BUILDING A HOME

Whether building a new home or remodeling an existing one, there are many options that you can choose to make your house more eco-friendly.

Reducing your home energy usage can be an effective way to reduce your home’s contribution to climate change, and to save money. An energy audit, performed by a qualified home performance contractor, can help determine the best course of action. The auditor will review energy bills, insulation, heating and cooling systems, electrical systems and appliances to determine how much energy your home consumes, and where energy is wasted.

Replacing old windows, changing to ENERGY STAR® lightbulbs, installing smart thermostats, and buying ENERGY STAR® appliances can all save energy and money.

Electronic faucets and dual-flush toilets can go a long way towards saving water. EPA.gov says that leaks in the average household waste about 10,000 gallons per year and that fixing these leaks could save many families 10% of their water bill.

You can also consider using recycled materials when building an environmentally friendly home. Paper-based countertops made from tree pulp managed forests, carpets made from recycled plastic bottles, and floor tiles made from used wine corks are just a few of the things available today.

If you’re planning to build a new house, consider some of the interesting sustainable alternatives in home building.

Nest Learning Thermostat

IMAGE COURTESY OF: Google Nest

Smart thermostats have become increasingly popular ever since 2007 when the first truly “smart” thermostat was introduced by Ecobee. It revolutionized the thermostat world by offering connectivity through Wi-Fi.  Nest Learning Thermostat followed a few years later, and today there are several choices on the market.

These smart devices can help make a big difference in combatting climate change. Once installed in a home, they learn over time what our patterns of living are and can adjust the heating and cooling to more closely match our schedules. They can also adjust the timing to reduce energy use at peak times of consumption, pricing, and carbon emissions. Reducing this energy use will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from the home, as well as from the power plants that supply the electricity.

According to Project Drawdown, “We project that smart thermostats could grow from 3% to 58-63% of households with internet access by 2050. In this scenario, 1,453 to 1,589 million homes would have them. Reduced energy use could avoid 7.0-7.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions for an investment of $155-172 billion. Return on investment is high: smart thermostats can save their owners $1.8-2.1 trillion on utility bills over the lifetime of the unit.”

Introduced in 2011, Nest has been saving on heating and cooling bills for over 11,000,000 home owners. The device can sense when people are in a room and using geofencing it can turn off and on when you leave and return to the house.

Nest shows you how much energy you use every day in Energy History and every month in your Home Report. So you can see when you use more energy, like on weekends or Monday nights, and how to use less.

It is time to get smart about energy efficiency because personal decisions can make a big impact on our climate.

DID YOU KNOW

In 1620, Dutch innovator Cornelis Drebbel invented a chicken incubator and a mercury thermostat which automatically kept it stable at a constant temperature, one of the first recorded feedback-controlled devices. He also developed and demonstrated a working air conditioning system, as well as inventing a working thermometer and the first navigable submarine. And he developed a harpsichord that played on solar energy.

TINY HOUSES

IMAGE COURTESY OF: WIND RIVER TINY HOMES

Tiny houses have become a popular option for those who are adopting a simpler, minimalist lifestyle and paring down their possession. They offer opportunities to increase sustainability and reduce energy consumption. Significantly less material is needed for construction, and it’s often possible to use recyclable materials. Many are fitted with solar panels and compost toilets, further reducing their carbon footprint and water usage.

Wind River, located in Chatanooga, Tennessee, builds tiny homes “that can give people the freedom, both in time and money, to live authentically and with purpose. Sometimes you have to think tiny to live big…” They call themselves “tiny home alchemists” as they constantly push the boundaries of quality and innovation in a quest to build the best tiny home possible.

Their offering of tiny homes includes The Kubrick, The Silhouette, The Monocle, and The Mayflower, to name just a few.
Other manufacturers such as New Frontier, Escape Traveler, and Wheelhaus feature a variety of sizes, design, and mobility.

DID YOU KNOW

Heating an average house makes about 8,000 pounds of CO2 a year. Tiny houses emit 558 pounds of CO2 per year. Cooling the average home makes about 4,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Tiny houses only emit 286 pounds of CO2 per year.

EARTHSHIPS: RADICALLY SUSTAINABLE LIVING

IMAGE COURTESY OF: EARTHSHIP

During the energy crisis of the 1970s, New Mexican architect Michael Reynolds began designing Earthships. These passive solar homes are environmentally friendly structures that rely on renewable resources. A proponent of “radically sustainable living,” Reynolds advocates the reuse of unconventional building materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Using wind turbines, solar panels, and biodiesel generators to created energy for heating and cooling, each home has a cistern that catches rainwater. The walls are built using aluminum cans, adobe, old tires filled with dirt, and glass bottles. Inside the living space, the temperature is the same all year. To take a video tour of an Earthship home, click here.

Today, Michael Reynold’s Earthship Biotecture has an Earthship Academy that teaches people to build autonomous houses. They also organize sustainable development and poverty relief projects all over the world.

“Garbage Warrior,” a feature-length documentary, was made to tell the story of Michael Reynolds and his fight to introduce radically sustainable housing. The film in an intimate portrait of an extraordinary visionary and his dream of changing the world.

DID YOU KNOW

Nearly 3 billion tires were manufactured and purchased worldwide in 2019. Most will end up in landfills and can leach contaminants into the soil.