A lot of people think that being more “green” in real estate is something that is difficult or can only be done as part of a new construction or major remodeling project. That is far from the truth. Very often, simple things can be done to reduce home energy usage and improve the “greenness” of a house.
For example, I was recently asked about “what would the energy savings be if I replaced the hot water heater with a solar one?” My questions back to them were “do you have an insulating blanket around the existing hot water heater?” and “have you put the hot water heater on a timer so its turned off when you’re not around the house to use hot water?”. The answer to both questions was “no”.
Sometimes the simplest things are great places to start. I’d rather put on an insulating blanket and install a time for (at most) a couple of hundred bucks than to have someone tearing up my roof and spending thousands (even after the tax breaks) on a solar hot water heater. Now when the hot water heater is worn out and its time to replace it, that’s a different story.
Of course, I gave this advice to a number of people BEFORE I bought my own insulating blanket and timer and now our local Home Depot is sold out…darn.
Many things that are great ideas for the mainland don’t apply here in Hawaii (ceiling insulation, heating ducts — what are those?), but the advice of “start with the basics” definitely applies.
On one house I own, I had a solar attic fan installed at a cost of around $600 (it was a few years ago, so forgive me if I have the amount wrong). When the sun hits it, it turns on and sucks hot air out of the attic. The temperature in the house dropped by about 5 degrees immediately. Its not a “cure-all” for hot houses, but it sure helps. And there’s no on-going cost and I expect it to last many years.
Of course, ceiling fans are a way of life in Hawaii – often we have at least one in every room. What I did not know until fairly recently was that older ceiling fans can be quite energy-inefficient. Newer ones are much better. Again, if you don’t have to replace them, the energy savings is probably not enough to justify it, but when it is time to replace one, look for an energy-efficient model.
Speaking of appliances and other durable goods in general, its not the most “green” thing to do to replace anything unless there’s a pre-existing need. To use the ceiling fax example, removing a functional ceiling fan in order to replace it with a more energy-efficent model is probably not a good idea unless you have someone that can use the old fan or you can use it yourself (perhaps in a little-used guest bedroom). To take out the older fan and have it end up in a landfill defeats the purpose.
I often hear of people replacing the main refrigerator in the house with an EnergyStar model and then taking the old one out to the garage or carport and using it a secondary or “beer” fridge. Again, that kind of defeats the purpose – you now have the old energy-inefficient model AND the new one both running. It would be better to have one, larger, energy-efficient fridge.
If you haven’t encountered it yet, FreeCycle is an amazing thing where you can offer up, for free (and only for free) anything you have that may be working, but you no longer need. The person wanting it will usually pick it up (or at least meet you at a convenient location), get the item and put it into use. Less in the landfill is always “green”. Check it out at http://www.freecycle.org.
Just a few tips to make life in your existing home a little “greener”.