An eco home is made of materials and techniques that diminish carbon footprints and reduce energy needs. These environmentally low-impact houses are made with materials such as glass that is composed of two to three layers with a vacuum between the layers to protect against heat loss; solar panels; wind turbines; geothermal heating; plants grown on the roof to regulate temperature, produce oxygen and reduce noise in the home; and a vegetable patch outside the home for growing food.With climate change and all the other challenges we face in terms of our environment and resources, it is important for every one of us to be not just environmentally aware, but also environmentally active. For many of us, a huge part of our carbon footprint comes from simply running our houses – a substantial amount of electricity is used to light, heat, and cool a house, and in addition, the materials used to build and run it can also have a substantial environmental impact. With an eco home, all of these things can be done in such a way as to reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact. In addition, you can save a great deal of money by building a green home. The initial set-up, whether it involves construction or renovation, can be quite expensive; however, living in an eco home will save you a considerable amount of money in the long term. Such an expense is typically seen as a lifelong investment.
Reasons to go green
Living in a productive green home means that you need to cut costs where possible. Acts such as consuming less electricity and staying away from products that have an adverse effect on the environment are just some of the ways in which you can manage your green home. Here are just some of the reasons why going green can be good for your pocket.
• Your monthly bills are likely to reduce, as you will be using less electricity. This can help to eliminate much of the stress that accompanies high monthly bills.
• The money you save by going green can be used for other things, such as taking trips or celebrating special occasions.
• Living in an eco home reduces your carbon footprint.
• You can even encourage your family to save energy by avoiding the use of certain appliances and products during the high or mid-peak hours.
Building your green home – points to keep in mind
If you are sold on the idea of living in a green home, you may be wondering about how to get started. Here are some tips.
Location: When buying property for building a green home, there are some factors you must consider before you begin. The first thing you need to do is to avoid creating a home that faces west, as this will help keep the home cool due to minimal sun exposure. The next thing to do is to build your home in an environmentally sensitive location. It is also a good idea to check if the area in which you want to build your home is easily accessible by public transportation. Also check that the nearest grocery store is not too far away. These considerations will help you avoid using your vehicle all the time, and will also diminish your travel time.
Size: A small home created with eco friendly methods will have a smaller environmental impact than a larger home. Heating and cooling a large home will also most likely incur greater expenses. Creating a manageable space that is cost-effective is the best way to go. Remember that if your family is going to grow, or if you will be having relatives live with you, your home must have the proper resources and accommodation.
Energy efficient products: The Energy Star label on products and equipment indicate that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed them as energy efficient. Today, the Energy Star is widely known and most consumers opt for appliances and equipment that bear this label, as such products do not compromise on performance, but still offer considerable cost and energy savings.
Insulation: When building a green home, one of the main things you need to consider is insulation. Nearly 50 percent of a home’s energy consumption is made up of heating and cooling. Heat loss can take place due to air leaks around windows, doors and ductwork. Improper insulation can lead to wastage when heating and cooling the interior spaces of a home. With proper insulation, you not only reduce your energy consumption, but also bring down your electricity bills.
Reduce, reuse, recycle: Reduce your dependence on products that are not environmentally friendly. It is also a good idea to take the materials from your old home such as wood floors, windows and doors, and reuse them in your new home. Eco homes are usually built using recycled materials like recycled glass and aluminium. You can also use recycled tile and plastic, and reclaimed lumber when building your new green home.
Sustainability: Today we hear more and more often of sustainable materials when it comes to building your own home. Using non-renewable fuel and materials can cause harm to the environment. There is now a trend towards sustainability, rather than on fuel and materials that pump considerable amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, and on those that negatively impact the environment. If you’ve decided to build your own home, opt for sustainable materials that last for a long time, but are also strong and durable. There are also government tax breaks for those who use sustainable materials for their homes. In many cases, you can also sell energy back to the National Grid. This helps to diminish your carbon footprint and consumption of natural materials. To create a truly green home, all parts of the house should be environmentally friendly. Some of the sustainable materials you can use in home building include reclaimed lumber, recycled plastic, or natural products like bamboo, cork and linoleum that are composed of natural, renewable materials.
Solar panels: Solar energy is a source of clean, renewable energy, which has become popular in the form of solar panels. These solar panels utilize the natural power of the sun. They may be an expensive investment, but it is one that leads to cost saving benefits in the long run. The amount of power that is collected depends upon the location of the home and the manner in which they are constructed. Using solar panels, you can significantly reduce your energy consumption. Any excess energy can be supplied to your utility company. Those who make use of solar power in their homes are eligible for government grants, tax breaks and incentives.
Energy efficient windows: Windows labeled Energy Star are energy efficient windows, a new product in the market, which are known to be more energy efficient than normal windows. The degree of energy efficiency is depicted on their energy ratings. Windows with lower ratings are more energy efficient. Also, the energy savings produced by such windows are adequate to cover the added price per window.
Rainwater harvesting: Collect rainwater from the roofs and store it in a tank with the help of a rainwater harvesting system. The water can then be used for various purposes such as the sprinkler system and washrooms. One of the most common ways of harvesting rainwater is by using rain barrels.
Tankless water heaters: Tankless water heaters heat only the amount of water that is needed as it passes through an electric coil. Therefore you do not have to wait until the water is heated. With tankless water heaters, excess energy costs are eliminated as only the required amount of water is heated. This will also give you a bit more space in your home, as these heaters do not include a water tank.
Environmentally friendly lighting: LED and CFL cost more initially, but they are advantageous in the long term as they use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. They are ideal for an eco home as they lead to considerable cost savings.
Water conservation: Some of the ways in which you can conserve water in your eco home is by installing low flow faucets and showerheads. This will help reduce your water bills, in addition to making the home environmentally friendly. It may also be a good idea to purchase washing machines and dishwashers that can help save water and energy, while not compromising on performance.
Programmable thermostat: Since heating and cooling the home take up nearly half of our energy consumption, it makes sense to install a programmable thermostat to cut costs and reduce electricity bills. The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system works once the thermostat reaches the desired temperature. In addition, setting your thermostat 1 degree lower in the winter and one degree higher in the summer can lead to a savings of almost 3 to 5 percent of your energy bill.
Are there any drawbacks to creating an eco home?
There are a few disadvantages that can deter some from opting for an eco home. However, many find that the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks of green building.
Perhaps the main obstacle in green building is the costs involved. Many of the materials used in such buildings tend to cost more than traditional materials. However, they yield more cost saving benefits over time. Availability and access can also present problems – many eco-friendly products may not be available everywhere. There are also likely to be shipping costs when ordering the materials from a distant supplier.
Another drawback is that it can be difficult to find builders who are experienced with the newer construction techniques that are used in green building. When working with a builder who does not have much experience in sustainable building, much of the research will have to be done by you, and you will also need to be closely involved throughout the construction process. If you wish to take out a loan for the building of your eco home, keep in mind that lenders and appraisers often undervalue green homes, as they do not consider the additional costs involved. If you plan to sell your eco home after a while, the road ahead may be rocky, as most buyers and realtors are not well versed in green home products and construction methods. However, eco homes are becoming more popular, so you may find that your home fetches a premium price.
The most environmentally friendly homes
Finally, here are four main types of eco-friendly homes.
Dome homes: These dome-shaped homes are popular in Japan. Each dome has a weight of about 80kg. The house takes a week to build with three to four people working on the project, which brings down labor costs and wastage. The building material for a dome home is expanded polystyrene, which allows for excellent thermal insulation. The dome shape allows the air to circulate by convection without collecting at corners, thereby reducing air conditioning costs.
Tree homes: No longer restricted to exotic resorts, tree homes are growing in popularity as a viable and sustainable solution for everyday life. These make use of solar panels to utilize sunlight and have reversed roof channels to use rainwater for irrigation. Insulation comes from the multilayered veneers. A multifunctional vertical core helps distribute utilities in a way that is energy efficient.
Ecopods: These ingenious environmentally friendly homes are crafted from recycled materials that have a small ecological footprint, thus allowing them to exist discreetly in well-established natural habitats.
Timber homes: Popular in the United States, timber homes have many benefits. In addition to looking beautiful, they are long-lasting. The carbon dioxide content absorbed by the wood during its life span is sealed inside. Since these homes are made of wood, they are well insulated and do not emit any harmful gases.