HVAC For Beginners

Going Green

A Homeowner's Guide To Sustainable Living

With our going green guide, you get practical advice without the sales pitch. You probably do not have the time to stay up to date with all of the latest developments in alternative energy. We do the research and provide you the information in a way that is easy to understand.

For years the term was simply used to describe getting the most energy efficient products available but today the concept has evolved to include other factors. This more comprehensive look at products includes where the products are manufactured and where they are installed.

If you purchase a product that is manufactured closer to the home where it will be installed, then less energy is used to transport the products and therefore it is a more "sustainable" option. Another factor that is included is whether the factory that the product is made in is "green" or not. Products that are made in a "green" factory are more sustainable because less energy is used in the manufacturing process.

Going Green Basics

There are three basics parts to going green and they are Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Although when most of us think of "going green", we think of buying expensive systems for our homes, the first step is to minimize (Reduce) the amount of energy that your home consumes. This process is called energy conservation and you can use our guide to show you ways to lower your home's energy consumption.

There are some very innovative solutions out there such as coatings or additives for paint. With these products, you can actually lower your energy use by simply painting your walls. These coatings actually help to increase the insulation values of your walls and/or ceilings. This in turn lowers the amount of energy required to heat and cool your home.

Other solutions, such as LED lighting can directly lower the amount of electricity your home uses.

By minimizing the energy your home uses, you will minimize the size of alternative energy system you must purchase. A general rule of thumb in the renewable energy industry is that for every dollar spent in conserving energy, you save three dollars of cost in installing a renewable energy system.

Going Green, Producing Your Own Energy

After you have lowered your energy use as much as is practical, it is time to consider using some advanced systems. Some of the advanced systems produce more electricity than your home requires and this electricity can be sold back to the utility company through a process called net metering. For Americans, the ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005 required public utilities to make net metering available to their customers but you must ask for it. There are two types of net metering (Time Of Use and Market rate). Time of use metering uses a "smart" electric meter that is reversible and allows the power company to take into account the time of day that the power is produced and seasonal rates. Market rate metering uses programmed meters that calculate the value of the power based on up to date wholesale prices.

**NOTE** The law does not allow you to sell more power to the utility than your home uses (you can lower your electric bill to zero but they don't have to send you a check for anything more that you produce). This is a bit ridiculous and it seems like a bunch of lobbyists probably got this provision into the bill.

In several other countries, a program called feed in tariff (FIT) is available and is designed to spur investment in renewable energy systems. This is usually a government mandated program that requires the utility companies to purchase each kw of electricity at a fixed price for renewable energies. These rates that are set by the government are usually lowered over years and eventually eliminated. This is also the law now in California and Florida.

If you use gas, fuel oil, or biomass for heating your home, a CHP system is a good option. These systems produce electricity for your home at the same time that they provide the required heat. Some of the units can also replace your existing storage type water heater for even greater energy savings.

If you use electricity to heat your home, you may want to consider replacing your current system with a geothermal hvac system. Some of these units have a demand water heater built into them and can also replace your existing hot water heater.

You may also want to consider adding either a passive or active solar heating system to your home.

Another option in "going green" is to consider solar energy. There are two basic types of systems to harness the power from the sun. Solar Thermal systems absorb heat from the sun's rays and transfer it to water or an antifreeze solution. This heat is then normally transferred to the home's water heating and/or central heating systems.

Photovoltaic systems convert light from the sun into electrical energy. This energy can be used to power the things in your home, stored in batteries, or sold back to the utility company.

Another option in going green is to install a wind turbine. These units use the wind to turn the rotor on a generator to produce electrical power.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed a green building rating system. This system can be used to judge the environmental footprint of buildings and can be a good tool for determining the value of a building. This rating system is called LEED Certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the ratings are given at four levels. The system has a total of 100 points that are given to a building based on it's performance in 6 standards which are: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, minerals & resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation & design process. The certification level that is achieved is based on the total points that the building receives (certified = 40-49 points, silver = 50-59 points, gold = 60-79 points, and platinum = 80 points or above).

Another aspect of going green is management of the different materials we use in our daily lives. Water management is the process of minimizing the amount of water used as well as managing rainwater and other sources of water for the home.