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Squeezing More Function in Green Home Improvement

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pot plants by kaboompics via pixabay

When you think about changing your home design, do you think about how it can affect the planet? Probably not. Chances are that when you’re in home remodeling mode, you’re too worried about things like the cost and other practical considerations to think about environmental impact. And you’re probably not alone: according to National Geographic’s Greendex Survey for 2014, people’s consumption habits aren’t changing in pace with their growing awareness about their impact on the environment.

Many may think that green home improvement will lead to a more inconvenient or impractical life, but that doesn’t have to be true. Saving the world doesn’t have to be an act of martyrdom. Little tweaks to your home renovation project can add up to big changes, letting you improve your home while keeping your carbon and water footprint light and small.

Keep Cool with Smarter Shade

A big factor in eco-friendly home design is energy conservation. The world is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels to produce energy despite their costs. Clean energy is not yet universally accessible, so we have to do our part by lessening consumption.

If you live in someplace warm with harsh sunlight coming in, consider having double-pane or tinted windows installed to decrease your dependence on the AC. Even something as simple as having the right window blinds and curtains can really help.

Insulate Your Home with Safer Stuffing

While keeping your place cold can be a serious energy drain, keeping it warm can also be a heavy load. The furnaces and heaters you use to keep comfortable on cold days can use a lot of electricity, especially if your home isn’t insulated well. Many homeowners looking to winter-proof their home are now choosing earth-friendly materials such as hemp, cotton, and sheep’s wool. Using those sustainable materials can help you stay toasty warm while keeping your carbon footprint at a minimum.

Live Life without Wasting Water

Also, think about how much water you use. Water should be a sustainable resource, but because of pollution, we have less water that we can use safely. To maximize the value of your green home improvements, you can install water-saving shower heads or high-pressure sink faucets (having aerators in your faucets to increase the pressure can actually help save water).

Pots and Plants Aplenty

Maybe for health reasons, you need to purify the air in your home. Rather than buying an expensive air purifier that will consume electricity, try using houseplants. Certain house plants can absorb volatile organic compounds and convert carbon dioxide into healthy levels of oxygen. Taking care of them can also be a stress-relieving exercise.

Bring New Life with Recycled Materials

If your home makeover involves installing new flooring or countertops, then go for recycled materials. Look for tiles that are made from recycled glass or plastic. Not only will you renew your space, you will also help give thrown-away materials a second life.

Turn Something Old into Something New

Among many possible green home remodeling ideas, one that doesn’t get enough attention is upcycling. It’s too temptingly easy to just throw away garbage, but with a little creativity, trash can be turned into treasures to transform your home. Make lighting fixtures out of old jars and shelves out of old crates. Whether you’re renovating a house or doing a green condo redesign, repurposing old materials is a great and simple option.

Doing Your Part with Smart Materials

Aside from recycled and upcycled materials, consider sustainable, long-life, or low-maintenance materials for your green home renovation ideas. Wood, bamboo, and cork are good sustainable flooring options; linoleum flooring, on the other hand, is durable and easy to clean, increasing the time between flooring replacements and decreasing your use of chemical solvents over the long run. Don’t be fooled by retailers calling plastic tiles “linoleum.” Genuine linoleum flooring is made from all-natural materials.

Go Green with Eco-friendly Colors

If you’re treating your home to a fresh coat of paint, consider its composition. Many conventional paints use VOCs that pollute the environment. For more eco-friendly home renovations, choose eco-friendly paints. Not only will they smell more pleasant,  they’ll also be safer to manufacture (have you ever thought about all the chemical waste generated in making traditional paint)? Take note that these products have different degrees of earth-friendliness, so take special care in reading the label: watch out for any hazardous or toxic components that were not declared up front.

Lessen Your Impact with Lighting Options

Another simple way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use more energy-efficient lighting. Using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED (light-emitting diode) lighting will help brighten your home using less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. Another plus: CFLs and LED lights generate less heat, so your home cooling systems don’t have to work twice as hard.

Use Filters for Freshwater

Maybe you’re concerned about the quality of your water supply, but you don’t want to rely on bottled water; think about all the plastic you’ll use if you do. In that case, you might consider getting a home water purifier installed. While not all water filtration systems are created equal, having one can definitely help you say “no” to plastic bottles more easily.

Let the Sunshine In

While the heat of the sun can be uncomfortable, you can use it right to have a more earth-friendly home. A growing trend in green home development is passive home design: the idea is to use as much solar energy as possible for your everyday needs, such as electricity and heating. Solar panels can be used to generate some clean energy, while solar heaters can help you get hot showers without having to plug in. More simply, you can use natural light for your space: bigger or more strategically placed windows and mirrors will light a room with beautiful sunshine.

So you see, it’s totally possible to come up with a functional home design while keeping the planet in mind. With the right attitude and thinking, anyone can be successful in maximizing their green home improvement efforts for a practical and earth-friendly home.

 

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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