I’ve been called a hippie or a tree hugger more than a few times in my life, so it may not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’d like to make my house as environmentally friendly as possible. While not all of the projects I’ve got in mind are tech related, I still feel it’s a cool topic worth writing about, and maybe someone who reads this will decide they’d like to do something to reduce their footprint on the planet as well.
Use LED lighting
Switching out your old fixtures for LED fixtures is a pretty easy, and fairly cheap project. Not only do LED lights use less energy, they also produce far less heat than your standard lighting solutions. You can also get some pretty cool ambient lighting effects using LEDs.
Use natural lighting
This is (potentially) the most labor intensive project I’m going to suggest. Your house may already have large windows and doors positioned in such a way that lets sunlight in, eliminating the need to have lights on during the day. If not, adding a large window or even a skylight could provide a natural daylight lighting solution. Unless you’re a contractor though, I wouldn’t suggest doing this on your own. I, for one, will be paying a professional to tear holes in my ceiling.
Install solar panels
I know, I know, this has got to be one of the most cliché suggestions for making your house more green, but with all the advancements being made in solar energy technology, it almost doesn’t make sense NOT to have them. I’m a huge fan of solar tech, an area which has seen significant advancements in the past couple of years. If you’ve pondered the idea of installing solar panels but thought they were just too ugly, you can always throw down for solar shingles instead.
With all the electronics and gadgets I own, installing Green Switches is by far my favorite idea for saving energy. Sadly, it also the improvement I’m the least likely to make due to the price tag associated with these light switch/power outlet combos. The pricing has magically vanished from the page since I originally priced them, but it was about $1000 for a few outlets, slave switches, and a master switch. One can only hope the price has dropped since then.
The idea behind these switches is pretty simple. Electronic devices are always using electricity, even when they’re not turned on. You install the outlets and switches, and plug your appliances (computer, entertainment center, etc) into an outlet. When you’re not using said appliances, you flip the switch, and it cuts the power to the outlet, preventing the appliances from sipping energy. You can program the master switch to cut power to all the outlets, which is great for when you turn in for the night, or leave the house.
Install a recirculating water pump
This is a pretty simple project you can do to conserve water. These pumps work by sending water back to the water heater until the water warms, instead of letting it go down the drain. Not only does this conserve water, but it helps reduce the amount of time needed to warm the water up, since the water headed back to the heater may already be slightly warmed. Just install one of these pumps under the kitchen sink, or any sink where you think you might be waiting for the water to warm up.
Tankless water heater
I’ve heard mixed reviews on tankless water heaters. Some people say they’re great and provide hot water almost instantly. Other people have told me that they take time to warm the water up. It may depend on the quality/capacity of the heater itself. I’ve not used one of these before, so I can’t make my own judgement yet. The house I’m moving into has one though, so I guess I’ll find out shortly whether they’re worth it. My father, who was a plumber for over 30 years, swears by them, especially gas tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters don’t start heating water until it is needed, versus a traditional water heater, which is constantly heating water all day long.