The Scottsdale Green Building Program offers a wealth of tips for homeowners, whether you’re remodeling, building or looking for a green home. Even if you’re just trying to reduce your energy costs, these tips can really help:
• Lighting – use compact fluorescent bulbs. Newer fluorescent bulbs offer a soft white light that mimics a regular light bulb, yet uses 75% less energy. The best targets are 60-100W bulbs used several hours a day.
• Appliances – The energy cost to run appliances over its lifetime is much greater than the purchasing cost. It makes good economic sense to buy energy efficient appliances. Your refrigerator is likely the largest energy consumer in the house, so think about replacing your refrigerator if it is old. Look for Energy Star labeled appliances.
• Water heaters – If you don’t have an insulating blanket on your water heater, consider getting one. It will pay for itself in less than a year. If you need to replace a water heater, think about an on-demand tankless water heater. A tankless water heater does not hold any water, so it does not need to be turned down for vacations, there is no risk of failure like that of a tanked heater that can spill many gallons of water and ruin your floor. They use less overall energy, since no water is kept hot in a tank. Gas tankless water heaters are generally more efficient. You will need to have your house checked to ensure your gas lines are sized properly. Whole house tankless heaters start at about twice as much in cost as a normal tanked water heater. Other possible disadvantages include limited hot water flow when there are multiple fixtures running at one time. As another alternative, consider a recirculating hot water system. This involves installing a pump to circulate hot water on a loop between the most remote plumbing fixture and the water tank. In order to conserve energy, the circulation pump only operates when hot water is required by means of an activation button or timer.
• Windows – South-facing windows offer a great opportunity to absorb free energy (winter sunlight) while north-facing windows provide uniform lighting throughout the year. East- and west-facing windows are subjected to intense morning and afternoon sunlight causing significant summer heat gain. Consider installing low-e double pane windows for at least the east and west windows. Look for a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) of 0.40 or less. As a least-cost alternative, consider exterior shading devices such as an overhang (at least 10 feet), trellis, vertical/horizontal louvers, screen wall, or vegetation such a trees.
• Daylighting – Consider adding natural light sources to reduce the need for artificial light. Light tubes appropriately placed and exterior shaded windows are good ways to enhance natural light with minimum heat gain in existing homes.