When you think about ways to “green up” your home, it can be somewhat overwhelming to know where to start. Solar panels? Compact florescent light bulbs? A geothermal heat pump? What about paint? The choices are seemingly endless.
One approach that may help you in your decisions is to start with a simple tour of your own home. Get creative! If there are any aspects of your home you’d like to improve or replace, chances are an ecological and economical alternative exists. So grab your notepad and start right in your own front yard.
The grass can be greener on your side of the fence
What are the first few things you notice in your yard? Landscaping might be one. Consider utilizing natural depressions in the ground to create a rain garden. You’ll reduce pollution in your local waterways by sending storm water straight to the ground instead of flowing over streets and parking areas. Be sure to use native water loving plants. They don’t take much attention and can support local populations of birds and butterflies.
Oh, what a wonderful wall
One great option to take advantage of large blank outer walls is a vertical garden which can help insulate your home and will partially offset your carbon footprint. Do a little research online and you’ll find a plethora of simple and unique designs. Some use discarded rain gutters, others use specifically engineered fabrics or other strata. After some basic setup, you will have a beautiful low-maintenance piece of living art to enjoy year after year.
Another issue to consider when looking at the outside of your home is lead paint. If your home was built before the late 1970s, make sure you don’t have any of it on your siding. Lead paint poses numerous health risks to you and your family, and can deteriorate easily with power washing and sanding.
Raise the roof!
Is it time to repair or replace your roof? Roofs can be optimized to the climate in any locality and can even generate power for your home. If you live in a hot and sunny area you can select a “cool roof” that uses heat-reflective tiles, paint, or sheet covering. Solar panels, contrary to popular belief, can even be used in cloudier areas to generate power, or when used in combination with a geothermal heat pump can create a highly efficient heating and cooling system. And of course, there is always the option of a living roof which can result in similar benefits as the vertical garden discussed earlier.
There are a few improvements you can make to your home that will have an effect throughout it. Compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) can be used in almost every lighting source in your home, even in candle-style chandeliers. Flooring presents a number of options for eco-upgrades. Consider one of the many gorgeous styles of bamboo flooring or low-emitting carpets to cut down on indoor contaminants. Speaking of indoor contaminants, be sure to use low VOC paint for indoor walls as well.
If you can change just one thing…
For the most bang for your buck efficiency-wise, consider a geothermal heat pump, or go one step further and integrate it with a solar heating system for an even greater benefit. Pumping heat from the ground during winter and doing just the opposite during summer means you never have to think about how to optimize your indoor conditioning needs. Once your system is installed you can have peace of mind that you are keeping your heating and cooling costs low and your environmental impact even lower.