There are many benefits to greening your home. Going green is being responsive to energy use and resource choices, which makes it the “right” thing to do for this earth. It can also bring you comfort and save you money, the “right” thing to do for you.
Home comfort comes from generous spaces to function in, precious commodities in Manhattan, or well-planned cozy spaces to store your treasures. Comfort also comes from a feeling you can afford your space and possessions.
Seven checks to save money by greening your home
1. Check your light bulbs. Switch to efficient light bulbs. Inefficient old (incandescent) light bulbs produce a lot of heat, and that takes a lot of electricity. On the other hand, efficient light bulbs:
- Use less electricity for the same amount of light.
- Produce less heat, which reduces your air conditioning costs.
- Are available in many colors and styles.
- Are known as LED (light emitting diodes) and CFL (compact fluorescent lamps). LED are the best. CFL are almost as good as LED.
- Are available in local hardware and lighting stores.
2. Check your weatherstripping (WS). WS is a type of gasket that helps keep the outside outside and the inside inside. Check:
- Exterior doors and windows. Make sure there is a continuous line of WS around all sides of the openings, with materials labeled for each use, such as the door bottom.
- Old windows. In time, windows don’t fit as well as they once did. Use WS to make them fit again to prevent leaks and drafts that drive up the heating and cooling bills.
- Your heating and cooling bills. Adding WS to the affected openings can make a big difference in comfort and savings.
3. Check for gaps. Gaps can allow drafts, dirt, insects, and vermin to enter your home. Check:
- Gaps at floors and walls. Gaps here can allow hot or cold air in. It can also invite dirt, insects, and vermin to enter your rooms. Fill gaps with steel wool, then close with wood trim and caulk.
- Around windows and doorframes. These gaps cause the same as above. Caulk both the inside and outside, especially between dissimilar materials, like wood and brick.
4. Check your indoor plants. Be an indoor plant owner. Plants:
- Absorb air pollutants.
- Generate clean oxygen.
- Are a beautiful form of interior decoration.
- Humidify the air, which is especially good for your skin in dry winters.
- Provide nutrients, flavor, and health for you and your family. Yes, you can grow vegetables and herbs indoors.
5. Check your fans. Make sure you have fans in the right places. Ceiling and floor fans:
- Gently mix the air to keep rooms from getting stuffy.
- Mixed air keeps air temperatures more uniform. In winter, mixed air can bring warm air down where you need it.
- Reduce the amount of air conditioning you need to feel cool.
- Save money when you place them in front of AC units, doing a better job than the small fan inside the AC unit.
6. Check your products. Choose “Green:”
- Paint, varnish, and cleaning products that are low or “no-VOC” rated. These can prevent indoor air pollution that can cause illnesses.
- Household appliances. Look for “Energy Star” labels on appliances, which use less electricity and/or water
- Faucets, showerheads, and even toilets, with low-flow water fixtures. We are now in the umpteenth generation of engineering these products, so you can trust they will function properly and save on your water usage.
7. Check your insulation levels. Insulation is a barrier that keeps the outside temperature from moving easily to your interior. Different types of construction will have different types of insulation. Check for:
- Empty space in walls or ceilings (at the roof). It may be possible to add insulation through small holes that can be patched when done.
- Your roof. If it needs repair, the city has a “White Roof Program” to encourage using light-colored roofing materials to help reflect solar heat and reduce roof temperatures. Adding decking or walking tiles can also protect and cool your roof. There is probably nothing better than landscaping your roof, if you actively use it, to cool the roof and insulate your interior from the summer heat.
I believe “Greening your home” is about home comfort. “Greening your home” will also increase the physical comfort you feel by preventing drafts, keeping temperature swings at a minimum, and preventing uncomfortable glare.
Saving money by “Greening your home” is a way to achieve comfort. Happy Greening!
Your questions and comments are welcomed.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
Historic Preservation & Green Architect