Sustainable housing is one that makes good use of resources and energy use to ensure there is minimal impact on the environment because of the house. The overriding principle in sustainable housing is that it must involve less energy and less waste, lower environmental impacts, and more re-use. Making a house sustainable can be done with a few small cheap projects all the way up to total home renovations – and when you’re building, you can add as many “green” aspects to the house as you want. Here are some of our best ideas.
Good Insulation of Walls
This aids in cooling, and saves on energy costs. Insulation keeps the temperature of the home stable, and badly installed insulation means the house will have to work much harder to heat and cool itself, which drives up your monthly bills and can cost a lot more over time.
Aim for the Sun
Orientate a new home for max sunlight exposure. Aim your house to the south if you want the most sunlight over the course of the day, or to the east or west if you want intense direct sunlight for half of the day. Aim your house to the north if you want little sun.
Choose Appliances with Energy Efficiency
A regular electrical appliance won’t make the cut as far as a sustainable house goes. Swap them for energy saving certified products instead. They may have a bigger price tag right now, but over the time you live in your new house, you will save multiple times what you pay for it.
Use Non-Toxic Building Materials
This may also cost a little more – the cheapest you can get is builder’s grade and those barely make the cut to be used at all. So expect the use of non-toxic building materials to run up a bill. However, non toxic building materials lower environmental impacts the house could pose.
Use Local Materials
Use lumber cut locally, products made locally, and buy as much as you can in-person. Not only does this improve the local economy, but it cuts down on transportation costs to get the products from wherever they are to you. Less traffic emissions is always a plus in our book.
Minimize Resource Waste
During construction, recycle as much waste as you can and reduce the amount of waste in general. To give an example, home building materials can be sourced from demolished projects which have been recycled. Talk to your general contractor to learn more about this.
Use Renewable Electricity Resources
This one is a little more expensive up front but literally saves tens of thousands of dollars over time. To achieve this you will install either a small scale wind turbine or a micro hydro system. Wisely choosing the power company that will offer renewable sources is also a good thing.
Build the House How You Want It The First Time
If you can handle it, build your house exactly how you want it the first time around, so that later you do not have to remodel and create more environmental waste and hardship. Think of the future – if you know you want to expand your family, build the house to reflect that.
Use Native Plant Life for Curb Appeal
If you live in a cold climate and purchase warm weather plants, they likely won’t live very long, and to replace them will mean the transportation of new plants. It will also support the bees and other pollinators to use local plant life when you are setting up your garden.
Install Solar Panels
Probably one of the most popular options, solar panels do a lot to make a home more sustainable. You can also choose to have a single solar panel instead of outfitting your entire house if finances are an issue. The one solar panel will still greatly offset your energy usage.
Use Energy Saving Bulbs
When the light fixtures are built on your new house, make sure you use energy saving bulbs. They last many thousands of hours longer than regular light bulbs and they are also easier on the electrical usage of the house. Replace incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs.
Use Multi-Socket Extension Loads
A home’s power consumption can be reduced by up to 15% if multi-socket extension loads are used. Of all of the choices to lower power consumption, this one is one of the choices with the biggest impact. One of the only other ways to reduce your impact this much is to go solar.
Build a Compost Station
Composting kitchen waste will reduce the amount of house waste in landfills, and will also reduce the costs associated with collecting the wastes. You can compost any organic material, and then use it as fertilizer in your garden – which yields more organic material that you can then compost.
Choose Organic Bedding
This choice has less to do with home-building decisions, but is still so important that we cannot surpass it. Cotton linen usage accounts for almost one third of insecticide usage in the world. Changing your bedding to organic cotton or bamboo is much more sustainable.
Choose Energy Efficient Windows
These windows keep the house cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter thanks to their excellent insulation. Regular windows do an okay job of insulating the house, but that is what these windows are specially made to do. You will save on your energy bill for sure.
Build Water Tanks to Collect Rain Water
Collect rainwater in tanks for use in bathrooms and the garden. You can’t drink it, but you can flush a toilet with it, water your plants with it, or flush the gutters with it. Rain water harvesting will assist in reducing waste of piped water, which helps out the environment.
Use a Programmable Thermostat
Thermostats are made to help give you more control over your home’s temperature, so keep the environment in mind while you are setting it. Keep your house a little warmer or cooler than you would like when you are not around or sleeping, depending on the season.
Install Low Flush Toilets
Low flush toilets can significantly assist in reducing water waste compared to traditional toilets. Traditional toilets use around 6 liters of water per flush, and low flush toilets use around 4.5 liters (or less!) per flush. This amounts to thousands of gallons of water per year!
Use Eco-Friendly Paints
Everyone knows to avoid lead paint, but that isn’t enough when you’re trying to be as eco friendly as possible. The use of paints that are plant or water based are much better than the traditional paints, which contain chemicals that are harmful to the local air quality.
Use Motion Sensing Lights Instead of Switches
Have you ever forgotten to turn a light off? If you switch to motion sensing lights, you won’t have to worry about that anymore. You’ll also save a ton in electricity – and you’ll know that you’ll only be using electricity when you really need it.
Install Skylights In Top-Floor Rooms
Skylights provide a ton of natural light as well as a little room-warming thanks to the sun. That means they are highly energy saving and reduce energy consumption by a lot! They also don’t take up a lot of wall space, meaning that you can install as many as you want!
Use Sustainable Flooring Materials
Everyone wants good looking floors, but you really can have it all with sustainable flooring materials – they look fantastic and durable, but are also great for the environment too. This is another thing that you can ask your general contractor about – they will likely point you to bamboo flooring.
Choose The Site Wisely
Avoid hazardous areas like flood zones. If you can’t, make sure your home is able to withstand the hazard. You don’t want to have to build your house twice – it’s not good for the environment! Whatever natural disaster you’re facing, make sure your house is protected against it.
Build a Smaller House
Less work, less emissions, less energy consumption, and less damage to the environment – smaller houses are just more sustainable. A larger house requires a lot more of everything, even the bad things. Try not to over-do it on the size of the house. It’s less wasteful!
Use Air Sealing
This is one of the lesser know energy efficient home ideas that people often forget about. It prevents air from exiting your house – conditioned air that you’re paying for. Make sure there is sealant at all exit points of the house – the windows, doors, vents, electrical conduits, and any other places.
Consider Efficient HVAC Design
Your AC and heat will be the largest source of energy consumption in your home. You want to use an efficient, well designed system. Consider a smart thermostat, zones, efficient equipment, mini split units, and more. HVAC is a huge portion of energy consumption and should be efficient.
A sustainable house is a home that has the least possible negative effect on our environment. What we build matters, and so does how we build it.