Your options for an eco-friendly home may seem somewhat limited now – solar panels, rain barrels, maybe a small garden – but as the world of green technology advances, expect to see a rise in the number of smart, eco home improvements available. Some of them – like self-adjusting thermostats and efficient flat-packed homes – are available now. Others, like walls made of gardens, are a bit more futuristic. Read on to see how you can improve your home now (and what you should plan for in the years ahead).
It sounds like something out of “The Jetsons”: A home thermostat that can automatically adjust the temperature for you, making sure your house is warm when you get home and wastes less energy during the day. But it’s actually the Nest Learning Thermostat, which “learns your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjusts itself…” according to TreeHugger. Nest users have saved $29 million in energy in less than two years – without ever having to remember to adjust the temperature.
Years ago, recycling paper and plastic was the most you could do to save resources. Now, recycling plants have gone way beyond the traditional materials, recycling everything from Christmas lights to wine corks. And where do the post-recycling-process materials end up? Back in your home, in the form of recycled-paper countertops, recycled-plastic carpets, and denim insulation (to name a few).
Traditional energy sources – like coal, gas, or hot water – are still the norm in most houses. But if you’re ready to take your heating, cooling, and electricity system into the future, then you’ll want to start with alternative energy sources, like solar panels, wind power, or a geothermal system. Solar panels and geothermal systems are additions you can make to your own property, but if you don’t have the time (or money) you can also choose alternative energy sources through your regular supplier.
Could your next home be one you built from a flat-packed kit? Pre-fabs can be surprisingly eco friendly – like the Unity Home, a pre-fabricated home made with conventional framing, easy access to all the home’s systems, and a durability that means the home should last for decades. The homes are vinyl-free, finished with low-VOC materials, and insulated with cellulose.
In 2009, The Wall Street Journal asked four architectural firms to imagine the future of green homes – and one of the groups, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, took the project quite literally: They designed what they call the “Incredible Edible House,” covered in green in the form of plants and gardens that provide food to the homeowners, absorb heat to keep the interior cool, and are watered from a rooftop reservoir that catches rain.
More Great Links
- How to Conserve Energy at Home
- What's the one thing you can do to your home to save the most energy?
- 22 Ways to Save Energy and Water in an Apartment
- “How the Nest thermostat is making a big impact.” TreeHugger. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/how-nest-thermostat-making-big-impact.html
- “Green Home Innovations.” Bob Vila. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://www.bobvila.com/articles/538-green-home-innovations/pages/1
- “20 Recyclable Objects That Might Surprise You.” Mental Floss. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://mentalfloss.com/article/33638/20-recyclable-objects-might-surprise-you
- “New Flatpack Unity Homes May Be the Greenest Prefab on the Market.” TreeHugger. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://www.treehugger.com/modular-design/new-flatpack-unity-homes-may-be-greenest-prefab-market.html
- “The Green House of the Future.” The Wall Street Journal. (Mar. 25, 2013) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124050414436548553.html