Sustainability, green building and energy efficiency are all words becoming part of today’s mainstream consciousness. As global environmental awareness spreads, certain regions of the U.S. are acting as leaders in the green living movement. One of the nation’s hotbeds for alternative energy is Western North Carolina (WNC), home to the city of Asheville.
According to an article by Dale Neal, “Video Touts Region on Green Economy,” in the February 22, 2008 Asheville Citizen-Times more than 80 green builders are based in WNC. In the 7-minute video, Neal mentions, titled “AdvantageGreen,” is directed by American Green TV’s Kurt Mann and discusses green building practices in and around Asheville, North Carolina.
The video features three WNC solar energy companies and highlights three major projects: FLS Energy’s installation of solar panels on a Greensboro hotel, Appalachian Energy’s installation of solar hot water systems on the roofs of Arby’s restaurants and Sundance Power’s installation of solar panels at Deltec Homes.
Simple Ideas for Living Green
Living a more earth friendly and healthy lifestyle is not as difficult as many people believe. Green building methods and alternative energy systems are increasingly affordable for the average citizen. There are even ways to make an existing structure more energy efficient whether it is a residential home or a commercial building.
Energy Star Efficiency Standards
One of the easiest ways to improve energy efficiency is to purchase products recognized by the Energy Star program. Energy Star is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and gives special certification to products that offer the highest level of efficiency in a particular category. All products certified must meet specific guidelines and are then allowed to carry the Energy Star logo. For more information about Energy Star, visit: http://www.energystar.gov/.
Energy Efficient Lighting
Natural light is the simplest way to save energy at home. Consider the size and location of all the windows in your home. Well-placed skylights or atriums also increase natural light and electrical efficiency. Although it is easier to make these considerations when building your home, you’ll be surprised at how quickly an investment in a smart, energy efficient renovation can pay for itself.
Energy Efficient, Green Living with Passive Solar and Passive Cooling
Passive solar and passive cooling are excellent strategies to maintain energy efficiency. Passive solar optimizes the use of heat-trapping materials. Many aspects of a home affect heating and cooling, even the direction it faces can decrease energy costs.
When choosing a passive solar solution, remember basic facts like homes facing the South are warmer than homes facing the North. Homes facing the East are warmer in the morning and those facing West are hotter in the afternoon. Passive cooling is facilitated by the wind in higher elevations. Mountain slopes facing away from predominant winds provide shelter and warmth. Slopes facing predominant winds are cooler.
Properly insulated walls, windows, roofs and floors are also crafted to attract or deflect the sun’s heat. Special window glazing can increase heating efficiency in the winter and shades or blinds affect cooling in the summer. The correct use of ceiling fans in the appropriate season can also improve energy efficiency.
Energy Efficient Landscaping: How Trees Support Energy Efficient Homes
The trees in your yard also support energy efficiency. In an article titled “Passive and Proud: Green Energy Ideas for Your Home,” writer and Northern California real estate agent Carolyn Gjerde-Tu of Discover David Homes, states, “Landscaping is another important consideration when thinking about energy efficiency. Deciduous trees (leafy in summer, bare in winter) provide wonderful shade for your home in summer, but allow the sun to help warm your home in winter. Plant these trees on the sides of your home that receive the most sun. Evergreens can also provide an effective break from chilling winds in winter.”
An Energy Efficient Initiative: NC HealthyBuilt Homes
NC HealthyBuilt Homes is an initiative supported throughout the state by the North Carolina Solar Center, the State Energy Office, the Asheville Home Builder Associations and the Western North Carolina Green Building Council (WNCGBC). According to the WNCGBC web site, wncgbc.org, the NC HealthyBuilt program promotes improved energy efficiency, indoor air quality and environmental accountability.
Energy efficient building also offers a number of federal and state tax advantages. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), http://www.dsireusa.org is a comprehensive list of tax and homeowner incentives. North Carolina and Asheville information is carefully detailed in the database along with other cities and states.
Energy efficiency is a simple, affordable way to begin living a healthier, greener lifestyle. Whether you are building a new home or searching for a way to increase the value of your existing home, an investment in increased home efficiency is an investment in the future.