🏚️ Small Home
Green energy homes like smaller homes are innately more efficient overall. Here in America, we are accustom to living with more of everything. It seems like we all have more than we need in every way. This is on full display in our homes. Our houses are big. Really big compared to most any other country on the planet.
There’s a new trend with some. Smaller is better. Tiny is best. The smaller, the better in some peoples minds. So, how does this add up, or subtract from our lives as homeowners? You might be surprised if you were to experience living small green energy homes.
Living in a smaller place lowers your utility bills. You will have less space to heat and cool. There is less to take care of and home maintenance. You don’t need as much stuff. You may end up giving away some things if you move from a bigger place to a smaller dwelling. Downsizing is a trend that is catching on with a lot of people. Especially the millennials that thinking for green energy homes to do.
When I first met my wife she had a tiny little 1 bedroom condo. I moved out of my place and we spent the first 7 years of our marriage in that 628 square feet of “home sweet home’. The funny thing is that we did not feel cramped there. Not really. Sometimes we would say it was too small, but our daily living reflected differently. We were quite content and happy in pour small condominium. It was beautiful. Green energy Home that small, yes, but beautiful nonetheless.
I would love to tell you that our smaller carbon footprint was our driving factor in choosing to live small green energy home. It wasn’t. In fact, that wasn’t even on the radar. We lived there because we liked it and it fit our goals. We wanted to have low financial stress in our marriage. We paid the mortgage off and were able to roll that equity into a 1,634 square foot 2 bedroom, two bath town home where we live now with our teenage daughter and our dog Lola.
Admittedly, there are days that we would love a little more room. And those thoughts fade into the background most of the time as we enjoy our place. We avoided the temptation to buy the McMansion in North Scottsdale. I’m so glad we pulled back from that temptation to go big. Now our place is paid off.
Our impact on the planet is certainly much lower than it would be if we had a bigger home. So we are enjoying the house for all kinds of reasons. We love the home and the location. We are glad the house is paid off. We are happy to have energy bills that are lower than a big home would demand. We are glad that our impact on the planet is lower than it would be if we had a bigger house.
Going small green energy homes doesn’t mean you get a dull life. It doesn’t feel like we are living without. In fact, we feel like living in a smaller place gives us a more abundant life. The people are closer together. There is more interaction. We naturally see each other more. We don’t need an intercom to call out to each other. For us, living small gives us big rewards.
🏘️ Cool Roof
Green energy homes installed a cool roofs are those that reflect the sunlight rather than absorb it. typically, a reflective paint that is light in color coats the roof. Sometimes roofing materials are made of light-colored materials that will reflect the sunlight.
Why is this a big deal?
In hot climates like Phoenix Arizona the temperature of a conventional roof can easily exceed 150° when the air temperatures are over 100°. If that same roof were coated with a reflective paint the temperature can be reduced by as much as 50°!
When a roof heats up there is a great stress placed on the cooling system of the building the roof covers that considers a green energy homes. So, it makes tremendous sense to coat your roof if you live in a desert climate .
The painted roof surface only makes sense if the roof is flat or made of a paintable surface. If you have a home with a pitched roof you might want to consider a lighter colored material than the traditional darker ones used in the marketplace.
Admittedly, it’s hard to beat the look of a dark roof. Today, there are quite a few appealing lighter colored roofs available too. If you do a google search for “light colored roof” you will see a wide variety of options. You can find attractive architectural metal roofs, tile roofs, asphalt shingle roofs, and more.
Cool Roof Benefits Listed:
1) Lower surface temperature
2) Less heat transfer to interior of the building
3) Cooling equipment strain is reduced when indoor surface temps are lower
4) Carbon Footprint is lowered when a building uses less energy to run air conditioners
More about cool roofs: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/energy-efficient-home-design/cool-roofs
🌪️ Wind Generator
Not like your great great grandfather’s windmill. The new wind turbines create more power with smaller blades than the older style windmills ever could. The new turbines are amazingly productive. Still, for a typical residential neighborhood, these turbines are too big to be allowable in most cases.
For most homes, the circumference of the turbine would need to be around 18-20 feet. It would need to be roughly 80 feet above the ground. Someday, these devices may become more efficient and small enough to be used in a typical residential subdivision, but not for now.
Wind is, however, still a great resource for households that are in a rural setting. Furthermore, properties with 5 or more acres are ideal candidates for wind power. In those cases, the post and turbine can be set away from the house so that the sound of the churning turbine blades don’t disturb daily peace and quiet.
Small Turbines Work with Low Wind
Two keys to having a legit wind turbine in the city are:
1) smaller turbine that is not loud
2) turbines that operate at low wind speeds
There’s a good blog out there on the web called the Green Gnome. One of the gnomes articles is about small wind turbines (https://www.greenhomegnome.com/wind-turbines-low-wind-speeds/). Check it out to learn more about inner-city turbines that create power.
Current Status of Wind Turbines for Residential Power
The benefits available to those with the space to harness power from the wind are modest. The cost of these small turbines is not high, but neither is the energy output.
Most of the wind turbines that provide a decent amount of energy work best if they are positioned at 60 – 80 feet high. The bigger the blades the less the blades need to rotate per minute to generate power. The turbine motors have to be serviced and the bearings greased in order to keep the devices working properly.
Our final deduction is that at this time wind power just doesn’t stack up compared to solar. In our opinion, most homeowners will be far better off investing in a few more panels than they would be buying a wind turbine. Lower upfront cost, no moving parts, consistent source of power (sun as compared to wind) and more energy output.
Maybe someday the technology will overcome the problems. For now, wind power does not seem to be the best choice.
🏛️ Alternative Shelters
There are many kinds of alternative shelters that become green energy homes. One of the most efficient of them all is dubbed the Earthship. Strange name. I know. The weird part doesn’t stop there. The structure itself has an odd skeleton made of used rubber car tires. Most of the tires are buried beneath earth and are not visible to the eye after construction is completed.
Earthships in a Nutshell
the front wall should be constructed of lots of glass to take in the daytime sunlight. The area directly behind these glass windows should be of solid mass. The mass heats up and distributes heat throughout the day. Like a radiator, the heat slowly moves across the home.
The interior wall of a green energy homes that collects the sunrays can be several feet away from the windows. The ground space between the glass and the wall is an excellent place to grow vegetables. Many Earthship owners do this. The remaining portion of the floor in this area collects sunlight and radiates heat like the wall does.
Earthship Sides and Back
Picture a wide U-shaped continuous wall. This shape forms the back and sides of the home. Once laid out tires are laid along the shape. They are filled with dirt then compacted with sledgehammers until firm. Then another layer is stacked on top and filled and compacted just like the previous layer. This continues until the wall reaches the needed height.
These walls can be covered in all sorts of materials to create a solid and semi-smooth surface. The walls can be left their natural color or permeated with pigments or painted to suit the owner’s tastes.
The most common ceiling material is wood with large beams to help support the roof. The most popular style of beams are vigas which are simply skinned trees. The roof decking can double as the exposed ceiling material. On top of the decking is the roof of a green energy homes.
Metal roofs work really well here. These roofs can double as a water collection surface that sends the water into a collection tank where people can pull water from for daily living: drinking, cooking, showing, washing clothes, etc.
Personal Power Plant
Solar panels can be used to gather energy from the sun that will run the lighting and electrical items in the home. There is no need for these homes to be connected to the public power grid as they are perfectly capable of generating all the electricity the occupants need to reside in this unique dwelling.
The roof is designed to collect water when the rain falls. Large tanks can be used to store the water for on-demand use as needed. Even the plants being grown in the front area will be hydrated from this source. Sometimes (especially in arid climates) additional water is needed. Solar powered well pumps can be used to bring water from below the earth’s surface That’s a topic for another day.
The long and short of it is that the earthship is designed to take advantage of rainfall. The water is collected and there for the taking when occupants decide the time is right.
The earthship does not need a conventional air conditioner or heater. These buildings keep temperatures at a comfortable level duru=ing cold and hot weather.
As appealing as the earthship sounds it’s not for everyone. They have to be built in areas that allow homes to be disconnected from the grid. They have to be in places void of building codes or where codes specific to earthships is in place.
If you want to know more about these amazing buildings please reach out. I happen to know someone who actually builds them.
📰 Green Energy Guide Series Posts
Home Additions You Should Consider – by Anita Clark
30 Plus Ways to Go Green With Your Home – by Jeff Nelson
Green Homes – The Future of New Construction – by Ryan Fitzgerald
Top 4 Energy Efficient Upgrades for Your Home – by Petra Norris
Best Energy Efficient Upgrades For an Older Home – by Bill Gassett