While addressing climate emergency will always start from the top—the world leaders and the world’s 1 percent—it also can’t hurt to do our part. Aside from helping the environment, an energy-efficient home also has plenty of benefits: It can help lower your utility bills significantly, and it can increase the value of your residential property.
If you’re thinking of building an energy-efficient dream home, here are some key tips and pointers to remember.
Partner with the right architects.
If you can afford it, it’s better to hire architects with green energy design certification through something that’s called the LEED Accreditation. But if your home is on the smaller and simpler side, any licensed architect will do, but you need to make sure that you hire someone or a company who has knowledge and background in green design and energy efficiency. This is because not all architects apply green design to their work, and many are still traditional in their practice today. Choose someone who has experience applying concepts and methodologies related to energy efficiency and green design.
Be sustainable in all your choices.
It’s unfortunate that terms like “sustainable living” and “energy-efficient” have become marketing buzzwords in the past few years because these words are more than just about the kinds of materials, products, and appliances we use for our homes—they are a principle and a way of life.
Choosing sustainable materials includes using more natural materials like straw bale, bamboo, rammed earth, and wool for insulation. The same should be true for your fixtures and furniture—consult with your interior designer about how you can incorporate more eco-friendly materials and products into your home. As for choosing appliances, opt for ones that have an Energy Star label. The good news is that more than 40 product categories carry that label, including light fixtures and all the major appliances.
Insulate and seal your home properly.
Residential heating is one of the main sources of pollution in our cities. This is one of the main issues that energy-efficient homes are combating. Both the construction and shape of your home will contribute greatly to its cooling and heating needs. One example is constructing your home in a way that decreases its exposure to the sun. If large overhangs are utilized to provide shade to the glass, and if your walls are properly sealed and insulated, the effects of the sun will be greatly minimized, and your home will require less cooling in the summer. This is why partnering with the right architects is so important—because they’ll foresee these problems before they even happen, and they will be able to design your home in a way that won’t require as much dependence on electricity as possible.
Don’t forget your tax credits.
Did you know that there are energy incentives for residential property owners who install alternative energy equipment? Some properties that qualify include solar electric property, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, fuel cell property, and small wind turbines. Solar roofing, skylights, Energy Star windows, storm doors, weatherstripping, home insulation, and caulk can also qualify. Incorporate big, insulated windows and skylights to increase your tax credits.
An energy-efficient home may cost more when you’re building it, but you receive so much financial incentive in the long run, making the investment worth it.
Landscaping will also play a big part in your home’s energy efficiency. Have deciduous trees planted on the west and south sides of your home to ensure that your house has enough shade in the summer and that the bare branches will let in the warmth during winter. Be strategic about where you plant your trees to maximize their cooling and heating properties.
Use the sun, period.
Installing solar panels will help your home produce its own electricity—kind of like a house battery. The technology is made up of solar cells built from silicon, an element known for producing electric charges once exposed to sunlight. This silicon then converts the sun’s UV rays into electricity, which can then power your home’s appliances—and even your entire home! Consult with professional installers with a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification to ensure that you receive nothing but quality work and customer service.
Building your energy-efficient dream home will take double the research, but it’s worth the effort and work. Beyond the aesthetics and design, it will affect the climate and our future. Depend less on public utilities and maximize the gifts that the environment is offering us.