Earth Day: going green the right way
EARTH Day is April 22, and it’s a good reminder for all of us to make greener choices to help save energy — which means more money in your pocket — reduce waste and have better, healthier homes. Because that’s what it’s about — going green but being smart. I’ve seen many so-called “green” products that end up creating all this extra waste because they don’t work. But I’ve also seen many great, durable products that protect our homes, so we don’t waste materials and increase our comfort. One example is Schluter’s DITRAHEAT floor-warming system. It protects the integrity of your tiles, so they don’t crack and need to be replaced, protects your floor against moisture and mould, and has heating cables so your feet feel warm and toasty in the morning using minimal energy — all pluses. Better construction is green. When we improve the building envelope — windows, insulation, roof, foundation and exterior siding — we make our homes more weather resistant and energy efficient. When things last longer and we don’t have to throw them away and replace them with new materials, we keep garbage out of landfills and use minimal energy. There are plenty of changes that most homeowners can do to make their homes more green, for example switching to LEDs and using solarpowered outdoor lights. If you’re replacing your roof you can get old asphalt shingles recycled and then go for metal, if you can afford it. A metal roof will last a minimum of 50 years; it’s fire-resistant, helps you save loads in heating costs and looks good too. (Some metal-roof products look like regular asphalt shingles.) You can also use landscaping to help block out heat in the summer and cold in the winter. You can install awnings, which act like visors for your home. In some environments they can reduce heat gain by about 55 to 77 per cent and save homeowners as much as 25 per cent on energy bills. Then there’s the big stuff all homes are eventually moving toward, such as using geothermal energy — or the earth’s natural temperature — to help heat our homes and domestic water. We could also use greywater or rainwater to wash cars and water lawns, use solar energy to power our homes and solar lights to light them, or add a green roof to help manage storm water and increase insulation. But these bigger changes that affect structure and the mechanics of the home and require incorporating new innovative systems are more difficult for homeowners to do today, either because it’s beyond their budget or it’s too difficult to modify their homes to accommodate those changes. That’s why for bigger, greener changes we need it to come from the top down — from the industry (whether it’s a builder, renovator, architect or contractor) to the homeowner. That might mean more builders offering “green” home packages, where everything that makes the house more durable and energy efficient is planned out and developed before the first shovel hits the dirt. Renovators can specialize in “green” renovations, where they take a house that might have been built 30 or 50 years ago and update it with all the latest systems so it uses minimal energy. This is where energy-efficiency home inspections can also really make a difference, because they can help identify all the spots in your home that are losing energy — and money. These types of inspections include tests like the blower door test or thermal imaging to find heat loss. Most homeowners I talk to want a home that’s energy efficient and healthy. If you told them they could power their home with a reliable and clean source of energy for just a fraction of what it costs them now, they would be on board. But these changes have to make sense, financially, environmentally and construction wise. They also need to be accessible to the average homeowner if we want to really make a change, make it right and make it count.