A BIG issue in everyone’s lives today is increasing fuel costs. (Don’t be fooled by the current low prices. They’ll be going back up shortly due to limitations in oil production.) High oil prices are connected to peak oil and gas production, wars to secure limited resources and climate change. These problems are all a consequence of our overconsumption and dependence on non-renewable energy. These problems are not going away any time soon. The seriousness and scope of these problems calls for an all-out effort for sustainable solutions, starting as soon as possible.
We don’t have to devastate the planet to build, heat and cool our homes and workplaces. Good building design can greatly reduce our energy problems. With dozens of simple, well-proven solutions at hand, most of which are totally painless to implement, it makes one wonder why more isn’t being done.
Below is a sampling of simple, workable, low-cost solutions for building more efficient structures. (Do a Google search for more in-depth information.)
Free energy from the sun: passive solar design for daylighting and space heating (use correct building orientation, appropriate amount of glass, window placement, size of roof overhang, etc.); solar hot water; solar wall ovens; photovoltaic panels (consider buying one at a time as finances allow).
Superinsulated homes: highly insulated walls, ceilings, floors and foundations; straw bale or earthbag homes; energy-efficient windows; insulated window coverings; window shades; insulated doors; insulated hot water lines; weathersealing (see Energy Efficiency Upgrades for one case study).
Energy-efficient appliances and fixtures: Energy Star appliances; compact fluorescent light bulbs; tankless on-demand hot water heaters; energy-efficient heating systems; set-back (clock) thermostats; gas ranges with electronic ignition; fans, including whole-house fans, air-to-air exchangers.
Energy-efficient house designs: more efficient building shapes (roundhouses, hexagonal, octagonal, domes, vaults); better site selection; appropriate level of thermal mass inside the insulated envelope (mass floors and interior walls, thick plaster, built-in benches); earth berming; cool pantries; attached greenhouses; night venting when appropriate; open layout to enhance air circulation; open layout and light-colored interior walls and ceilings to enhance daylighting; efficient use of space; low-embodied energy building materials (use locally available, minimally processed, natural materials); multiple use features; cross ventilation; natural convention; lower ceilings in cold climates; sleeping lofts in cold climates; light colored roofs in hot climates; roof vents; privacy walls to block the wind; planting trees and plants for shade and to block wind; outdoor living space; xeriscaping.
Lifestyle changes: conservation (put on a sweater and turn the thermostat down slightly; close off unused rooms; turn off computers at night; etc.); build no larger than what you need; minimize the number of appliances and gadgets; co-housing.
Appropriate technology: small-scale, point-of-use renewable energy systems such wind generators or micro hydro; water catchment; composting toilets; grey/blackwater systems.
This article first appeared at Articlesbase.