Green Living & Why it Works
By: Kimberly Gomes
In a time where sustainability permeates everyday living, Peninsula and Silicon Valley residents have incorporated a wide range of green aspects into their homes. Low-flush toilets, solar panels, and efficient cooling systems are just a few of today’s many options. For those interested in reviewing what’s available, we’ve simplified your search by compiling a fundamental guide to green living.
Residents can incorporate three types of solar energy into their home: passive solar, solar thermal, and photovoltaic (PV). Passive solar simply consists of orienting your home towards the sun, which may have already been done intuitively by design. Solar thermal systems are often used to heat pools and water, while PV harnesses the sun’s energy to create electricity for the home.
Yet, rooftop solar panels have become the most popular option on this spectrum. Beyond environmental, the benefits are visible on the utility bill. Local companies like SolarCity offer both leasing and purchasing agreements, creating options for the weary. Until the end of 2016 federal tax credits also save homeowners 30 percent off of solar installation prices, which will likely drop down to 10% at the beginning of 2017.
Water efficiency also serves as a heavy player in green living. As California’s drought remains top of mind, new and remodeled homes have weaved in practical water-wise components. Low-flush toilets have become standard. These alternatives soak up just half the water a conventional toilet uses. Multi-setting showerheads, water-efficient faucets and dishwashers, as well as tankless water heaters all offer easy ways to shell off wasted gallons.
When it comes to landscaping consumers can explore smart watering systems like Iro. This product features a Wi-Fi-connected sprinkler system that schedules watering around the resident’s geography and weather.
Those looking to go above and beyond can also integrate gray water systems into their home. The most common gray water DIY conversion irrigates backyard plants with water from the washing machine. Art Ludwig, author and ecological systems designer of Oasis Designs, describes how to re-direct 10 to 25 gallons of water per load for a horizontal-axis machine, or about 40 gallons per load for a vertical axis machine. If residents use a biocompatible detergent, this water can hydrate ornamental plants and fruits trees.
With plenty of smart systems on the market, there’s no need to watch the AC bill rack up this summer. Nest Thermostats have become widely popular throughout the Bay Area, allowing homeowners to set thermostats from their phone to conserve and ensure ideal temperatures. Apps like Wink enable homeowners to save electricity by remotely turning off lights that have been accidentally left on. Residents can pair Wink with Cree’s Connected LED lights, which not only sip power, but can also be controlled via phone.
While these smart heating and cooling systems stack benefits, it’s imperative to have double-paned, water-stripped windows to retain desired temperatures throughout the home. Single-paned windows can release up to 25% of the home’s air, raising the AC bill during hotter months.
Whether you’re incorporating just one or multiple eco-minded alternatives, the benefits generally speak for themselves. Discuss rates and options with your local solar, appliance, and HVAC professional for further information.