By Max Lancaster
People are becoming more environmentally conscious as they learn the effect their consumption habits have on the planet. Everything we consume comes with an environmental cost which is why we need to support things that reduce our carbon footprint. One of the best ways to combat our high energy usage is to construct our homes with the environment in mind. Sustainable housing is becoming an increasingly popular option for homeowners that can noticeably cut down energy costs. Creating a sustainable home is all about installing the right fixtures throughout your house. This means using energy-saving materials in the walls, in the plumbing, and installing stylish and energy-efficient lights and windows. Here are a few things you can do to create a sustainable and stylish home.
Let the natural light shine
The key to developing a sustainable home is cutting down on your electric bill and the best way to cut down on electricity is to create a home that uses as much natural lighting as possible. We live in one of the sunniest states in America so develop a home that takes advantage of the robust natural lighting we get year-round. Designing a home with skylights, picture windows, and bay windows will let in more natural light and require you to turn on the lights less. However, in order to make your windows more sustainable, you need to think about the material they are made of.
Wayne Funk Principal of Mesa home building company Bellago Homes said the type of glass you use is a key factor in maintaining a sustainable home that is energy efficient and comfortable.
“When you are installing your windows you want to install windows with a Low-E glass that has a good U factor that reflects heat and light.”
Funk went on to explain that it also matters what type of window frame you use. He recommends composite windows made of vinyl, resin, or wood-clad windows.
“Upgrading to wood or vinyl windows offers more insulation and they last longer because their color does not fade over time,” Funk said.
Most homes typically use aluminum windows but these window types do not insulate well and do not last very long making them unsuitable for a sustainable home.
Install sustainable plumbing fixtures and a tankless water heater
Desert residents know that your water bill is one of your biggest housing expenses so in order to build a sustainable house you will want to install plumbing fixtures that will conserve water.
One of the first fixtures you should install is a tankless water heater. While a tankless water heater will cost more money upfront it will save you a lot of money in the long run. According to energy.gov, tankless water heaters are 34 percent more efficient than tank water heaters.
Owner of Amigo Rooter & Plumbing Nelson Salas said tankless water heaters last longer and waste less energy.
“One of the advantages of a tankless water heater is you don’t have forty or fifty gallons of water sitting in a tank all day,” Salas said. “A tankless water heater means you don’t have to waste energy trying to heat up that big tank every time you take a shower or do the dishes. “
Salas also recommends installing water-saving fixtures throughout your home. This means water-saving faucets, low-flow showerheads as well as toilets.
“In Arizona water is one of the most important things we need to preserve,” Salas said. “Installing water-saving plumbing fixtures will benefit your wallet and the environment.”
You can only make a sustainable home if you are saving water.
Install energy-saving smart tech
A really cool thing about modern technology is the ability to fully integrate our home into an automated system via smart technology. The ability to control your home from your smartphone can help you create a sustainable home.
Installing smart lighting and smart thermostats can help you save energy in the long term.
Adolfo Dolan, a Project Engineer at Mesa smart tech installer Automated Environments said smart lighting is one of the best ways to reduce your energy consumption.
“Smart lighting saves you energy because you can program the system to turn off when you are not using it and many of these smart lighting systems also allow you to monitor your energy usage,” Dolan said. “Having the ability to turn off your lights from your phone or schedule when to turn them on or dim them is a plus for anyone looking to conserve energy.”
The Environmental Protection Agency states that programmable thermostats can save you an average of $180 per year so it is beneficial to install a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats can be programmed to heat or cool the house at certain times of day and can be shut off after you leave the house and turned on when you are heading back.
“Like smart lighting, the benefit is being able to use an automated system to schedule when you need to heat or cool your house,” Dolan said. “The biggest issue with energy conservation is climate control and with a smart thermostat you are better able to decided what the temperature of your home should be.”
It should be noted that smart thermostats only allow you to control when you heat or cool your house it will not make your HVAC system run more efficiently. You will have to install an energy-efficient HVAC system to save energy on that front.
Spray foam insulation reduces energy consumption
The insulation of your home is one of the most important things to consider when building a sustainable home. A poorly insulated house means your HVAC system has to work harder to maintain your ideal home temperature.
Bellago Homes Principal Wayne Funk said Spray Foam is hands down the best insulation.
“Foam is a superior way to insulate your home because it lasts a long time and creates an airtight seal that maintains the temperature of your home,” Funk said. “It is the best option for anyone looked to not waste energy.”
Unlike other insulators, spray foam will last the lifetime of your home with proper application. The fact that foam requires less upkeep means you are conserving the use of future insulation materials.
Adding these fixtures to your dream home will ensure your home is sustainable and that you are living with the environment in mind.
Max Lancaster is a freelance writer in Phoenix.