Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Battle Cry for Energy Efficiency and Green Energy

Sustaining the Home
Thomas Caulen 
With ongoing news and talk of global warming's effects on the environment, "going green" has become a war cry of the age. Businesses and homeowners alike continue to look for ways to find a balance between going green and staying in sync with this technological era. 
Since the home will forever be a place for reprieve, both comfort and practicality become essential factors to consider when creating a balanced green living environment. Fortunately, there are many ways to make this transition with a range of financing options to consider.
Creating an Energy Efficient Home
Creating an energy efficient home means converting existing energy sources from non-renewable to renewable sources. The premise behind this has to do with the continued leaching of the earth's natural resources, such as coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike wind, sun, water and geothermal sources, non-renewable fuels can only be used once while renewable sources are constantly replenished for ongoing use.
Within the United States, lighting costs alone account for as much as 15 percent of an average household's electric bill. On the flip-side, wind speeds of as little as 9 miles per hour are enough to efficiently harness wind energy. This can generate considerable savings in the long run.
Granted, transitioning from non-renewable to renewable energy sources involves some work and additional costs. Over time, energy costs will inevitably decrease to the point where households can see savings in their overall energy costs. While savings is no doubt a benefit, an added benefit comes in knowing you've taken an active role in preserving the planet and the environment.
Reducing Electricity Costs
More oftentimes than not, creating a green balance within a home involves using multiple alternative energy sources. Multiple sources allow homeowners to adjust with the changing temperatures throughout the year while considering the various uses of electricity within the home.
Installing an alternative home electricity system is one way homeowners can help reduce electricity costs. In terms of "green" electricity systems, wind power has become the fastest growing alternative energy source in use. Wind turbines -both large and small- provide an efficient way to produce energy for the home. With ongoing use, a wind turbine system can help to reduce home energy costs by as much as 90 percent.
Natural Lighting
Natural lighting systems can go a long way towards reducing energy costs depending on a home's location in relation to sunlight frequency. Natural lighting or daylighting systems make efficient use of skylight and window placements. When combined with a daylight-responsive lighting control system, homeowners can see significant reductions in electricity costs.
By painting interior walls in light colors, homeowners can further benefit from a natural lighting system. Light colors provide a more even distribution of light throughout interior spaces. When considering paint types, it's important to use paint that complies with VOC (volatile organic compounds) standards. Volatile organic compounds contain pollutants known for their damaging effects on the ozone layer. Paints listing a low VOC content are the best to use on interior walls.
Water Conservation Systems
While water may come from the earth, it's no more recyclable than oil or gas. On average, a single person uses anywhere from 100 to 250 gallons of water a day in the U. S. By making a few modifications within the home, homeowners can considerably reduce their water usage throughout the year.
To start, some possible modifications may include -
Low flow faucet aerators
Low water capacity toilets
Water flow restrictors on shower heads
To make the most of the water already being used, homeowners can install systems that divert gray water from washing clothes, bathing and sink drainage for outdoors uses, such as watering plants and grass. Another method entails setting up rain water barrels to catch falling water from roofs and paved areas.
Solar Panel Systems
Improvements in solar panel technology have produced highly efficient systems for harnessing the sun's energy. Solar panels can be set up to power specific areas of a home or be the sole source of electrical energy. In areas that get lots of sunshine, these systems can easily provide the energy needed to power a home.
For areas that get limited amounts of sunshine, it's especially important to ensure panels have full exposure to the sun. In these cases, the use of dynamic mounts will allow panels to rotate in the direction of the sun throughout the day.
Geothermal and Hydro-Powered Energy Systems
For homeowners looking to have their homes built from the ground up, geothermal and hydro-powered energy systems are two options worth considering. Geothermal sources convert heat from the ground into a heat pump system. Homes situated nearby geysers or hot springs are in prime areas for taking advantage of geothermal energy. Since the earth naturally maintains a core temperature, most every area throughout the U.S. can make use of this system.
Hydro-powered energy systems work best for homes situated near streams, creeks or rivers. A small 10-kilowatt hydro-power system can generate enough energy to power a large home so this is definitely an option to consider under the right conditions.
Financing Options
With the "green revolution" in full force, government grants are readily available for home improvement projects geared towards energy efficiency. Homeowners can also take advantage of numerous tax credits and rebates for home energy improvements.
Other financing options, such as home improvements loans and secured personal loans can also help cover costs depending on the size of the project. For smaller updates, repairs and replacements, secured personal loans should be enough to cover costs. Larger projects, like installing a solar roof may warrant taking out home improvement loans. These loans are based on the equity built up in the home and are distributed in lump sum amounts.
Energy Saving Tips
When it comes to saving energy, any improvements made can help. Some of the simplest modifications can make a substantial difference in yearly energy costs. First and foremost, replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) can save households up to a $100 a year in energy costs.
Another valuable cost-saving step involves plugging existing air leaks throughout the home. This can be done by installing weather-stripping and caulking gaps and crevices. Doors, windows, plumbing and electrical outlets are prime areas for air to escape.
Ultimately, your home's location and the amount of energy used on a regular basis will determine which type of home improvements will best meet your energy needs.
Thomas Caulen, is a renewable energy housing developer. Striving to increase the awareness of how renewable energy can benefit both nature and housing expenses. He is an advocate for energy efficient homes as the best help each family can give to save mother nature.