Protecting the environment is one the most important concern nowadays, and businesses all around the world have started adopting eco friendly strategies to reduce the environmental footprint. The building sector contributes to 40% of total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. However, there is a significant opportunity to reduce the environmental footprint of the residential sector.
Homes and residential buildings with green design features have a lot of economic benefits as well since these features lead to reduced energy consumption. For example, energy efficiency measures help in reducing the electricity and gas bills, while water conservation strategies reduce the water bill. Sustainable architecture is gaining tremendous importance which is adding more value to properties in the real estate market that implement these eco-friendly measures.
With that being said, let dive into the top 5 home features that reduce the environmental impact of homes and residential buildings
Smart HVAC Systems
In residential buildings, HVAC systems consumer the highest amount of energy as compared to the other appliances. There are several energy efficiency measures for HVAC systems, however, a large amount of energy consumed by the HVAV system is wasted due to improper insulation, leaky ductwork, and air leaks. These highly influences the heating and cooling efficiency required for an occupied space.
In order to optimize the energy consumption and achieve the optimal performance of the HVAC appliances, investigate the types of insulations used, their pros and cons, and also the recommended applications. For instance, spray foam insulation is suitable for existing components, but for newer construction, Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) is recommended as they must be embedded in the walls.
Other possible ways for enhancing the HVAC performance is weatherization of windows and doors, and replacing them with more efficient newer versions. In cases where replacing windows is not possible, tints can be added to the windows to reduce the heat transfer and also reflect the UV rays.
Renewable Energy Sources
The term renewable energy sources refers to using energy sources that are naturally available in abundance like sunlight and wind. Unlike fossil fuel, which a finite resource, natural energy sources are always available regardless of the present usage. For eg. sunlight is always available no matter how many solar panels are installed.
Solar panels in particular, generates usable energy by absorbing sunlight with photovoltaic cells. The upfront cost of solar panels can be high, however, the long-term ownership cost is very low. The service life span of solar panels is very high and can go up to 25 years, and they can adapt to almost any property within the available space.
Other sources of renewable energy include wind, hydropower, biomass and geothermal power. Small wind turbines can be used for houses in some cases, but they lack the versatility of solar panels. Small wind electric systems and micro-hydropower systems can also be used for some houses.
Efficient Light Bulbs
All residential building have light fixtures so one of the easiest way to improve energy efficiency is to replace the inefficient incandescent light bulbs with newer ones that consumer less energy and are long lasting. LED light are highly recommended since they need less energy and last much longer than the incandescent bulbs. For high quality light bulbs that save energy, it is recommended to choose bulbs with ENERGY STAR rating. LED lights also reduce the landfill waste since they don’t need to be replaced in short intervals.
Water Efficient Fixtures
Limiting water usage has environmental benefits and also reduced the utility bill. There are various water conservation features that include low flow faucets adapters and efficient toilets. Some cities have lawn watering restrictions and programs that reduce the building water usage. Some other practices like rainwater harvesting and smart irrigation can also be adopted to save both money and water, while having a positive impact on the environment.
Local Building Materials
Construction materials that are locally available should be used whenever possible for construction and renovations projects. This in turn, reduces transportation costs and also minimize the carbon footprint. Wood and masonry are easily available and also contribute to the largest share of construction materials in residential buildings. These local materials can also be recycled and reused. Thus, less construction waste ends up in landfills.
It is highly recommended to look for ENERGY STAR label while purchasing appliances that consume energy, and WaterSense label in case of plumbing fixtures. These programs are managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the appliances earn the label after a thorough and rigorous testing procedure.
Every building is unique and thus requires a different set of energy efficiency measures for reducing environmental footprint. To identify the best possible set of energy efficiency measures, it is highly recommended to consult to a professional engineering team.
Ideally, buildings should achieve net-zero energy consumption and emission. Building that use energy efficient appliances, green practices, weatherization techniques renewable energy measures, water conservation contribute towards a common goal of environmental protection, sustainable construction and reducing energy consumption.