These days, the variety of building materials and eco-friendly design options make it easier than ever to go green indoors. Paint, flooring, lawn care, and furniture can all be used to create an energy efficient home. In addition to choosing green materials, there are a number of quick, easy ways to make your home more eco-friendly, such as revaluating your lawn care needs and carefully choosing which products to purchase. It's also becoming more popular to utilize energy efficient interior design methods to improve the eco-friendliness of your space. Read on to find out how to green your home from the inside out.
Choose Green Materials
One of the easiest things you can do to create an energy efficient home is to choose green building materials. Flooring, cabinetry, and paint all come in many eco-friendly options that make going green indoors a breeze. In the kitchen, linoleum flooring is a great choice over toxic vinyl because it is biodegradable, durable, and made from natural linseed oil. Countertops now come in many eco-friendly materials, like paperstone-a mix of paper composite and resin. Cork flooring is another eco-friendly option, because cork is made from the bark of the cork tree and can be harvested without destroying the tree. Even hardwood flooring has sustainable options these days, with many retailers carrying brands that use managed forests.
When building or remodeling a home, there are many new materials that will help ensure maximum energy-efficiency. Low-Emissivity or Low-E windows cost about 10-15% more than standard windows but they will easily pay for themselves very quickly. Low-E windows will help your home hold its temperature, which makes them great for both summer and winter. Another new idea for retaining heat is the use of insulated concrete forms instead of wooden frames. The use of concrete has been shown to reduce the consumption of energy by up to 20% in colder climates. By utilizing some of these resources you'll be saving energy and benefiting from the extra money in no time.
Think Before You Design
Many people are surprised to learn that paint colors play an important role in the energy-efficiency of a home. Energy efficient interior design is much simpler than you may think-- all you have to do is think about which colors will be the most beneficial for your home. Light colors are better at reflecting heat, so a light interior color will help keep a room cooler in the summer. On the other hand, dark colors tend to retain warmth, so a dark brown or tan would be a great choice for colder climates. Brick homes tend to absorb the sun's heat, so light interior colors would be a smart pick for an area with hot summers. The color is also relevant to the direction of the room-warm colors should be on the Northern side of the home where there is less natural light, whereas rooms with Southern exposure would benefit from cooler colors. Make sure to choose paint that is low or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds), which are toxic and a leading cause of indoor air pollution.
Many people also use furnishings to help retain heat in their homes. Area rugs can be used to bring warmth into a room by adding an extra layer of padding to the floor. It's also a good idea to put a rug in front of a window that gets a lot of light during the day, because it will retain the warmth and keep the room toasty at night. Heavy drapes are another great way to retain warmth in a room, because they act as extra insulation just like area rugs. Furniture can also be used to retain heat or help cool a room- for example, using a high-backed chair against the Northern side of a room will block cold drafts and create a warm, cozy space.
Think About Indoor Air Quality
Most people don't realize that the quality of air indoors can be just as harmful as the polluted air outside. VOCs can be found in many household items-shower curtains, disinfectants, common household cleaners, aerosol sprays, and air fresheners are all culprits. This can cause serious health problems such as allergies, nausea, headaches, and even nerve damage and cancer. The first step to eliminating indoor VOCs is to evaluate your products to see if they contain hazardous chemicals. Product information can be found on the National Institute of Health's website. Store products with VOCs in containers with a tight-fitting lid and make sure to always use them in a well-ventilated area. Becoming more selective about which products to bring into your home is one of the most important tips for going green indoors.
Don't Forget the Outdoors
Expanding your efforts to the yard is a smart way to help your home reach maximum sustainability. Planting deciduous trees (those that shed their leaves in the fall) is a great way to ensure that your house will be shady in the summer and receive lots of natural light in the winter. The lawn is another area of the home that can easily be made eco-friendly. 40 million acres of lawn a year are being soaked in fertilizers and pesticides, which is harmful to humans and the environment. Instead of using chemicals, think about adding clover to your grass-it's drought-intolerant, a natural fertilizer, and will boost the overall health of your lawn. There are also a growing number of lawn-care companies who specialize in green services, which is great if you don't have the time to devote to your yard but want to take advantage of the most earth-friendly outdoor resources.
Easy Tips For Saving Energy At Home
- Keep appliances unplugged. Electronics continue to use power even when they are not being used. Unplugging your microwave or coffee pot can easily save you money each year.
- Check your refrigerator seal. A leaky door seal will cause your refrigerator to lose cold air and consume more energy. To make sure your door has a tight seal, place a sheet of paper between the door and the body of the refrigerator. If the paper falls easily, you should replace the seal.
- Use a clothesline. You don't have to say goodbye to your dryer for good, but using a clothesline at least once or twice a week in the summer will save energy and money.
- Raise your thermostat in summer. You can save up to 3% for every degree you raise the temperature of your thermostat during the summer. Changing the temperature from 72 to 77 could net a savings of up to 15% on your electricity bill.
- Lower your thermostat in winter. Lowering your thermostat by ten degrees at night will reduce your heating bill by up to 20% (and as an added benefit, studies have shown that people rest better at night with a room temperature of 60-72 degrees!).
- Weather-strip and caulk windows. Fill cracks in the windows with silicone caulk and place weather-stripping around appropriate areas of windows and doors. This will seal any leaks and keep your house nice and warm in the winter.
- Maintain your heating system. Make sure to clean and replace the filter of your heating system every few months. It's also important to schedule regular maintenance for your equipment, especially if it is over ten years old.
Here are some helpful links to help you create an energy efficient home:
- Energy Efficient Interior Design
- Interior Design Tips
- Energy Efficient Design Tips to Save Money
- Interior Design Sustainability Primer
- Saving Energy in the Home
- Energy Efficient Home Design
- Ultra Efficient Home Design
- Home Design & Remodeling
- Tips for Energy Saving Window Coverings
- Winter Energy Saving Tips
- 66 Ways to Save Energy
- 100 Ways to Save Energy in the Home
- Summer Energy Saving Tips
- Spring and Summer Energy Saving Tips
- Home Energy-Saving Checklist
- Saving Energy at Home
- Home Energy Saver
- Which Roof Shingles Are Energy Star Rated?
- Alliance to Save Energy
- Fall/Winter Energy Saving Tips
- Winter Energy Saving Tips from Duke
- Eco Tips for All Individuals
- A Guide to Indoor Air Quality
- Indoor Air Pollution
- Indoor Air Quality Assessment
- Eco-Friendly Flooring
by: Kylie Richardson