What is a green home? Green homes are residences that use fewer resources than traditional homes. Green homes use less energy and less water, they create less waste, and they are healthier places to live. Although it’s easiest to make a home green from the very beginning by incorporating certain design elements and sustainable building materials, even if your home is old (and old-fashioned), you can still make your existing home greener. Here are six suggestions for “greening” your home.
1. Replace old windows with energy efficient windows.
The US government’s Energy Star website states that replacing single-pane windows with newer, energy efficient windows can save homeowners anywhere from $126 to $465 per year in home heating and cooling costs. This puts replacing windows with energy efficient windows at the top of the to do list for green homes.
There are many different types of windows that are energy efficient. The key is to look at the window’s “U-factor” and “R-value”. U-factors describe how the window conducts heat; the lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient it will be. R-values describe how well insulated the window is; the higher the R-value, the more energy efficient the window will be.
2. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescents.
According to the magazine Popular Mechanics, the average home in the United States has forty-five light bulbs. Green homes use compact florescent light bulbs because they are far more energy efficient than the old-fashioned incandescents. Up to 90% of the energy used by incandescent light bulbs is wasted as heat radiation. Compact florescent light bulbs do not waste nearly that amount of energy, leading to a much longer-lasting bulb. Compact florescent bulbs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat.
3. Replace old refrigerators with energy efficient models.
While you may not want to spend the money that a new refrigerator will cost, you may end up making your investment back through energy savings. Refrigerators are one of the biggest energy-eaters in the home, and owners of green homes recognize this fact and look for fridges with the Energy Star logo. Depending upon how old your fridge is, it may be using 60% more energy than a newer fridge would use.
4. Build your own solar panels or wind turbines.
A key feature of green homes is that they use less energy. While much energy can be conserved using the above two tips that focus on energy efficiency, it’s also relatively easy to significantly reduce the amount of energy your home uses by building your own solar panels or wind turbines. It sounds difficult and technical, but you can easily build your own solar panels and wind turbines using materials you can find at your local hardware store (with the exception of the photovoltaic panels themselves, which you can purchase online). While DIY solar panels may not be able to power your entire home, they will certainly make your home greener by reducing your energy consumption.
5. Hook your gutters up to rain barrels.
But green homes don’t just save energy — they also save water.
Imagine reducing your water bill by a third. This feat isn’t hard to accomplish, because about 30% of the water used by the average American is used outdoors on things such as lawns, gardens, and car-washing. A garden hose sprays out about 10 gallons of water per minute, so just washing the family car can easily use 100 gallons of water!
By hooking up your roof gutters to several rain barrels, you can utilize that rainwater rather than letting it erode your lawn and create unsightly mud puddles. Rain water barrels can be easily attained and are easy to use.
Green homes represent the future of residential home construction. But even if your home isn’t new, your home can still be green. The eight suggestions listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to green homes. To make your own home greener, take a look at how you are using resources such as energy and water, and start asking how you can find ways to reduce your usage. With a little ingenuity, your resource inefficient home can become a green home in no time.
K. N. Singer writes about green living and healthy lifestyle choices at The Live Better Site. For an extended version of this article and more green home resources, click on this link: Making Your Home Greener.