The demand for energy to satisfy human needs has never been higher and keeps on rising. As a result the cost of energy is at an all time high and scientists warn that the planet is on the precipice of disaster as a result of global warming. Building energy efficient buildings is one of the strategies that are part of an integrated plan to reduce energy demands. Below are some tips that can help people who are keen to build energy efficient homes either to save costs or to stop global warming.
1. Build as small a house as can comfortably accommodate your family. Smaller buildings generally require less heating, cooling, lighting and maintenance, all of which constitute a vast proportion of energy expenditure. Having extra space in your house only adds to your house’s energy consumption without necessarily adding to the occupants’ comfort.
2. Install energy efficient appliances: the energy consumption of equipment such as water heaters, fridge, light bulbs and air conditioners among other household appliances should be as low as possible. When it comes to lighting, fluorescent bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs so it isn’t advisable to go for the latter. Fridges and freezers tend to run for most of the day and as such it is advisable to use one with low energy consumption. Use “on-demand” water heaters that only heat water when it is needed. Energy efficient appliances are more expensive but in the long-term they end up saving more money for the household.
3. Proper orientation and use of the right type of windows- windows are one of the major heat exchange points. The type and size of windows you choose and where you place them are important determinants on how much energy is used on heating and lighting. To avoid losing heat use vinyl framed windows (instead of aluminium ones which conduct too much heat). Argon filled double or triple panned windows are great insulators. Tinted windows also help in keeping the cold or heat out depending on the season.
Well placed windows allow for maximum utilization of natural sunlight thus reducing the need for electric lighting.
4. Well insulated walls, attic and ceiling.
Adding insulation to the walls, attic and the ceiling reduces heat flow into and out of the home. Exterior walls should be built of high thermal resistant materials. It is also important to ensure that doors and windows are sufficiently sealed in order to prevent air leaks which contribute to unwanted flow of hot or cold air during different seasons.
5. Clever landscaping- plant shade trees and scrubs on the side of your home that receives the highest amount of sunlight during summer. These will provide your home with shade which helps to keep it cool during the hottest times and thus reducing the need to use energy on artificial cooling. During winter they shed leaves thus allowing your home to be warmed naturally by the sun.
6. Use of renewable energy sources: these include solar panels, small wind turbines for home use and biogas reactors (especially in rural areas) among others. These can be installed to cater for some or even all of the household’s energy needs. They are very cheap since they one does not have to pay monthly power bills, but only demand regular maintenance costs which are usually very low. These tend to be relatively more expensive to install but the initial cost is usually recovered in a few years through accumulated saving in energy bills.
7. Seek expert advice: energy raters and auditors can assess your home’s energy consumption and recommend the best measures to help you achieve maximum energy efficiency. They also advise you on the best quality contractors. To ensure you get quality advice, go for energy auditors who are certified.