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How to make your home more eco friendly



3D Green Energy By Chris Potter Via Flickr

It is difficult to get through the news lately without an article on some sort of environmental crisis popping up. Water shortages, climate change and poor air quality are all making an impact on the earth. You should not let what might seem like an insurmountable problem keep you from helping protect the planet and its resources. There are ways individuals can make a difference.

Your house can be a model of green living. As you build or make improvements to your home, consider the eco-conscious options. There are companies that specifically cater to environmental updates. If you’ve been to your state fair in the last few years, you’ll note there are many vendors of green living products. From large makeovers to inexpensive changes, here are some ways to make your home more eco friendly.

At the top

Starting at the top of the house, consider your roofing options. Installing solar panel shingles is not the unusual practice it once was. While the initial investment can cost more than traditional shingles, you will save money in the long run with the energy produced by the addition. Some states offer rebates for homeowners installing solar panels.

You can also look at tile, which lasts for decades and is great for ventilating and cooling the house. The uber gardener may want a living roof – these roofs take careful planning and maintenance, but who wouldn’t love getting basil from the roof?

Underneath the roof, make sure you up your energy efficiency in the attic with insulation. You can find products that are made from recycled paper or denim. Sheep’s wool is a great insulation that is easy to install.

The main floor

Using natural light whenever possible can prevent huge amounts of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Open those shutters and let the light shine. And speaking of shutters, your window treatments can contribute to your green efforts. You can install planet friendly window shutters from a company committed to environmental materials and practices. The shutters are an aesthetically pleasing means of providing insulation to keep your house warmer.

To save on your water use, you can install recirculating water pumps for instant hot water, low flow toilets, and water aerators. By repairing leaks in plumbing or fixtures, you can prevent the waste of thousands of gallons of water. Appliances should meet energy star guidelines, and you should air dry clothes and dishes where possible to boost energy efficiency. Using organic, fragrance-free products such as shampoo and dish soap helps to remove toxins from your body and the water supply. For smaller appliances and devices, invest in a solar powered charger. You’ll lower your electricity bill and carbon emissions.

The materials and processes used to manufacture furniture, rugs and linens can often be damaging to the environment. Glues, treated fabrics, foam and more can all take a toll. It may be tempting to replace your furniture with new items, but consider heading to a thrift shop or consignment shop for your next sofa or rug. You will be minimizing manufacturing, all while getting a great price and benefiting a good cause. If you really want new items, find a company that is committed to using renewable woods, organic fabrics and other green materials.

A recycling system is a great way to reduce waste on the earth. The simple act of recycling reduces the amount of plastic produced and lowers harmful gas emissions. You can do an online search to learn hundreds of ideas to reuse and upcycle items you use regularly, from plastic bags to garbage cans.

Outside the house

A garden has numerous benefits for yourself and the earth. You can ensure your food is organic and pesticide free. You have less need of the grocery store and the overall impact of shopping for your food is diminished. You will be in charge of managing water use. By canning your homegrown food, you will be providing food for your family year-round. If you don’t have the ability to plant a garden, consider joining a collective that shares garden produce.

In your yard, be sure to avoid toxic chemicals for treating your lawn, and try a reel or electric lawnmower. Your landscaping can use sustainable practices, which make wise use of water, solar energy and recycled materials. Composting can be a major part of your healthy garden and lawn.

Your commitment to making your home eco friendly doesn’t have to include huge amounts of time or great expense. It can start with small steps. Whatever you decide to do, you will be setting a good example for your children and neighbors, in addition to preserving this beautiful planet.



5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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