Starting in 2020, new home builds in California must come with solar panels. It is the first US state to require all newly built homes to use solar power. The rule applies to all three-storey homes or fewer in the battle against climate change.
However, this does not mean that existing homes or dwellings that are undergoing renovations cannot contribute to environmental protection.
By making use of energy efficiently and effectively, houses produce fewer carbon emissions mitigating the negative impact on the environment.
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1. Solar Energy Systems Are Now Affordable
Years ago, the prices of solar panels were exorbitant making it expensive for homeowners to install sun-powered systems in their abodes for energy.
Back in 2010, the price of a residential photovoltaic (PV) system costs more than $50,000. In the last years, prices have gone down more than 60% with the average cost of a 6kW system ranging from a little over $16,00 to under $22,000.
Owing to improved technologies, better efficiency, and government incentives, solar panels have become more affordable. The price per watt of solar energy dropped by as much as 27% according to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
More people can participate in installing PV systems that are not only good for the environment, but also for the pockets.
2. Solar Power is Free to Harness
The advantages of solar energy are plenty. Sun power is a renewable energy source and in areas where the sun is shining all year round, solar panels will produce a good amount of energy.
Even in regions where sunlight levels are not high because of cloud cover, it is still viable to invest in some form of solar energy.
Although it may not generate adequate power to serve the electricity needs of a standard home, it can produce energy to heat water that is used for washing, bathing, or cleaning.
For example, solar water heaters may cost more than standard water systems, but over time, they offer substantial savings. It can cut your water heater energy costs by as much as 50% according to Energy.gov.
In addition, you will also get tax credits from the government, bringing down installation or initial investment cost.
Overall, solar power is a clean form of energy that does not produce carbon emissions that are harmful to the earth’s ozone layer.
Plus, continuous technological advancements mean that there are several innovations that are available to home builders and owners.
These include solar shingles that maximize space and maintain the aesthetics of roofs and photovoltaic glass that could be fitted on windows and outdoor furniture.
3. Water and Wind Power
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where wind is abundant, you can also put up wind turbines as a source of power. In the US, there are 57,000 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 97,960 MW.
It is the ‘largest source of renewable generating capacity’ in America according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Wind energy produced 6.5% of the country’s electricity last year, enough to power 25 million homes.
Hydro power is another clean and renewable form of energy. However, not everyone will have the opportunity to live near a source of power. But if your property has a source of water, you can divert and let it flow through turbines to power your home.
4. Managing Traditional Sources of Energy Efficiently
The world is still reliant on traditional sources of energy such as oil, gas, wood, and coal. In areas where there is little means to produce clean power, wood, coal, and dung are predominantly used to cook and heat homes.
However, this is not viable and is unhealthy as it produces toxic fumes. Every year, around 7 million people die from smoke inhalation and exposure to air pollution according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the US, most of its electricity is produced by coal (53%), natural gas (27%) and nuclear plants (18%) says the US Energy Information and Administration.
Although shifting from traditional energy to renewables cannot be done overnight, managing non-renewable sources of energy is possible. Quake Energy recommends several ways to improve energy use at home.
Lowering thermostats for cooling or heating can reduce utility bills drastically. Leaving appliances unplugged when they are not in use can also decrease energy consumption.
Simple habits such as running dishwashers and washing machines only at full loads, switching to energy-saving lamps, and using programmable thermostats can trim down expenses.
Installing blinds, shutters, awnings, and curtains also help you regulate the amount of sunlight that enters your home during the hot months keeping the cold or heat in longer.
5. Building Air Tight Homes to Conserve Energy
Another option to conserve energy is to build homes that are air tight. Leakages are responsible for major heat loss or moisture damage in a house. They can also lead to poor indoor air quality affecting the health of its occupants.
Air leaks can affect the structure of homes as well because of unwanted moisture.
At the start, building a structure that is well-insulated helps to keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer to save on energy. For example, windows must be triple-glazed for energy efficiency.
Doors and windows must also be sealed properly to prevent loss of heat and decrease moisture.
Existing homes can improve air leakage by sealing cracks and openings around window and door frames. Weather stripping doors and operable windows improves insulation in homes.
Other things that you can easily do to prevent air leakage include using low-foam expansion spray and covering vents when they are not in use. Fireplace flue dampers should be sealed when they are not used.
Shifting from traditional forms to renewable sources of energy for new homes assists in protecting and preserving the environment. It also saves you money in the long run when you invest in renewable energy.
At the same time, existing home structures can make use of power efficiently and implement energy-saving tips to improve consumption, decrease bills, combat climate change, and put less pressure on non-renewable sources.