When you think of”going green”when it comes to your home, the first thought is often that it will be costly, and maybe even illegal, in some regards. Local green-home designer Debby Deal says that these are misplaced fears and that making your home more environmentally friendly is an easier task than most people would believe.
Deal, a builder for the last 28 years and who for the last five has focused on creating green homes, says that”going green”is not just a trend but rather a lifestyle that requires dedication. One of the most significant ways to do this is to furbish your home with building elements that will support green living.
“In the old days it was common to see homes built with the high pitched roof so that water ran off easily,”said Deal.”The attic was efficiently used for storage and it was well-vented. Mahogany doors and furniture were also common, which meant these things could last for hundreds of years without needing to be replaced. There were patios and verandahs which made living outdoors as comfortable as being indoors. This meant people occupied themselves with activities on the outside rather than being indoors where you were likely to use more electricity to keep busy or entertained. The overhang on roofs were also much shorter than they are today, so that in times of hurricane, the winds couldn’t get a good grip to rip them off. Bahama shutters were also popular, because the sun was naturally kept out in the hottest hours and they could be re-opened when it was cooler.”
Deal said that today’s green efforts are nothing new.
“We are just going back to the basics and this is a good thing because it means we are making a lower impact on our environment,”she said.”It is also a good way to look at investing in your life and time for the better. If you construct your home well in the first place, you will not have to worry about repairing it in any capacity for a very long time. This gives you more time to spend with your family and just enjoy life instead of worrying about fixing this or that. This makes for a better quality of life and going green is just responsible living. We should all aim to be more conscious of our environment and how we treat it.”
The builder said that nowadays, going green is a conscious effort many ofus have to make. She said that the first step in doing this is to make one of your largest personal investments–your home–work for you rather than the other way around.
“In an ideal world, what you would do is find an ideal location and have an architect design your home in such a way that you take full advantage of prevailing winds, keep the sun out in the mornings and evenings while still having the best use of natural light and energy conservation. But since we live in the real world where many people buy homes or plots of land sectioned off to fit a particular subdivision plan, you cannot manipulate your house placement as much as you’d want if at all.”
The entrepreneur said that even with these challenges, there are some main things that you can do if you are building your home from the ground up to make it as environmentally friendly as possible.
“First of all you may want to consider generating solar energy rather than using BEC for this. Energy companies generally use fossil fuels to power their companies, but these are non-renewable resources which will eventually run out. Also, if you are generating your own energy, you do not have to worry about electricity cutting in and out. You may say you can just get a generator, but these things are noisy and cannot be run 24/7. You may also be under the impression that generating solar energy is illegal but this is not so. You would have to be generating enough energy to run a hotel like Atlantis for there to be any legal problems. And since most people just want to energize their own home, there isn’t an issue.”
The second thing you want to do is to insulate your attic roof with a material called icynene instead of traditional methods of insulation that can attract rodents, aren’t very weatherproof and can grow mold.
“This insulation material goes on the angle part of the roof and it effectively eliminates heat generation in this closed-off area. In the summertime, it is normal for the trapped heat in this area to get as high as 180 degrees. If you have an air conditioning unit that runs in this area as well, it is killer on your electricity bill and cannot essentially properly cool this area. This is why when you open the trap door, you tend to get this unbearable gush of heat. Icynene is weatherproof, will not attract rodents and will make your home more energy efficient. It repels heat very well and allows your air conditioning unit to not work so hard, which will cut back noticeably on your energy bills in the long run. This product was originally created to take the place of other insulation products which were causing health problems,”said Deal.
Investing in a reverse osmosis water filtration device is also a good idea, according to Deal. Although the local water supply is processed in this method, Deal says that purchasing store-bought water is not as efficient as you would think. You still have to consider the energy and gas used as well as the fumes emitted and even how long the water has been sitting around in a plastic bottle, a material that is not very biodegradable. This does not include the cost of the bottled water, which can add up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars annually. This does not compare to simply turning on your tap and using your device.
“Double glazed windows are also an idea that many people should want to invest in,”said Deal.”Many people are getting into the hurricane proof windows but it is also a good idea to ensure that they are double glazed so that they can effectively keep heat out of your home. This makes your home more efficient and is something many suppliers will not inform you is available unless you ask for it. Windows can also be EnergyStar categorized.”
A major energy hog in your home is the water heater, but Deal said that it does not have to be. You can either opt to have a solar water heater, which works much like your regular solar panels, or you can have a timer on your heater. This will mean it is only in use when you need it and turns off all other times. Using a solar heater will cut your energy bill by a substantial 35 percent, according to Deal.
A great way to conserve water can be found in how you landscape your yard. Instead of having a fully concreted driveway or structuring your yard in such a way that water runs off into the street or a neighbor’s yard, you should use bricks or a material with grassy patches in between them. This means that when it rains, the water that goes into your yard waters your plants for a longer period of time than it usually would.
Having a gray water tank is also a good idea. This means that rain water is collected in a tank to be reused for the yard or other menial purposes. Reusing the water from your washing machine and having it run into such a tank also saves you in water for maintaining your landscape.
“Going green can also be done by using polywood facial boards(also called boxing or trim)on your home. This material is vermin proof, weather-proof and therefore will not rot, become infested with bugs, nor does it need to be painted ever. And if you are using the icynene insulation in the roof, there is no use for vents either,”Deal explains.
Another way to go green by conserving energy and water lies in carefully choosing your plumbing fixtures. Deal suggests that instead of installing a regular toilet, which uses five gallons of water to flush, a single gallon toilet should be used instead. On the other hand, if you are a current homeowner, placing bricks or a half-gallon plastic water container filled with water or sand in the toilet tank will displace the water and effectively cut back on water consumption greatly.
Using a low-flow showerhead is also a valueable suggestion from Deal. You may think that this means your water pressure will be too low, but on the contrary, she explained, the concept is similar to putting a hose on low and using your finger to create high pressure. This not only gives you a high pressured bath, but it also saves a lot of water in the long run.
When it comes to painting your home, you can use Accu-Crete rather than using traditional paint. This is a good idea, according to Deal, because this product goes on after the brown stage, an early stage of home construction, which means you will not have to hire a painter. The color found in Accu-Crete is resistant to fading and peeling, which means you will never have to paint your home. This is a plus especially because paints and many other chemical-based products have VOCs(Volatile Organic Compounds).
“VOCs are released into the air when painting or when the lid is off,”Deal explained.”They can produce headaches and dizziness, plus have an effect on the ozone layer. Flat paints have less VOCs than gloss paint. Some are suspected of being carcinogens. A little tidbit: some paints that have low to no VOCs initially–lets say the US standard of 100 for flat paint–once color is added, it can go up as much as to 150. You can see they are a detriment to our health and the environment.”
Deal said it is also worthwhile to look into EnergyStar appliances to cut back on energy costs as well as extend the life of your fundamental appliances. It is important that when you go to buy things like washers, dishwashers and dryers that you find out how much energy they will utilize and purchase ones that have low consumption, or better yet is EnergyStar approved. It is especially important to choose a refrigerator that is very energy conservative, says the builder.
“Refrigerators run from the minute you buy them until you replace them. Make sure when buying one that you check and see the amps it pulls. There is a label inside the fridge that tells you the amps and the volts. It is best to find one between two and a half and four amps. They may be a bit more pricey but the amount of money you would save per month will be well worth the initial investment. They can go as high as eight amps, probably higher. These ones are generally the ones on sale and more people are researching these days and the higher amp ones are less in demand. Only persons who don’t know will end up with one of these. Think of a house that has a 60 amp service. If your fridge pulls eight then you have fifty-two left for all of the rest of your house.”
If you have an already existing home, Deal said there are simple ways to make it more green as time and finances allow. She encourages homeowners to use some of the same ideas as the new home builder such as investing in a reverse osmosis filter and hurricane/sunproof windows. But she additionally says that it’s a good idea for homeowners to replace appliances with EnergyStar ones when they have to change them, especially if you are buying a washer, for getting a front-loaded one is better since it uses a third less water than a top-loaded one.
Switching all lightbulbs to LED or compact fluorescent lights is also a good idea. Deal said that even if they are more expensive than your regular bulb, they will live up to 10,000 hours per bulb. You can also use your attic for storage rather than renting a storage locker. It is cost-efficient and keeps your everyday home clutter-free and energy conservative.
At the end of the day, whether you are building from scratch or renovating an already existing structure, going green is the way to go. Deal encourages people to find small ways to make their environment healthier and less energy consuming.
Whether you make a big change in your life or not, Deal said that it all adds up, and that you should make an effort no matter what.
For more information on green subdivisions visit www.southoceanpalms.org