How to make your home greener...
An eco-friendly home typically means that it is less harmful to the environment. Founder and CEO of Ecolighten Energy Solutions Ltd., Ryan Coleman says that from designing a home to be more energy-efficient to utilizing products that have less environmental impact, there are a number of ways homeowners can have a more “eco-friendly” home.
“Homeowner strategies may include using ‘green’ building materials, incorporating alternative energy systems, implementing water conservation technologies or simply improving your family’s conservation behaviors to minimize negative impacts on the environment,” says Coleman.
He adds that one of the common misconceptions is that you have to sacrifice a beautiful looking home for improved comfort and energy performance. Homeowners ultimately want to have and should strive to achieve both a home that blends beautiful style with better performance that minimizes impact on the environment.
Another misconception is that eco-designed homes are new builds only, but people living in older homes can make the transition too. Coleman says there are many diverse consumer needs and motivations for renovating or improving the energy performance of an older home. Similar to new construction, a few homeowner rationales are reduced bills, improved comfort, energy-efficiency, resale value and others.
“That said, much like a clock is made up of interdependent parts that need to work together, so is a house,” he says. “Therefore, for homeowners considering energy upgrades as part of a home renovation project, it’s critical to understand a ‘whole house’ approach to upgrading since the various components of your home operate together to affect energy consumption, comfort and indoor air quality in your home.”
For example, you may want to install a high-efficiency furnace, but that won’t necessarily make you feel more comfortable if your home is poorly insulated with single-pane windows. It will use less energy, but it won’t stop waste, which is often more expensive.
“It’s easy to make your home greener, but is starts with understanding the energy you’re using in the home and tackling a couple ‘quick wins’ to get started towards saving energy and money,” Coleman says.
Whether you’re building a new home or living in an existing home, Coleman has the following tips to help get you on the right track.
- Energy Management: With the implementation of smart meters and energy management devices, B.C. residents have the opportunity to better manage their consumption with improved visibility through near ‘real time’ energy usage. This includes access through BC Hydro’s online energy dashboard “My Hydro” that tells you how much energy you’re using at different times of the day, week or month to help you control energy consumption, cut energy waste and potentially reduce energy bills.
- Phantom Power: Many electronic devices continue to use power even when they are not being used. Devices, such as modems, televisions, microwaves and oven clocks, set-top cable boxes, and blue-ray players, often use power in ‘standby mode’. That means these devices continue to use electricity to power lights, clocks and ‘instant-on’ features, even when they are switched off. To reduce phantom loads, homeowners can incorporate both ‘standbyoff’ plugs, mechanical timers and look to purchase appliances without electric clocks (when possible).
- Home Energy Labels: Every day we use labels to rate products we buy. Why isn’t this the case with our homes? In B.C., there is a lack of public knowledge and access to home energy information at point of sale, construction and renovation. However, through the Government of Canada’s EnerGuide Rating System, homeowners can access a national standard that measures your home's energy performance. This information helps you to make informed decisions when buying a home, or can help you differentiate the value if you’re selling one that’s undergone energy upgrades.
“Your home is typically your largest asset and the biggest investment a person will make, so it makes a lot of sense to invest in it wisely,” says Coleman. “While much of the attention gets placed on the decision-making around aesthetics (e.g. kitchen and bathroom), there are numerous benefits a person will realize by focusing on the energy performance and achieving an ‘eco-friendly’ home.”
Some of those benefits include:
- Saving money and energy: Energy-efficiency technologies and energy conservation measures reduce energy bills and support sustainability. In many cases, the upfront investment can be recouped with the homeowner saving money from ongoing operating costs.
- Improving comfort and air quality: Proper mechanical equipment selection, sizing and design supports improved distribution of heating, cooling, and fresh air. This ultimately yields a more comfortable indoor environment, with even and consistent temperatures.
- Durability and resale value: Better construction materials and installation practices create home durability which means less work and expense to maintain the home properly. As an added benefit, green homes typically have a higher resale value and are on the market for less time than comparable conventional homes.