Final post about tips to improve your home and make it a more green building; for your health, for your wallet and for your overall well being…
Part I will focus on small to no budget items (please see previous post)
Part II will look at medium expenses or items to look at if they break and need (NEED!) replacement
Part III will look at the big changes that will have a lasting impact on your life 9from a green building perspective, but who knows, maybe more…)
Part III. What really works:
Lighting. After changing the light bulbs and also some of the fixtures and installing dimmers, the next big step is to consider a building automation system. This low voltage system can connect all your lighting, temperature control, audio and video systems, including alarms and smart appliances. You can than control these devices much more precise and even get remote access (smart phones already gear up for these features). BY monitoring the output of the building automation system you can optimize power uses and fine tune any waste generated by lights left on or appliances not needed. These systems generally also have a vacation setting, enabling a quick way to trim all the power use you do not need on a daily basis when not in your home. Great feature but a bit expensive. These systems start around $5000 for a small home with limited low voltage tie ins.
Air Conditioning. The general rule is to look at a unit when it is 10 years or older. Typically systems have advanced in efficiency and the payback to upgrade can be realized in 4-6 years. Look for the SEER value. This is the indicator of how efficient the unit is. Current code required a 13 SEER unit; a 16 or 17 SEER unit is considered high efficiency and 18+ SEER is very high efficiency. The later are a choice investment and should be evaluated for Life Cycle Cost and Return of Investment. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)
Remember to upkeep the correct filters and also clean the ducts, if you do not replace them.
Roof / Shell: you already looked at your windows and doors and have sealed all leakage. The next step is to invest in the buildings shell. The big collector in South Florida is the roof. Over 80% of heat gain to the house will come from above with our year round sunshine. Do not just consider Hurricane issue but go beyond and think about the energy savings from this large surface. All roofs in Miami Dade County are required to withstand Hurricane strength winds, by code, so any roof will comply with this general concern. Move away from the low budget option of asphalt tile and a great value are metal roofs. These reflect well and are sturdy. This will overall be my recommendation for it is safe and efficient. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)
You can also consider sealing the existing or new roof with a high SRI (Solar Reflectance Index) coating, such as SuperTherm. I had applied this system over my existing asphalt shingle roof and lowered my attic temperate from over 140 degrees to about 85 during last summer. Great savings translating to your energy bill. A product like Super Therm runs about $2.60 per square foot installed.
If you like to kick it up one more notch, consider adding photovoltaic panels to your roof. A 5kW system will cost about $50,000 initially, but there are rebates and tax credits available lowering the out of pocket cost to potentially less than $15,000; not a bad number, especially when you considering adding this system instead of a generator (and you are sure not to run out gas, should the need arise). The installation of such a system will also require connection to your electrical system and requires assistance of professional services. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)
In regard to landscaping and water savings, the big ticket item is a cistern. After installing gutters and properly channeling your rain water run off, collecting hits precious water as well some of the waste water already generated to reduce the amount of potable (drinkable) water used ion your home is the final frontier. These tanks are similar to septic tanks in size and can be installed above or below ground.
Currently you can use this water for irrigation, in the future, legislation will adapt to also use reclaimed and collected water for toilet flushing.
For specific help, contact Sebastian Eilert to get a custom plan to green your home.
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