Celebrate Earth Day April 22 by utilizing green building opportunities.
Remember when Earth Day (April 22) used to be about removing trash in rivers and parks? Now it means so much more. There are countless ways to save energy, water and other vital resources, while being eco-friendly and growing your profits.
Recent United Nations reports warn that urgent, intensive action must be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, so plan for low-energy building codes if you don't already adhere to them. The building sector uses more energy than industry, transportation or any other sector of our economy, so housing will almost certainly be targeted aggressively by policymakers at the state and local levels, where building codes are enforced.
But we’re not going to be preachy about saving the environment. You know why?
This is also a colossal business opportunity, especially for homebuilders. Many homebuilders have already done a fair job of differentiating their newer and more energy-efficient homes from the glut of inefficient dwellings out there.
According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, technology advances and lifestyle and behavioral changes can reduce energy demand by 20 percent in the short term and by 50 percent long-term.
Homebuilders hold the keys to going even further to meet the new and evolving efficiency demands of today’s homebuyers and our society. And only those homebuilders who continue to grow and evolve their efficiency and conservation offerings will continue to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
After all, when homeowners live in truly efficient and eco-friendly houses, every day is Earth Day.
Cool Water Savings
We’ve been on a water-saving kick lately, and why not? Water is precious, droughts are severe and there are so many easy ways to save with water-saving fixtures, water re-use systems, graywater systems, rainwater harvesting and toilets that make you feel like king while consuming water like a camel. We have a bunch of cool water saving videos on our YouTube channel, but our favorite has to be this one of a toilet utilizing reused water and a hot-water recirculator that can save homeowners from wasting all that agua.
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We can't say enough about the importance of appliance efficiency, whether in the kitchen or laundry room. Some of our favorite efficiency features include dishwashers with soil sensors that target dirtier dishes, clothes dryers with moisture sensors that stop the drying cycle and save energy, clothes washers that save both water and energy and refrigerators with advanced compressors. Buying a new home with today’s super-efficient appliances is a beautiful thing.
High-efficiency HVAC systems should be at or near the top of any homebuilder’s list, as HVAC generally uses the most energy in a home. You can automate heating and cooling to set-it-and-forget-it energy-saving levels with intelligent thermostats like Nest or Comcast’s EcoSaver feature that uses innovative cloud-based data analytics from EcoFactor. Allure’s EverSense thermostat even streams your tunes and can preheat or precool a home during your evening commute. But what about those heat pumps, radiant floor heat and zoning? No problem! Those can be automated too.
Lighting Control and LEDs
If you do nothing else with a home, at least equip it with motion and occupancy sensors to turn off lights when no one is around. Dimmers help as well. Or lighting control systems that regulate the light in every home and allow you to shut them all off from your bed. Ahhh, paradise—as lit by newfangled LED lamps that can beautifully highlight art and architectural features and “layer the light” in gorgeous ways.
Energy Monitoring and Management
So many solutions and partial solutions here, from the Schneider Wiser and Nexia Home Intelligence Systems to Enerwave and EdgeHome systems, are being used by some high-volume builders, where monitoring and control is built into electrical outlets and switches to BlueBolt remote monitoring and networked plug-in devices. If you’re into automating energy efficiency so you don't have to do a thing, these are very cool systems. We also like Savant’s SmartEnergy system, because it can monitor individual circuits and give you a slew of information.
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Motorized Window Treatments
How much do we love motorized window treatments? Let us count the ways:
- It’s neat to see them go up and down. (We are easily entertained.)
- They save energy! Motorized shading helps cool spaces where it’s hot … like Las Vegas … in the middle of summer …. and where there’s an awesome view of The Strip to show off to your friends.
Enough said. Watch the video.
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Rays of Hope
We still can’t believe the McGraw-Hill Construction study released at January’s Builders’ Show that shows only about 13 percent of builders include solar photovoltaic (PV) in 2013. What are you guys waiting for, with such a host of solar options and leasing programs available, hybrid solar PV and solar thermal panels? The study predicts builder use of PV should rise to 52 percent in three years, and that’s good news. But with falling prices, leasing programs that require no money down, a growing economy, dire climate change warnings and a healthy consumer interest in energy efficiency, this is a golden ray of opportunity. Yeah, that was a bold solar reference. Get it?
Want another? You may get burned if you don’t.
Energy on Demand
Something happens to people when they start looking into solar PV. They realize that the systems are generally grid-tied, and when the power goes out, the solar system stops producing energy to protect high-voltage line workers. That’s a huge solar bummer—unless you have an energy storage system that can save that precious juice for your personal consumption. That means having a large bank of batteries, ways to clean that power so your TV and computers don’t get fried and perhaps a home control and automation system to help govern it all. If you think this could get expensive quickly, you are quite right. Sample the $50,000 Energy Storage Hub from RoseWater Energy Group and others like it, or even customized solutions that can turn off systems in a home if energy storage levels go below certain critical levels. Some energy storage systems like this can also store power produced from standby generators, which is a very good thing. Eaton has a Green Generator Switch to help ration the power use from a generator.
These aren't just survivalist-geek systems. Energy storage systems power off-the-grid homes, and with more intense climate storms-a-brewin’, they’re a ticket to riding out extended power outages. Electric vehicle drivers who yearn for PV to EV charging seek power storage solutions as well.
These can be great luxury home adders now, and look for energy storage to become more mainstream in the coming years. Fuel cells, anyone?