With ongoing concerns about energy and natural resource conservation, simple solutions like switching to energy-efficient lighting or Energy Star appliances are a great start to living a greener lifestyle. When regulating energy use in your urban farm and home, there’s even more you can do.
1. Insulate the Whole House
In order to reduce the amount of energy used in heating or cooling your home, you need to look at your home’s insulation as a whole. For example, you may insulate an unfinished attic, but your efforts in ensuring energy doesn’t leak from the attic will be fruitless if you don’t properly insulate your walls and your basement.
2. Repair Air Leaks
Air leaks in your home’s building envelope waste energy. Stop the air leaks in perimeter walls, an unheated basement ceiling and your roof. Check for cracks around windows, doors, outlets and in the floors and the walls. Also, have a professional perform blower door tests to identify air leaks around your home’s entry ways. You can repair these leaks with the proper caulking or weather-stripping. Replace drafty windows that have low insulation value.
3. Let the Walls Breathe
Your home’s walls need to breathe—that is, take vapor from the air in humid conditions and release vapor into the air in dry conditions—in order to handle the captured moisture content of the air. Gain control over the air movements to increase the benefit of the costly insulation. If your home is standard wood and sheet rock, consider introducing a whole-house mechanical ventilation program to protect your insulation.
4. Retire Your HVAC Systems
If the HVAC system in your house is more than 20 years old, consider replacing the system. There are sophisticated furnaces that run on 90 percent efficiency. After going through the previous steps, you may find that your house requires a smaller system, which could save big bucks in the long term. It might also be a good idea to install an energy recovery ventilator. In the winter, this transfers heat from the warm air that leaves the house to the cold air that enters the house, and it does the opposite in the summer.
5. Save Water
Consider installing dual-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads and faucets to significantly reduce water usage. When choosing a new water heater, choose a smaller, on-demand water heater that is close to the point of use. You’ll reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain while you are waiting for hot water to reach your faucet.
6. Light It Naturally
Make the best use of natural light in your home and you have an everlasting, free solution to energy efficiency. The best lighting conditions exist if you install at least two windows per room. Place them on two walls or on a wall and ceiling. Introducing natural light will save you money, look beautiful and, best of all, reduce interior heat from electric lights, which, in turn, reduces the need for air conditioning.
7. Change Your Bulbs
Swap your current lights for an efficient fluorescent or LED fixture. You can find a wide selection of fixtures that use LED lighting. Or, if you don’t want to touch your ceiling design, retrofit your CFL bulbs for LED bulbs. Analyze your home environment carefully to make sure you get the same or better luminosity than before.
8. Seek Incentives
The U.S. Department of Energy offers tax credits, rebates and energy-efficient financing for consumers wanting to make energy-efficient purchases. Learn more from the energy department.
When implementing these tips and other energy-efficiency techniques, have a plan and think about timing of the various stages. Investing in improvements to your home’s energy efficiency will serve you well in the long run by lowering energy bills, increasing the value of your home and providing you with a healthy living environment.
About the Authors: Michelle LaBrosse, founder of Cheetah Power, was recognized by the Project Management Institute as one of the top 25 most influential women in project management worldwide. Erica Edmond, an intern with Cheetah’s Green Team, studies organizational communication at the University of Portland.