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  • Writer's pictureTreasea Johnson

Making Your Home More Sustainable

Sustainable features are the latest trend to attract buyers.

Photo by Alena Koval

Whether your desire is fueled by wanting to leave no impact on Mother Earth, being more self-sufficient and off-grid, being more prepared in the face of our next pandemic or natural disaster or more simply, just lowering your bills, there is an undeniable desire for more and more sustainable living in housing.

Trends may change but I think this one just might stick. Whether that be more buyers requesting more sustainable repurposed products or locally sourced goods that require less trucking. I feel that more and more clients will be interested in sustainability and want more of these features in their homes. It isn’t just millennials requesting them, almost every age group wants to save money, pare energy and water consumption, and remove toxins from the air they breathe. However, reducing utility bills is often the driver, but many also want to do the right thing. Although the overall cost might mean a higher investment into the building materials on the front end, the goal will be attained in overall savings over the lifetime.

Several things to consider

Size - Starting over or adding on, it's essential to analyze needs and try to go smaller which will result in less energy use. One item to consider is having smaller bedrooms since for most of us we only use for sleeping. Consider the smaller lot, the smaller the lot the less maintenance is required.

Insulation and heating - for existing homes picking the right sized appliances and HVAC as well as the most efficient. Any home built before 1990 should have an updated heating and cooling system. A tight home in a cold climate also should have a heat recovery ventilator to bring in fresh air to keep the home healthy. A programmable thermostat helps reduce energy consumption and waste by learning patterns and automatically lowers the temperature when owners are away.

Removing old insulation and replacing with a higher R rated insulation, sealing cracks and replacing old windows can also reduce energy waste.

Water - Replace your conventional water heater with a tank-less heater which will reduce energy consumption by only heating water on-demand.

Landscape with only native plants or installing a drip system instead of a standard irrigation system.

Solar Panels – Solar panels can harvest free energy provided by the sun in most areas. Solar panels can reduce or eliminate the amount of energy you need to purchase from your local energy provider. They can be used in combination with a battery storage system to provide homeowners with a way to store energy when the sun isn’t shining and to provide backup power. The cost of battery storage is dropping significantly year over year as battery technology is improved. Clients who do not like the look of solar panels should opt for light-colored shingles that retain less heat.

Lighting - Daylight is the least expensive form of light and should be maximized in new construction and renovations. LEDs are the preferred choice of energy-efficient lighting. Energy Star rated products use 75% less energy and last 25x longers than incandescent lights. The latest generation of LEDs offers other benefits. They render color more realistically than prior generations did, and can almost match incandescent light colors, especially when their measurement is at least 3,000 kelvin or higher. Some LED bulbs such as Norb’s NorbSlEEP bulb can help modulate the body’s circadian rhythm so people sleep better. Others, like those manufactured by ellumi with proprietary technology from Vital Vio, stop bacteria and mold from developing, eliminating the need for chemical cleaners.

Plumbing - Water figuratively and literally goes down the drain, so some good choices would be low-flow toilets and showerheads, faucets with aerators and front-loading washers (although I have not had a good experience with them).

Air quality - It is smart to make good choices that eliminate toxic compounds such as paints, carpeting, and adhesives when possible. Use locally sourced sustainable or reclaimed products for flooring and countertops.

Transportation and Walkability - it just isn't about the home, your commute to work, school and many other necessities such as post office, grocery store, etc should be taken into consideration because let's face it, if you have to drive everywhere that requires more fuel and toxic air emissions. If possible select an area that you can walk, bike or take public transportation to.

Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose. It seems like there is a theme in a lot of the articles I write, yes this is near and dear to my heart. It is very important to me as it should be to most people, look for opportunities to reuse items in a different way. Find local items from demolition, other projects that can be upcycled. Recycle each and every item available, most companies will take paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass. Each item you recycle is one less item in our dumps. And lastly, COMPOST, it takes literally up to 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill(WatchWASTED! The Story of Food Waste on The Passionate Eye Sat/Sun at 10 pm ET/PT or online now:

Going off the Grid

While the overall goal of sustainability is lowering energy consumption and a building’s carbon footprint, some owners are going further by going off the grid completely. In fact, getting off the power grid is becoming easier for homeowners when they select systems such as solar panels with battery storage that help them to produce more energy than they use in a year. Though it isn't realistic for most homeowners to get off the grid completely, especially when it comes to water and sewer grids, cities usually won’t let homeowners disconnect from those due to local health codes.

There is only one EARTH so let's protect her.

photos: Felix Mitermeier, Pixabay

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