Go Green: Tips for an Energy Efficient Home

By: Carol Freyer

A recent plan proposed by experts at the University of Colorado would have the next President making some important changes towards halting global climate change. The proposal's goal is to have the U.S. reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 30% by 2020 and 90% by 2050. If this plan is instigated by the next president, and even if it isn't, what can homeowners do to reduce their carbon footprint?

Being energy efficient is a huge way to reduce excess fuel consumption. This means blocking all those drafts and having a home that is properly insulated. Installing weather stripping around doors can eliminate drafts. Installing double-paned windows reduces heat loss and condensation. When this is impossible, there are kits for sale that allow one to put up sheets of plastic over windows. These are a great way to do it, as the plastic used is completely see-through and the instructions describe how to get a good tight fit, so there are no unsightly wrinkles. These are installed inside, with a double sided adhesive strip, so there are no staples ruining your paint job. They are quite affective at keeping homes warmer and dryer.

If you have the opportunity to build a new home, you can incorporate "green" concepts into both your design and materials. Planning the layout of your home to take advantage of the natural heat and light of the sun can be quite affective. Install large windows along the south and west sides of the home, and also plenty of skylights. Have blinds to close in summer, when the heat will be too intense. In winter, you will appreciate the extra heat coming in, not to mention the cheery natural light. If you have stone tiles underneath these windows, they will absorb the heat and radiate it back in the evening.

This concept is being taken advantage of in some more alternative methods of building, such as adobe. Cob is actually seeing a revival as a a building material in the north western states. Cob is what all those old homes in England are made of, a mixture of clay, sand and straw. It has excellent "passive solar" abilities, which means it absorbs heat all day, keeping the interior cool, then radiates that heat inward all night. A well built cob home doesn't need very much supplemental heating at all in some climates. Unfortunately, very few regions have licensing for cob homes, although as more and more builders work with engineers to develop safe cob building methods, this could change in the future.

If cob's a little radical for your needs, you can still go eco by using recycled styrofoam block for insulation. Also, there are plywood options that use less chemicals than others. Similarly, choose paint with low "volatile organic compounds". The air in your home will be healthier as a result. Finally, choose porch and fence posts that are untreated.

Going green not only helps the environment, it helps your family stay warmer and healthier.

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