“Going green” has become the new movement by environmentalists, energy specialists, and organizations throughout the United States interested in creating a better living environment on planet Earth.
The reason for building “green” homes is really quite simple. By learning to live in ways that impact less on the physical environment of our planet, we are making an investment on the viability and health of its future.
How we build our homes, both in design and choice of materials, is one of the most significant ways that we can affect our future. What this all comes down to is using materials and building applications that are more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. By utilizing these methods, we are cutting back on our energy use (and thereby our dependency on oil) by significant amounts and are being more creative with building materials that are naturally degradable as opposed to being a problem when the time comes to dispose of them.
I am not going to get into the many ways of building “green” homes because there are so many ways that it is difficult to summarize them in a single article. I would like to share with you are some simple projects that could save between 20 and 30 percent of your energy costs. Some you may want to implement and some just may give you food for thought, but here they are nonetheless:
Clotheslines: Yes, it has come down to this! Admittedly we are not ready to hang all of our wet clothes on the clothesline again, but certainly a portion of things can be dried on a clothesline and you can save a bundle on energy costs, just by not using your clothes dryer.
Tube skylights: Here is one I read about that was very interesting. It is a tube that lets you bring in the sun’s rays to dark places, such as a hall or staircase, without building a skylight. These “sun tunnels” capture light through a plastic lens mounted on the roof, bounce it down through the attic inside a reflective tube that then beams it through a plastic diffuser in the ceiling. These create light in those dark, windowless areas that save you the energy and expense of the constant use of electric light in those areas during daytime hours.
Insulating hot water pipes: This is an oldie but goodie! Years ago this was commonly done with asbestos, which is what got us into trouble now that we know asbestos is dangerous for your health and must be removed. But after removing the asbestos, instead of reinsulating those pipes with an environmentally friendly material, most people leave their pipes bare. Today we know insulating hot water pipes with available rubber or polyethylene foam tubes (those tubes come with a slit in the middle so that they easily pop right over the pipes) can save up to 50 percent of the heat loss in those pipes.
Trees: If you plant shade trees on the southern exposure side of your house, they can grow enough in five years to provide sufficient shade to let you run the air conditioner less and save you as much as 40 percent on your air conditioning costs.
Programmable thermostats: Installing programmable thermostats for both your heating and air conditioning systems can save large percentages on your energy bills. Being able to program the heat to cool lows while you are away during the day (or high temperatures in the case of air conditioning) and then having the flexibility of the desired temperature kicking on just before you come home gives you the ability to control those temperature levels and then forget about them.
Install aerators on faucets: These screw-on mesh screens break up water droplets so you use less water but get just as much rinsing power.
Refrigerator coils: If they are coated with dust, refrigerator coils can’t transfer heat efficiently so it takes more energy to cool your food. Get at them (they are usually found underneath the refrigerator or at the back) with a long-handled brush or vacuum with the long nozzle.
Solar panels: Used in Israel practically since they were discovered, solar panels used to be very expensive to install here in the United States, but have become much more affordable thanks to government subsidies and rebates.
I have touched on but a few simple items that can save on energy and are therefore considered “green” friendly. Today you can attain many levels of “going green,” including building entire homes with green friendly materials and solar heating apparatus that are only now starting to come into the marketplace at better pricing than in years before. The main point of “going green” is really just taking the time to consider even small things that you can do that make a difference and then trying to put them into practice.
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.