Going green in the home used to be a pretty simple affair. All you needed to do was replace a couple of standard incandescent bulbs with those twirly compact fluorescent bulbs and your job was done.
However, things are not quite that simple any more, as greater awareness of energy efficiency, sustainability and minimising the environmental footprint of a home continues to grow.
How green a home is can be designed in from the moment the plans are drawn up. Deciding on the construction methods and materials that will be used can have a significant impact on the energy efficiency of the home, while the use of sustainable materials in finish can also limit the environmental impact. Even where material is sourced from can have an impact on the carbon footprint of the home, due to the fossil fuel burnt to transport the materials.
Constructing a home using more modern methods like insulating concrete forms can help build better thermal efficiency into the home, as the poured concrete of the walls creates a much more air-tight wall than most traditional construction methods, while the foam form insulates the wall from the heat outside.
However, even the most air-tight construction can be let down by the windows, which can allow heat to seep back into a home at an alarming rate. Properly fitted windows with double glazing will do a much better job of keeping heat out than single glazed windows and in so doing help to reduce the load on your air conditioning unit.
Even the orientation of a home can have a significant impact on how efficient it is, as a home oriented to make use of the natural breezes for cooling can do without the use of air conditioning during the cooler months of the year.
Another important consideration when building green is incorporating gas lines into the planning, as it can be much more complicated and expensive to retrofit these at a later stage, and the use of natural gas in appliances is a great way to go green.
Home cooling is the single biggest item on any electricity bill, so it is important to do as much as possible to make home cooling more efficient. Apart from the construction of the home, paying attention to the insulation in the ceiling of a home can have a significant impact as well. Even a panel of insulation that was moved during other work and not placed back correctly can allow heat to leak back into the home.
The efficiency of the air conditioning unit itself is also very important. Air conditioning units are given seasonal energy efficiency ratings, with a higher SEER rating indicating greater efficiency. Although replacing an air conditioning unit can be quite expensive, over the long term it can make a great difference to the energy consumption of a home, especially if an older unit is being replaced.
One of the best options when it comes to going green in a home is to look into utilising alternative energy sources like solar power. As air conditioning units tend to be the biggest power drains on a home, especially when the sun is shining, some companies are offering air conditioning units billed as solar ready for easy integration with solar panels.
Flooring, counter tops and cabinets might not be the first place many people look when thinking about going green. However, there are many options like bamboo that presents a much more rapidly renewable resource than some of the hardwoods that have traditionally been employed in flooring and cabinets. Even curtains and towels can be made from bamboo fibres, which is more environmentally friendly than other traditional materials.
Although replacing appliances merely for energy efficiency might not be practical or even the best environmental choice, when selecting new appliances it is vital to look at the energy consumption and water consumption of the appliances. The information is easily available and can also allow you to calculate the approximate savings from one appliance to the next. Of course, another option is to forgo electricity and opt for gas appliances instead.
Home Gas has a wide variety of gas kitchen appliances, including ovens and cooktops, which apart from saving on electricity also offers greater versatility and a level of control when cooking that is tough to match with traditional appliances. Of course, another major advantage is that even when the power goes, you can still cook, which is a definite advantage in hurricane season.
One of the biggest potential energy savers available from Home Gas is their range of tankless water heaters. These units take up a lot less space than traditional hot water tanks, while at the same time saving a lot of energy as water is only heated as required, and not kept at a set temperature regardless of use. This can result in a unit that is up to 70 per cent more efficient than a traditional electric water heater.
Regardless of all the energy saving appliances and construction methods you put in place, the most important energy saving device remains the inhabitants of the home. From setting a higher temperature on the thermostat to not thinking what you want to eat while standing in front of an open fridge and only washing full loads, modifying your behaviour can be one of the most powerful energy savers in your home.
Even where material is sourced from can have an impact on the carbon footprint of the home, due to the fossil fuel burnt to transport the materials.