Many experts in the field of “green” describe it as “any home or building that has a significantly lower negative environmental impact than other traditional buildings.” Simply put, conserve resources and reduce pollution.
Chances are high that, if you have a relatively new home, you won’t charge out and spend tens of thousands of dollars for the sake of greening your home. However, for those who have older homes — homes in which you are planning to install significant upgrades or those infamous “fixer-uppers” — then before embarking upon your major makeover, consider including some green concepts. Implementing green technology can definitely enhance the appearance and performance of your home.
Want to consider green technology but not sure where or how to begin? Perhaps as a first step, consider a green audit of your home. Using techniques like a blower door and infrared thermograph, an auditor will assess the volume of air leakage, identify areas of heat loss through your home’s thermal envelope and suggest other opportunities to stop energy losses, all the while improving comfort and safety and reducing your home’s operating costs.
In addition, an audit can evaluate carbon-monoxide dangers and moisture problems that could lead to mold and other air quality degradations, as well as recommending temperature and lighting comfort. The audit can prioritize the list of potential improvements to aid in making a decision about which projects might provide the greatest return on investment.
Some common areas that are under scrutiny during a green audit include:
1. Air leakage around windows, doors, attic and basement spaces. Air leaks account for as much as 25 percent to 30 percent of the average energy bill.
2. Heat escaping from walls, floors and attic spaces. La Jolla has a large population of homes 20 years and older, and many do not have adequate insulation.
3. Window and door replacements. The newest generation of windows, called super windows, features multiple layers of film between each pane, and amazingly these windows can achieve insulation values of between R7 to R11 (a measurement of the resistance of the window to heat conduction). Compare this to single pane windows having an R1 rating. Windows and doors can also dramatically enhance the appearance of your home.
4. Duct blasting will help determine any air leaks in the duct system and airflow testing will help to determine whether heated or cooled air is delivered evenly to common living and recreation areas. Further, an inappropriately placed thermostat may cause an imbalance of temperature throughout different areas of your home, not to mention arguments among family members (ours included) who constantly adjust the thermostat settings.
5. It is claimed that furnaces installed prior to 1992 waste about 35 percent of the fuel it uses. Higher-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems and appliances are worth considering as replacements.
6. Tankless or “on-demand” hot water heaters.
7. Lighting and electrical loads.
8. Renewable energy like solar panels.
Several of our acquaintances who installed solar panels a few years ago did so because they justified a six- to seven-year payback on the investment. That was possible in part because of federal and state tax credits that were available. While those credits may no longer be available, system installation costs have declined to the point of making such an investment more affordable. Some of these same acquaintances also claim that during certain times of the year, their electric meters actually run backward because they generate more energy than they consume, and as a result they can sell it back to SDG&E.
Have any good green tips? Send them to Cschevker@san.rr.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a question about real estate in San Diego? Send your inquiries to Cschevker@san.rr.com. We will respond directly to you, and those questions that have a broader public appeal will be published along with our next column in La Jolla TODAY.