Whether you are interesting in green building or implementing some green renovations, planning is very important. If you’re interested in building an eco-friendly house you probably have a number of reasons for going green. Maybe you prefer using sustainable materials or want to utilize the most energy efficient practices. Perhaps you want to look out for Mother Earth by reducing your impact on the environment and protecting existing ecosystems. Building a green home can also mean finding a balance between what means the most for the environment and your wallet. Whatever the reason, incorporating ecological and efficient practices into your new home is a conscientious and thoughtful step toward saving our planet.
Here are a few eco-friendly tips to help guide you toward successfully building an environmentally friendly home:
1. Have an eco-friendly building plan. Planning is the first and most important step. The planning stage allows you to consider all of your options; from the size of your home to the most energy efficient appliances. You can start by researching what eco-friendly home features are most important, set a realistic budget and consider what your needs and lifestyle will look like over the next few decades.
2. Consider solar. Solar panels are trending right now as a hot technology that can offer long-term energy savings by utilizing the natural power of the sun. Depending on your state, there may be incentives available to bring the initial cost of material and installation down. The location of your eco-friendly home and the layout of your solar panels can determine how much power you can collect. When mapping out the placement of your solar panels, you should always select an area that has access to the sun during peak daylight hours. If you choose to go this route, make sure your home and the majority of your windows face south. Southern sun exposure can automatically lower your energy costs by 10%. If you’re not ready to fully invest in solar panels, skylights are also a great option to maximize solar energy. Shade also plays an important role in conserving energy. Protect your home during the hottest days with awnings, overhangs and by planting trees for natural shade.
3. Eco-friendly building materials. Do your research and look for non-toxic, recycled, sustainable and low VOC (volatile organic compounds) products. This includes eco-friendly paint, carpeting, flooring, lighting, insulation and other fixtures to ensure an environmentally sound home. Roofing materials, building materials, insulation, counters and cabinets now come in a variety of eco-friendly options. Natural products are also available such as cork, bamboo, concrete, granite and recycled glass. Your green home contractor can guide you through the process by offering information, pricing and recommendations based on your home specifications and geographic location.
4. Use energy efficient appliances. With many affordable options and price points today, selecting energy efficient appliances and fixtures is one of the easiest ways to go green. Dual flush toilets, water saver shower heads and tankless water heaters are good places to start. Energy efficient clothes dryers use 20% less energy with some models actually heating and recirculating ambient air. Energy Star washers use 25% less energy and only use 13 gallons of water vs. 20+. For lighting, LED bulbs and fixtures provide 25 times longer life, use 90% less energy than candescent bulbs and provide the same brightness.
5. Other Ways to Save and Preserve. Almost 50% of our energy consumption goes toward heating and cooling the home. A programmable thermostat will help provide consistency and control, saving you hundreds of dollars a year. A high efficiency, Energy Star rated HVAC system can help you save energy and money. Another option to consider is geothermal energy that provides unlimited energy to heat and cool your home. It works by using an earth loop underground and extracting heat and then bringing it to your HVAC system. In the summer, heat is extracted through the air and moved back to the earth.
In our unique and diverse ecosystem on the Outer Banks, whatever choices you make when building your new green home will serve preservation and sustainability goals for the future. Anything you do to contribute to conserving energy and preserving the land are steps in the right direction. But don’t go it alone! Lean on the experience of your environmentally friendly builders and architects to advise you on the best practices, resources and referrals on bigger ticket items (like solar panels or geothermal). Good luck going green!