Environmentally friendly living is very much in the news these days. Ideas for a greener home can range from daily energy-saving steps, to major renovations. As appliances and fixtures wear out, its a great time to replace them with modern designs that have conservation in mind.
According to NAR studies, buyers will pay 4 to 11% more for a green friendly home. (National averages). There is even a listing service dedicated to green homes, www.listedgreen.com. When the ratio of sellers to buyers is uneven, buyers are either looking for extra low price, or extra value. A seller needs to make their house stand out from the rest to get it sold. If kitchens and baths need to be updated, or flooring, hot water heaters, or other appliances, why not make them more green while your at it!
Lets take a tour through the house and see what ideas we can come up with.
1. Bathrooms. (In our area of the country, kitchens and baths sell homes.)
a. Bath and Sink Faucets: A faucet dripping once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year. Replacing the washer is a solution, but if its older than 1994, replacing it is better. Newer faucets are required by law to have a flow rate no greater than 2.2 gallons per minute; older onces can flow at a rate of 3 to 7 gallons per minute.
TIP: Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label, which signifies high-efficiency faucets that reduce flow by more than 30%.
b. Showerhead: Current low-flow showerheads have improved a lot from the earlier models. Newer ones send down larger droplets at a higher velocity. Water use is cut in half.
TIP: Choose a showerhead that lets you adjust the flow, further increasing your savings.
Highland tip: Get a shower head cut off, a lever which shuts off the flow of water temporarily, for taking a “ship-board shower”. Our water bill was cut by a third after installing these!
c. Toilets: Before the federal mandate in 1994, toilets used as much as 7 gallons per flush. Ther earlier low-flow toilets got many complaints, but recently, the redesigned versions function very well, using 1.6 gallons per flush. Dual systems allow for the choice of a .9 gallon or a 1.6 gallon flush.
TIP: WaterSense Label = 20% less water used than the current national standard.
a. Refrigerator/Freezer: The refrigerator is the largest energy user in the kitchen. When replacing your refrigerator, look for a high-efficiency compressor, thick insulation, and precise temperature controls. The Energy Star label insures these features, and on average, these refrigerators use less than half the energy used by pre-1993 models.
TIP: Top and bottom freezer units are generally more efficient than side-by-side models, and units with ice-despensers on the door use more energy than those without. But it is still important to compare individual models.
b. Dishwasher: Choose a water-conserving model; the less water used, the less it will cost to heat. Energy savings can be up to $65 a year, so spreading the higher cost over the average 9-year lifespan of a dishwasher, buying a more expensive but efficient model can save you $ in the long run.
TIP: Choose a model with a quick-wash cycle to same time, energy and water. Other energy-saving features include a no-heat drying option and a delay-start control. Today’s models do a great job, so rinsing dishes before you load them is a waste of water, most of the time.
c. Cooktops: Gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, but the lowest efficiency, only 55% of the energy used goes directly toward cooking the food. Electric ranges are 80% efficient. But, given that gas cooking is usually faster, it’s a draw. Cooking doesn’t make a huge impact on your energy bill, so the choice between gas and electric is more about preference.
It makes no difference, in terms of energy, if you choose a separate cooktop, or an oven with a range. Be sure to purchase an energy-efficient range hood that vents cooking products up from the cooktop and directly outside (avoid down-draft vents).
d. Ovens: Convection ovens are usually more energy efficient than conventional ovens because the heated air is continuously circulated around the food being cooked, reducing required temperature and cooking times. On average, you’ll cut energy use by about 20%.
With conventional gas or electric ovens, self-cleaning models are more energy-efficient because they have more insulation. But if you use the self-cleaning feature more than about once a month, you’ll end up using more energy with the feature than you save from the extra insulation.
Ranges, ovens, cooktops and microwaves currently don’t have an “Enegy Star” designation, but the latest in cooking is the magnetic induction cooktop. It creates an electromagnetic field of energy that heats only iron or steel and has no exposed coil, open flame, or heated surface. It’s 90% efficient and produces almost instant heat only to the pan: convenient, and easy to control. The only extra expense: if you don’t have iron or steel cookware, you’ll have to purchase that too.
TIP: Gas burners with standing pilots, rather than electric ignition, can more than double the annual energy consumption of your cooktop.
e. Microwave: The microwave actually uses more energy than an oven, but because the cooking time is so much less, the cost is cut by two-thirds. It also saves during the summer by not heating up the surrounding area in the kitchen.
for more tips, visit www.aceee.org
More Green Home Tips to Come! Part Two: Going Greener in the Home