Planning an Energy Efficient Home
Continually advancing technology has made great strides in products for the environmentally conscious home owner. The more commonly known advancements are slashing energy required to run appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators or CFL lightbulbs which use 70% less energy than the traditional incandescent bulbs.
These are routine solutions that have a large impact on your homes efficiency, but what if you want more? What if you are feeling really earth friendly and want to take it to the limits? There are ways to do just that. There are ways to make your home a ultra-low energy, zero-net energy, or even energy-plus house.
Two things need to happen in order to achieve an zero net energy home. First of all your house and land needs to be creating energy, and secondly you need to conserve energy. Lets start with making it though
The most popular method of creating energy for your home is through harvesting solar power. By adding solar panels to your roof or yard, you are able to quickly start producing energy for your house to use.
Although solar panels have come a long way, they are still not quite there yet. It takes a considerable amount of time to break even on the energy savings due to the high costs associated with purchasing and installing the system. In other words they aren’t economical yet. The exception to this is the tax savings that Uncle Sam is willing to pass along to you. The details of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit can be found on the energy.gov website.
A less popular option is utilizing wind power. It is feasible though to add wind turbines to your land and start harvesting wind power. The problem is your residence needs to be in a fairly windy area in order to make the turbines economical.
How Efficient Are You?
Do you let the shower run without being in it for more than a minute?
First and foremost there needs to be a intentional effort to reduce waste. Similar homes may have very different utility bills, simply due to the occupants actions. A few examples of how someone could be over using resources are: leaving the water running while not being in it, leaving the lights on when they aren’t in the room, very warm or cool thermostat settings, etc. There needs to be a behavioral shift if you are subject to any of these wasteful habits.
The next step toward conserving energy is in the actual design of your home. One such option is Passive Solar building design. This is when the home is positioned and designed in such a way that it is passively more energy efficient. It is accomplished through using the walls, windows, and floors to use the sun’s natural heating in the winter and reject the heat during the summer. The design is very dependent on the location of the home, and the suns path during the summer and winter seasons so it is something that is more applicable to new construction.
Earth coupling is another method of conserving energy. Ground contact homes utilize the soils consistent temperatures and heat sink characteristics to mitigate extreme temperatures. A ground contact home is where a home is built into the side of a hill and multiple walls are fully covered by soil. The dirt then essentially acts as an insulating blanket. Another example of earth coupling are ground coupled heat exchanges.They are also known as Earth-Air Heat Exchangers or Earth Tubes. This is long tubes are placed in the ground and used as a supplement or alternative to a central heating and air conditioning system. It works along the same principal as the earth contact home. The air that passes through the tubes becomes closer to the consistent temperature of the ground, and thus less energy is needed to heat or cool the air to your desired temperature. An example of this technique being used is in the Spaceport America building in New Mexico.
More tricks and techniques will need to be implemented to conserve and produce energy, but these strategies are helpful in moving towards a low energy home. Although a lot more planning will need to be done to get to your goal, its a good start. So continue researching and planning and you will be well on your way to creating your energy efficient home.