The expansion of the home performance and energy efficiency industry in the past decade has resulted in a wider awareness of energy issues, and many new products for homeowners, ranging from simple DIY kits at the local hardware store to complex solar panel or wind power installations on private properties. With so many ways to “live green” on the market, where do homeowners start?
First Things First
Across the Southeast, we’ve seen a growing trend with homeowners putting the cart before the horse – installing energy generating solutions before ensuring energy efficiency in the home. We’ve been called to homes where the homeowner has proudly shown off an expensive solar panel system, while complaining that the house is drafty and the furnace is still running 24/7 to keep up.
“Free” energy in the form of solar or wind power isn’t truly free – it comes at the cost of manufacturing, installing and maintaining the technology systems. And while it may seem comforting to think that every kilowatt that is generated with non-polluting technology is the same as saving a kilowatt coming from the utility company, it’s how much of that kilowatt is wasted at the home level that is the true concern.
The first step of green living is reducing energy dependency. Before considering energy generation systems, be sure that your home is in peak performance when it comes to energy efficiency. Fixing the underlying home performance issues with proper insulation, sealing, and HVAC systems saves energy and improves home comfort immediately, so that every subsequent action has twice the positive effect.
More Power Isn’t the Solution
We often get calls from homeowners who are concerned that their HVAC systems are underpowered – the home is too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter. They believe that the solution is to buy a bigger, more powerful heat pump or air conditioner, relegating the old one to the landfill.
While it is possible that older HVAC systems are underpowered (especially if the home has been renovated and expanded over the years), more often than not a home performance assessment, by a qualified and experienced home performance expert, will result in a different recommendation – proper sealing and insulation of the home. If your house leaks like a sieve, after all, pushing more air through it will just make the problem worse, not better.
Before jumping on the “bigger is better” bandwagon, be sure that the problem is truly with your underlying mechanical systems, and not with the environment of your home.
Don’t Get Caught Up in “Bling”
Our home is our castle, our haven, and frequently our biggest status symbol. Homeowners have shown a tendency to flock to green living solutions which can be shown off, especially when the technology is new and exciting.
While the solar panel on the roof might be a very obvious symbol of your commitment to reducing your energy footprint, homeowners need to consider what is truly best for them, their families, and the environment. Weather stripping, insulation, and sealed crawl spaces aren’t as visible or as “sexy” as solar power or wind power, but provide far better energy conservation results and improve home comfort at a lower cost.
Ultimately, you want to choose improvements that have the best return on investment for you and your family, so before looking at solutions which serve to add more energy into your home, be sure that your home is a great receptacle for the energy you’re already putting into it.