>Sustainable Housing Doesn’t Always Mean Starting from Scratch

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(By Brooke Hubbard)

Prospective homeowners are beginning to expect that new homes are outfitted with a green design and new ways to save energy and housing developers are trying to stay ahead of the curve standardizing sustainable designs into their houses. However, owning a green home doesn’t mean going out on the market for a newly designed house. In fact, David Brook, an extension agent specializing in energy for Oregon State University stated, “What we’ve learned about basic energy efficiency isn’t readily available to homeowners, builders and contractors,” meaning that even the newest houses don’t have all the bells and whistles. Despite this, there is a variety of ways to outfit your older (and newer) house with new energy saving techniques.

The first is obvious: Limit the amount of heat energy lost to outdoors

Heat rises, so in many older houses the attic ends up being the culprit for heat loss. Many old attics have gaps to the outdoors or are not well insulated. But don’t be too confident in your insulation either, insulated attics doesn’t necessarily mean old attics. For more information on how to check your house for attic heat loss as well as how to do home repairs, read this helpful article from “This Old House.” Oh, and, uh, close your doors and windows.

Second is easy: Turn off unused electronics, and lights
It seems like turning off lights when you leave a room would only create a minor change in energy usage, and that can be very true on the individual level. However, consider what energy would be saved if everyone in your neighborhood worked to turn off unused electronics and lights. And to everyone out there who believes that turning lights on and off uses more energy than just leaving them on, MythBusters has kindly cleared all that up for us. Episode 69: “Lights On or Off?”:

MYTH: “Temporarily leaving a light on is more energy efficient than turning it off and back on”

CONCLUSION: BUSTED

EXPLAINATION: “Through numerous tests, the MythBusters calculated that the power surge from turning on a light would only consume as much power as leaving it on for a fraction of a second (except for fluorescent tube lights; the startup consumed about 23 seconds worth of power). Furthermore, the wear and tear of turning the light on and off repeatedly did not reduce the bulb’s total life expectancy enough to offset the increased electricity usage. Therefore, it is far more economical to turn a light off rather than leaving it on.”

The third will save you money!: Reprogram your thermostat

Program your heating to maintain a lower temperature during the day when you aren’t home and at night when you are snug under your covers. It takes a lot of energy to heat a house so why use that when nobody is home to keep warm? If you are really determined to lower your heating bill, try dropping the room temperature a few degrees and see if you notice the difference. At my house, my father would periodically do this to save money. I remember when I was young we would keep the house at 72 degrees, but now we keep it around 68 degrees and I hardly notice a difference (of course if I do say I’m cold, he just tells me to go put on another sweatshirt, which also works well).

Of course, there are many other ways to save energy and money in your home. This site quickly lists 20 things you can do around the home easily to be more sustainable.

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