As I’ve said before I believe in conserving energy. In fact, my wife just dusted me, since I was moving so slowly she thought I was part of the furniture. Here’s more from Lisa Diane, a local residential green building designer.
In our last article, we talked about how solar PV panels and water heaters can save energy in your existing home. Here’s a couple more things to look for.
- Insulation. If you have a leaky house from poor or deteriorated insulation, substantial energy savings are made by installing good insulation. There are many friendlier solutions to insulation than fiberglass batts, and they do not have the issues of high energy use to manufacture, few opportunities to recycle later and irritation from inhalation. Most of these are available in blown or sprayed in applications, so are great for a retrofit. Mineral Wool insulation can be made from steel production slag or directly from basalt rock. It is non-combustible, non-corrosive, exudes no odor and is highly resistant to fungus and bacterial growth. It has an R-value of 3 to 4 per inch. Cellulose insulation takes little energy to produce and is made from 75-85% recycled content of wood fiber, especially newspaper and telephone books. It contains a boron-based fire retardant, so there is some concern over the retardant longevity and boron’s limited resource. Cellulose does have a nice R-value of 3.2 to 3.7 per inch. Foam insulations usually have even better R-values, yet expend more energy to produce, unless it uses recycled foam content. Some common choices are cementitious foam which contributes to indoor air quality, and expanded polystyrene.
- Daylighting. Another great use for the sun, daylighting is the term used by architects for bringing the right amount of daylight into an interior space in order to enhance the quality of light and to reduce on electricity. Consultation with a designer or architect would be a wise approach to maximize your options. A simple, low-cost fix for existing homes and rooms without windows are tubular daylighting devices, such as Solatube. These roof to ceiling tubes capture the sun’s light and directs it into the room, casting a full spectrum light to enhance your interior environment. Unlike skylights, they do not allow much heat transfer into the room, or back out, although there is an optional ventilation attachment.
If you want to have more fun with energy at home, get an electricity usage monitor, such as the “Kill A Watt” meter. This simple device is a plug in meter for your appliances, so you can scout out which appliances use the most electricity. You can then decide when they can be turned off, or if a timer will help, or if it’s time to recycle and upgrade to an Energy Star appliance (there’s plenty of city and DOE rebates being offered for such purchases).
When choosing green products to retrofit your home, consider the energy consumed from the extraction of the raw materials, through manufacturing, all transportation and installation of the product, a concept known as “embodied energy”. One factor in embodied energy that is usually easy to discern is transportation—where was the product made and how far did it have to travel to get to me? But to know more about energy used in its manufacture or air and environmental concerns requires some research or consultation with someone who specializes in green building.