Released April 16, 2008
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For those who live in a home that was built when “green” meant having avocado-colored appliances, adopting environmentally friendly practices is challenging but doable, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.
Greening a home is “the practice of increasing the efficiency with which a building uses the resources – and these include energy, water and materials – while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment,” said Janie Harris, AgriLife Extension home environment specialist.
Harris suggested many simple, affordable practices that could start a home toward a more green approach.
“One of the things that we strive for is to conserve energy,” she said. “Be conscious of the water you use and also use materials in the home that are sustainable – things that can be regrown or that will not harm the environment.”
Energy conservation in the home is an easy place to start, she said.
“One of the basic things you can do is switch to compact fluorescent lighting. That is an inexpensive way to make significant changes,” Harris said. “And anytime that you replace appliances, look for the Energy Star label because that is a signal that this piece of equipment has met stringent energy standards.”
Keeping heat out of a home in the first place can make a major difference as well, she added.
Blinds or drapes can help some, she added, “But anything you can do on the exterior to keep that heat out of the house is better.
“If you are not actually going to be replacing older windows, there are several things you can do to reduce the heat load that might be coming into your home through those windows. The first thing you might want to consider is to add some type of low E film to your windows on the inside.”
Low E, or low-emissivity, film is a coating that is applied to windows to block the heat but allow the light into a house.
Solar screens for windows are an option, as is planting or building some type of shading device on the exterior to keep the hot afternoon sun from coming inside the home, she noted.
As water becomes an increasingly precious commodity, Harris said, people can opt for plumbing products that help conserve as well as adapt behaviors to reduce water use.
“Water-efficient items in the home would include things such as the low-flow showers - maybe even lower than the 2.5 gallons per minute flow,” she said. “Certainly you would not want to have the multiple shower heads in a shower because that is not green.”
Toilets now are required to use 1.6 gallons per flush or less, but some new toilets use even less water, she said.
Rainwater harvesting systems gather water that would have become part of storm-water runoff but once collected can be used to water houseplants or landscapes, Harris said, and if properly treated can be for household use.
Replacing outdated, less efficient items in a home can get one going toward green living, she pointed out.
“When new materials are installed, green designers look for materials that can be rapidly replenished in the environment such as bamboo for flooring. Bamboo can be harvested for commercial use after about six years of growth (compared to more than 20-30 years for trees),” she said.
Harris also suggested trying to reuse materials from remodeled or torn down buildings.
One outlet for those products is stores operated by Habitat for Humanity nationwide. This network of stores accepts new or used building materials which are then resold to the public. Proceeds are used by Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the poor.
See Habitat Restore at http://www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx for locations.
For more green ideas for the home, click on the Efficient Housing link at http://fcs.tamu.edu/housing/.
Contacts: Kathleen Phillips, (979) 845-2872, firstname.lastname@example.org
Janie Harris, (979) 847-8865, email@example.com