If you are about to buy or build a house make sure it is environmentally sound. It will make a difference to you. You will be much more comfortable in a house that is working to help the environment rather than being against it. It can be cooler in summer and warmer in winter without any additional use of electricity.
If time allows go to look at the house you are about to spend hard earned money on at the worst possible time. Go on a hot and windy day or when it is freezing cold. Go in the rain when the sky is dark or in the late afternoon. Don’t let yourself be seduced by a spring day or lovely autumn weather that will make the house seem perfect. It might not be on the wrong day. See past the flowers and the smell of coffee if the house is being tarted up to receive you by an estate agent. Check which way it is facing, where the windows are and smell the drains.
If you are renovating an existing house you probably already know its faults. Renovating the right way may fix some of them. If you are planning to build a house you can make a perfect plan on the drawing board and stick to it. Creating an environmentally friendly house is getting easier. Councils are being forced to look at buildings in a different way.
Begin by making a list of all the things you would like to have in your home such as how many rooms. Bedrooms, living spaces, at-home offices, kitchens, bathrooms, verandahs and patios. There could be more than one kitchen if you include an outside kitchen/ barbecue. Then add all the subsidiary things you want such as picture windows, heated floors, pantries, built in wardrobes and book cases etc. When you are sure that you have included everything you want then show it to a builder who understands and has already built eco-housing.
You can get a list of such people from the Housing Industry Association. A suitable builder will talk you through your ideas and tell you if they are possible before anyone sits down to make a plan.
You may be suggesting a very expensive house but good design is not expensive if simple construction is understood and carried out. Any extra expenditure on design features and appliances will be quickly repaid by the saving in energy bills and maintenance. Australian families spend 40% of energy costs on heating and cooling their houses. If all this is part of the house it just contributes comfort without fuss as a background accessory to the life of the house.
To some people a house is only four walls and a roof. It uses x amount of energy and emits x amount of waste over its lifetime.
But a house can be looked at as a living organism. Water can be accessed from the sky to a tank big enough to service the whole house. Proper insulation of ceilings, walls and floors will help produce an even temperature throughout the year. Strategic vents can extract heat by wind power. Australia has enough sunshine to provide solar power to the house with enough left over to feed back into the system ina sort of banking system. Waste water can be recycled for the gardens. Cross ventilation was once considered imperitive for Australian houses but now many large houses are being built on American and English patterns that have no cross ventilation. Bring it back so that in summer your house catches every breeze that blows. Site your house to face north with wide eaves or covered verandahs that will let the sunshine in when the sun is low in winter and exclude it in the summer.
It is completely possible to live in eco housing that will give you year round comfort and the cheapest energy bills in your street and suburb. Make your garden part of the scheme. Plant wind breaks where necessary. Grow your own vegetables and plant deciduous trees for shade in summer and sunshine through the bare boughs of winter. Fruit trees for instance. It is all simple and possible.
The movers are on their way, and you are getting excited to have your items unpacked and all settled in, but there are a few things left to figure out, such as what types of utilities to use in your new house.
If your utilities haven’t already been activated, you should do some investigating to see what types of energy is offered in your state. If you have made a move California, you are in luck as three of the top ten greenest cities in the United States are located in sunny California. If you made the trek to another state, don’t worry, as there has been a large effort to move to green energy in many states over the last several years. To find out if there are any green utility products available in your state, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website at Energy.gov and select your state.
The term green energy generally refers to a type of electricity that is produced from a renewable energy source, such as wind, solar power, geothermal etc. In the United States, over 50% of energy customers are able to purchase a green utility product directly from their electricity supplier.
The shift to green power is not off in the distant future anymore, it is becoming a reality. It is important for all of us to utilize green energy sources when possible, as we need to support the increase of renewable energy sources. This can reduce the burning of fossil fuels, such as natural gas, coal, and oil.
Once you have chosen and activated your green utility services, you can look for other regional green services such as a recycling center or transfer station. You will most likely have boxes and other materials leftover after your move that can be recycled if not stored for reuse. Get to know your local service facilities and find out the specifics on their procedures for proper recycling and disposal of your household items. While doing this research, you can visit Earth911.com to find out what services are offered to you locally.
Getting a fresh start and taking a new approach to living green can be a good way to refocus and get motivated again after your move.
It’s all about ugly solar panels and cold houses, right? Turn down the heat! Put a sweater on! God, those solar panels are an eye-sore! Not any more. Green building has evolved into much more than simply slapping some solar panels on the roof of your house and calling it a day. It can include such basic concepts as: the proper orientation of your house, sealed air ducts, high efficiency windows, improved insulation, high efficiency HVAC, and tight construction.
Check out The US Green Building Council for more information. A comprehensive rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has been developed whose goal is to provide “a road map for delivering economically profitable, environmentally responsible, healthy, productive places to live and work.”
Too late, I’ve already got a house
Not really, LEED provides a document called “16 Ways to Green your Home” which advises that you:
- Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Program your thermostat
- Plug air leaks
- Tune up your HVAC system
- Choose Energy Star appliances
- Reduce water use
- Switch to green power (could be as simple as calling your energy company and asking for wind power)
- Buy local
- Use low VOC products
- Use wood-alternative or FSC-certified wood products
- Use rapidly renewable flooring materials
- Plant trees to provide shade and wind protection
- Use native plants
- Use non-toxic garden techniques
- Buy a high-efficiency car
While it’s true that certain areas of the country are more open to the green building revolution than others, you can certainly see from this information that taking a step in the “green” direction is not overwhelming.