It’s Earth Day and a perfect time to explore ways to meet the demand and need for more sustainable living.
Happy Earth Day! Today is a great time to look at energy-saving products and services you can offer your clients to assist them in reducing their carbon footprint. Home builders are well aware of the benefits of green building programs, meeting green standards through regional programs, LEED-certified buildings and Energy Star. With climate change, excessive droughts and unstable fuel prices, there is no denying that green building is gaining demand and ground in the industry.
Along with the obvious and necessary shift to sustainable lifestyles, commercial buildings and homes are being designed with sustainability at the forefront. According to AIA’s latest survey of architects on expectations for nonresidential design trends, sustainability, project efficiency and new technologies topped the list of priorities (source: AIA). As for residential demand, 33 million homeowners are planning for home renovations this year, with exterior renovations (pools, landscaping, decks, driveways) being the most popular. (source: Bankrate.com). With the expected renovations coming down the pipe, it provides a great opportunity to upgrade residential projects with earth-friendly designs and technology. For this reason, we will explore easy upgrades and fixes that you may offer to current clients to save energy, money and ultimately be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
- Use the Sun – Beyond solar pool heaters, there are countless ways to use the sun’s energy to make a home more energy efficient. Sky lights are one way to add extra light and warmth to the home while reducing heating and lighting costs. Other solar upgrades include: Solar outdoor lighting with LED bulbs that automatically turn on at dusk; solar water heaters; and solar panels to power the home. On average, homeowners can save over $1,000/year by using solar panels (source: SolarEnergy.net), which is a plus along with saving energy.
- Maximize Landscape – Your clients want beautiful yards, but have they considered tasty yards? Although they may have some neighborhood critters to contend with, adding edible plants such as cabbage, fruit and nut trees are a great way to spruce up the yard and make a shift to organic gardening. Also being strategic with planting trees can cut summer cooling bills by adding shade to the home. To allow for more light during the winter months, plant the trees on the west and east sides of the home. As for keeping the gardens and shrubbery hydrated, there may be the capacity to store rainwater by use of a rainwater cistern.
- Choose a Paint – When painting the interior walls of a home, consider offering paints that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Your client may appreciate the effort in reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals found in many paints and stains.
- Raise the Roof – Roof insulation is one way to save energy, but also consider offering a variety of choices in building materials. Check with your suppliers on their latest products that are developed with eco-friendly methods as well as with a function for energy savings. You can educate your clients about color choices as well; the color of the shingles they choose can play a role in the home’s energy efficiency. Encourage clients to use the sun to their advantage by choosing lighter colors in warmer climates (reducing heat) and darker shingles in cooler climates (melting snow).
- Change Lighting – Along with solar lighting mentioned above, using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) can save up to $30 in energy cost per life of the bulb; additionally, if every U.S. household replaced one bulb with a CFL, it would prevent enough pollution to be equivalent to removing 1 million cars from the road (source: inhabit.com). Another way to add more efficient lighting would be to install motion-sensing switches that automatically turn off the lights when the room is empty.
- Build Up – When possible. This one is a great selling point for home builders. When making additions, consider building up and instead of out. By building an extra unit on top of a garage, or converting a home into a duplex or tri-plex, there will be less open space sacrificed to new construction.
- Smart Home – Thermostat sensors, light sensors and outside motion sensors do not only save energy and money, but they save time. Through light and thermostat upgrades, your clients can easily program their homes to manage the indoor temperature and lights without having to make daily adjustments or even being in the home. With many systems offering remote access, home owners can set their systems for energy savings when they are out-of-town.
- Upgrade Appliances – From kitchen appliances to higher SEER air conditioning units, there are plenty of savings to be had in new appliances. Along with Energy Star certified products, there are smarter designs, like front-loading washers that use half the water and detergent of top-loaders. According to Energy.gov, home appliances account for approximately 13% of a household’s energy expense. By changing to products with higher efficiency ratings, your clients could save on up to 13% of their household energy use.
- Upgrade Bathroom – Along with faucet aerators that almost anyone can add to sinks, there are upgrades that can be made to toilets and showers. By installing low-flow shower heads, there is less water to heat, saving both water and energy. Also, leaky pipes can go undetected for years, so a quick review of plumbing may be needed; even small leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water every year. Low-flush toilets are also useful as they can reduce water use from six gallons per flush to one and a half gallons.
- Windows and Doors – Are the windows tinted? Properly sealed? Energy-efficient windows and upgrades are a great way to save energy and money for your client. From sealing air leaks to adding insulation, you could cut their energy bill by 5%-30% (source: energy.gov). Depending on the condition of the home, it may be as simple as caulking and using weatherstripping or as extensive as insulating walls and ceilings.
When it comes down to it, going green is a wide topic that can be addressed from the design and development phases to building and property maintenance. By taking simple steps and offering the latest in sustainable products and services, you can meet your clients’ and the environment’s demand for sustainability, making earth day a reality every day.
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