While most Californians aren’t planning to live in a home that is made from used drinking receptacles, those who have their finger on the pulse of the environment are doing what they can to bring it back from the edge of a code blue. In addition to recycling, repurposing and driving electric cars, a growing number of people are reducing their carbon footprint even further by opting to live in eco-friendly homes. Let’s take a look at some of the options, designs and innovations that are available for residents of California, who wish to make their homes more eco-friendly.
Before you tear off the roof and replace it with solar panels or build a windmill in your backyard, lots of products today are designed to reduce the stress on an already worn and weary environment. Here are just a few examples.
- An intuitive thermostat can significantly reduce the energy it takes to heat and cool a home. It self-programs according to your schedule, takes weather conditions into account, and can regulate the temperature in specific rooms either by motion sensors or voice command. It also tracks your daily and monthly energy usage and shows you where you can make adjustments.
- If you think your cell phone charger, cable/satellite box, video game console, DVR player or coffee maker aren’t consuming energy when not in use, think again. These devices are still capable of sucking power even when in standby mode. The so-called “vampire power drain” can account for up to 20 percent of your total energy usage. A smart power strip senses when a device isn’t in use and it shuts the power off completely. No more electricity leaks.
- Up to half the water that goes into keeping our lawns lush and green is wasted because of inefficient usage. An intelligent sprinkler system connects to satellites via the Internet and integrates weather conditions, sun exposure, soil conditions, types of plants and zone coverage to make the best use of water.
- You can stop buying bottled drinking water if you install a water filtration system in your home. These systems can filter out more than 99 percent of the lead found in municipal water as well as dozens of other contaminants. And less plastic in our landfills is always a good thing.
Today’s eco-friendly home technologies also include geothermal heat-pumps, bioethanol fireplaces, living roofs, icynene insulation, solar and tankless water heaters, water catchment systems, solar panels, food composters, wind turbines and smart home devices.
Now, if you’re thinking bigger than just a few energy- saving gadgets strategically placed here and there, an environmentally friendly pre-fabricated home may be right up your alley. In truth, the idea of pre-fab homes is nothing new. More than 400 styles of kit homes and buildings, from Craftsmans to Cape Cods, could be ordered from Sears & Roebuck during the first few decades of the 20th century. More than 75,000 of these kits were sold by 1940. In time, though, “pre-fab” took on a negative connotation, as it usually meant shoddy workmanship and inferior materials.
But just as the skinny ties of the 60s are in style again, pre- fab homes are making a strong comeback. There’s nothing shoddy or inferior about them, and they can be extremely eco-friendly – starting with offsite construction, which reduces both waste and build-time. The newest and best in green technology is all there when the home is unboxed and put up. That could include solar energy shingles, energy- efficient windows and doors, spray-in insulation, geothermal and rainwater collection systems, VOC-free paint, PEX tubing, tankless water heaters, sustainable materials, and more. And pre-fab doesn’t have to mean small; some pre- order homes sprawl out over more than 3,000 square feet.
There seems to be no end to green innovation in the 21st century. Rammed-earth homes featuring tightly-packed soil walls up to two feet thick are extremely well insulated (not to mention quiet), significantly reducing the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. Zero-carbon homes do what they say and leave no carbon footprint whatsoever. Earth-sheltered homes are built into the side of a hill – another way to provide excellent insulation. Airtight homes feature triple-glazed windows, sealed walls and floors and extra-heavy doors. South-facing glass-walled homes make maximum use of sunlight for heating. And so on.
The green movement in the Golden State continues to gain momentum. When it comes to smart, comfortable, eco-friendly living, California residents from Redding in the north to San Diego in the south are leading the way.
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