Environmentally friendly homes are on the minds of many homebuyers everywhere. Not only do these properties cut down significantly in terms of energy bills, but they give people an easy way to become part of the solution. But as win-win as it may sound, it's not always easy to decide which upgrades make the most sense for each home. Here are five sustainable building suggestions that tend to pay off.
Tree debris, old jeans, even raw sewage: there's more than one way to build or renovate a home. Bark can be used for siding, denim can be used for insulation, and sewage can be made into sturdy bricks.
All the experimentation has led to plenty of innovation. Now homeowners enjoy green homes that are every bit as functional as one built from more traditional methods. There's also a strong emphasis on using local materials as a way to cut down on all the back-and-forth transportation needed for each project.
Optimize the HVAC System
Heating and cooling are at the core of a home's energy use, and it's not unusual to see a large share of the utility budget go towards the HVAC system. Homeowners who want to stay comfortable and reduce their footprint can consider the following:
Solar panels: The ions of solar panels are activated by the sun's rays, resulting in energy so powerful that it can potentially reduce the need for electricity completely.
Geothermal: With geothermal energy, pumps are used to draw energy from the Earth's core—a stable 60° F. While the pumps do use some electricity to operate, it's a system that's five times more efficient than many traditional solutions.
There's a lot for homeowners to learn about both of these options, but the rewards are usually worth the research and debate. Solar panels especially have come down in price, making them a superb option for homeowners in sunnier climates. Some lucky homeowners can even sell their excess electricity back to the grid, making the panels that much more cost-effective. Those without plenty of sun can always rely on the core of the Earth through geothermal energy for a more efficient HVAC system.
The temperature of the home has a lot to do with the windows. Floor-to-ceiling glass is undeniably beautiful, but it opens up a lot of questions as to how the interior temperature is affected by the whims of Mother Nature.
Low-e glass has gained in popularity because it actively shuns heat during hot months and absorbs the same heat during winter. Augmenting an HVAC system with the right windows can go a long way toward reducing energy consumption even more.
Incidentally, the future of glass will likely be tied up in smart home technology. This kind of glass will use Wi-Fi to monitor the rooms, adjusting the temperature as people enter and leave. This invention could potentially save homeowners up to a quarter of their monthly bills.
The ambient air outside may not rise much above triple digits, but the roof of a home can heat up to 140° F. All the excess warmth will eventually seep into the home and radiate back into the environment. If there's a smog cloud in a city, the heat will become trapped and increase the temperature of the whole neighborhood. A cool roof is one that reflects rays up to 50 degrees, a feat that will have far-reaching positive implications for everyone in the vicinity.
A no-waste home requires no new materials to either make or run it. These homes are becoming more popular (even if they're still far from the norm) due to new construction techniques. The basic idea of a sustainable home is to combine the old and the new.
Home buyers might come across a property primarily made from rammed earth, an ancient building technique that relies on soil and water to make bricks. This technique was deemed impractical due to its susceptibility to erosion. However, when combined with a proper water run-off system, a rammed earth home is a way to use raw, sustainable materials for building.
Rain harvesting techniques have also become more advanced, allowing homeowners to collect water from nearly every surface of the home for reuse. From drinking water to irrigation, the effects of harvesting can greatly reduce—if not fully eliminate—the water bills for the owner.
From smarter appliances to zero-waste homes, the possibilities for sustainable building are growing every day. Whether homeowners want to sell soon or in the future, these upgrades are often worth the investment. Homeowners should look into incentive programs, whether they're from the manufacturer or federal or local governments, that can make it easier to purchase the big items (e.g., solar panels, etc.).