Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

Five Steps to Net Zero!

by Brent Sauser

Here are five easy steps to help make you more sustainable and less of a perpetual consumer when it comes to making the transition to Net Zero:

1.    Replace all incandescent lights with LEDs.  This the easiest and bestPhilips SlimStyle 03
way to save money with the quickest return on investment.  LEDs last 20 years and use 90% less electricity . . . that’s right, 90% less electricity.  LEDs cost more but the pay back and longevity is well worth the investment.  This is something you can do RIGHT NOW!

2.    Vampire Electronics Management.  Be careful with this one.  Vampire electronics suck power even when not in use.  If the light is on you are burning electricity.  This accounts for about 10% of the overall electric load, and growing.    One way to mitigate vampire loads is to place these electronics on power bars.  This way they can easily be switched on and off.  Radio Shack sells wireless shut offs if you don’t want to take the time to flip the switch.  Set your computer to shut down after 10 minutes of non use.  Doing this should save you at least 10%.

3.    Replace Appliances with Energy Star Appliances.  Your appliances Energy Star Logorequire a lot of energy to function and in many states natural gas is not an option.  All electric homes are more the rule than the exception.  When shopping for new appliances make sure the Energy Star label is on it.  This assures an energy efficient appliance that will save you money for years to come.  

4.    Increase Insulation.  Many of us are staying in our older homes and not “moving up” as we used to.  Retrofitting our homes with more attic insulation Icynene CT6_Sustainability_Res_Hmwnr
(R30-R50 depending on location) and adding wall insulation helps greatly to reduce heating and cooling energy costs.  Many who live in masonry homes can have the open cells filled with foam insulation.  Adding film to existing windows can help to reduce heat gain or loss depending on location.  Adding insulation is an additional expense that pays off quickly in lower energy bills.

5.    Solar Array.  30% Federal tax incentives for renewable systems (i.e. solarNREL 03 and wind, etc.)  expire at the end of year 2016.  It makes good common sense to   take advantage of this incentive.  A 5kW solar array costs around $10,000 installed (after Federal rebate).  Prices for solar installations continue to go down while the efficiencies continue to rise.  I suggest setting the goal for a solar installation around March of 2016.  By that time prices will be lower, efficiencies higher, and more competition to beat the December 31st deadline for Federal rebates.  

These five steps are easy ways to save you money, conserve energy, and reduce or eliminate your dependence on the energy grid.  You can do a little bit at a time and make improvements as you go.  Doing so will move you closer to becoming Net Zero and enjoy the increased savings in the process.

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