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If you’re interested in building a more sustainable, eco-friendly home, you probably already know most of the basics: installing solar panels for power, opting for water-saving fixtures in the bathroom, you know the drill. But while that takes care of some of the biggest uses of power and water, you might be overlooking some of the smaller factors. Fixtures, solar panels and sustainable landscaping can definitely reduce your environmental impact, but the very design of your home could help you shrink that impact even more. Some of the smartest ways to increase sustainability might actually be the sum of a few small changes to your home’s design. Consider these sneaky sustainability hacks for a more energy efficient home.
A two-story home is often more energy efficient. Image: Omni Customs
1. Size Matters
It’s no secret that a smaller home is typically more energy efficient than a larger one. But it might not be just the size of the home, but how you use it. Consider two homes of the same square footage: one is 2,000 square feet on one level and the other is two levels, with 1,000 square feet on each. Which is the more efficient home? Stacking your square footage is almost always more energy efficient than a sprawling space, which costs more to heat and power.
Think about how much space you need and how it can be configured for energy savings. If you can get everything you want in a smaller, more compact footprint, it’ll be more sustainable in the long run.
2. Think Passive
Your mother-in-law might be passive aggressive, but an energy efficient home should be just plain passive. Passive design means creating a home that can basically take care of itself. When your home is designed so that it takes in the most sunlight during the winter, you can spend less on heating. The same home can offer shades to draw against hot summer sun, or windows that are situated for a cool breeze. Think of the ways you can decrease your home’s energy expenditure simply by where it sits on your lot or its layout.
Think about shade trees to keep your home cool. Image: 186 Lighting Design
3. Smart Landscaping
When talking about landscaping for sustainability, you’re usually referring to plants and grass that naturally do well in your home’s climate. It’s definitely a great way to save money on water and energy, but you can also use landscaping for even more sneaky sustainability. Simply plantings trees so they provide your home with natural shade and coverage helps you save on energy costs. Choose a leafy deciduous for hotter climates and you won’t need to crank up your A/C. Just make sure you plant trees where they’ll block sun in the summer, yet allow the sun to keep your home warmer in the winter.
4. Reclaim and Recycle
Building a home isn’t always the most eco-friendly way to procure a place to live. Even if you’re designing for a sustainable space, having new materials manufactured and delivered to your building lot requires a lot of energy. Thinking about how you source various materials can help you lessen the environmental burden. Choosing materials that are recycled or reclaimed from other projects reduces your environmental impact while giving every inch of your home more character. You can check with local builders, scour online classifieds and even check out demo projects to see if you can find solid materials with life left in them. If not, choose materials created from recycled goods whenever your contractors offer the option. Your environmental footprint will thank you for it.
Opt for natural light whenever possible. Image: Art of Architecture
5. Let in the Light
Indoor lighting can definitely drain you when it comes to energy costs. Besides a hefty electric bill, you’re also left with the burden of buying and swapping out bulbs. Instead, ask your architect to design your home for optimal natural lighting. It’s not just a question of installing windows, but utilizing your home’s orientation to make sure you get more light without sacrificing heating or cooling.
You can also sneak in sustainability by opting for LED fixtures and bulbs. Don’t worry about sacrificing ambiance: new-school LED bulbs can cast a natural, warm light. They’ll be more expensive up front but last much longer than traditional bulbs. What’s more, they’re cheaper to use because they consume less electricity.
6. Home Automation
Making your home a smart home can seem like an unnecessary expense. If your goal is a more efficient space, however, you might want to rethink technology’s role. Home automation puts some of your home’s energy-wasting processes on autopilot. The result? A more efficient home that adjusts itself when necessary. A smart thermostat can adjust the temperature based on when you spend time at home. Smart blinds can close themselves to block out hot sun in the middle of the day. Home automation isn’t just about convenience. It can create a space that is hyper-efficient and easy on your wallet.
Utilize organization for smaller, smarter spaces. Image: Tim Moss
7. Organization Solutions
An organized home means everything has a place. And when everything has a place, you can use less space storing your stuff. Smart organization solutions allow you to reduce the size of your home and storage space so you make less of an environmental impact. Whether it’s installing outlets in some of your most-used cupboards and drawers or building shelves into tight corners, think about organization from a sustainability point of view. Shelving, cabinets, attic spaces and closets can be retooled so they take up less room and store more stuff for a more efficient home.
When designing a more sustainable home, it’s important to think about how you’ll live in the space. Solar panels and energy-efficient appliances are great, but day-to-day sustainability might come from a smaller master bedroom or better kitchen windows. By working with your architect, you can design a space that is beautiful, functional and energy efficient.