The average person who says “I want to learn how to make my home environmentally friendly.” ends up focusing on energy. While energy is the most important concern for most people that want to go green, it isn’t the only thing to consider. Water conservation and air quality are just as important to the environment, and there are some easy ways to protect them and save money at the same time. Most of them are also extraordinarily cheap ways to make your home environmentally friendly, so anyone can install them even if they can’t optimize their energy use.
Water collection systems can be very simple, or they can be very complicated. The details of the system will depend on the environment and how people intend to use the water that they collect. People who live in rainy areas can get much more of their water from these systems than people who live in the desert, but water conservation is more important in dry areas. People who plan on using the water for a garden or for washing their clothes can get by with far less purification than people who want to drink the water.
The simplest water collection system is a barrel. Placing the barrel under a gutter or near another place where water congregates is necessary to harvest a meaningful amount of water in most areas. People who want to use the water for a garden can stop at that stage and simply fill a bucket from the barrel and dump it on their plants. This water is also safe to use for cleaning and any other use except for human consumption, which requires purification. Purifying water for human consumption is complicated and often expensive, so it’s usually best to use it for watering plants and cleaning things.
People who need purification have two options. Automatic systems are available, but they tend to be very expensive and are usually only a good idea for people who live in very rainy areas. Portable water filters are the primary alternative. Most of them are marketed towards campers, so they tend to be small and light. They can’t provide enough water for a family, but it’s still useful to have one around in case the normal water supply gets disrupted.
Green Roofs and Walls
Green roof sand walls are recent developments, but they have a lot of potential and turn the phrase “going green” into something very literal. They consist of a protective layer on top of a roof or wall, followed by a growth medium and a layer of plants.
Growing plants on a home may seem bizarre, but there are a lot of benefits. They provide excellent insulation, so they can reduce a home’s energy use, but their biggest benefits lay elsewhere. Plants act as natural air filters, so a green roof or wall can significantly improve air quality, especially in areas that are full of smoke. They also absorb noise, which can turn undesirable real estate near an airport or a train station into a garden of tranquility. They can even produce food for people who lack other places for their garden.
It takes a lot of effort to build these structures, but almost anyone can do it if they’re willing to put in the work. It’s easiest to convert a flat roof into a green roof, but slanted roofs and walls can support them with a little more work.
It’s best to start by choosing plants for the roof or wall. Leafy green vegetables and grasses are the easiest to grow, but any relatively light plant with shallow roots can survive on a green roof. Choose a growth medium that can support those plants, and protective layers that are suited to the local environment. After that, it’s a simple matter of attaching them to the roof in the right order. It will take some work and planning, but the results are stunning.