Real estate articles

Making a home more earth friendly(and cheaper), part1

The economic times are tough in the Tampa Bay area and many people want to cut regular costs. Making a home or place of business “greener” can be a great way to drastically cut utility bills for water and electricity. “Green” upgrades don’t have to cost a lot but the lack of state incentive in Florida does mean that home-owners and business owners will be footing the entire bill.

Many “green” upgrades can be made as part of normal maintenance. Some can be added a bit at a time as budgets allow. Major projects must be planned well in advance. All will help make a home or business more earth-friendly, cheaper to live or work in and more salable in the future. And make sure the whole family or all employees are educated about all plans and goals and know they are expected to play their part.

Lighting can make a big difference in electricity usage. More efficient light bulbs not only use less power for the same amount of light produced, they also produce much less heat(this is where most of the extra efficiency comes from). Less heat from lighting also means less electricity used for air conditioning. Don’t forget proven ideas like turning lights off whenever leaving a room or they are not needed. Arranging furniture so that more everyday tasks can be done by window light helps reduce power use. Either standard skylights or newer “light tunnels” can bring daylight to areas that formerly needed artificial light.

Several companies now offer all-in-one solar power products that can simply be plugged into an outlet to supplement the commercial supply. These units can be added a little at a time as needs and finances allow. Solar water heating/space heating is another well established technology that is under-utilized in a sunny place like the Tampa Bay area. Supplementing existing conventional power sources this way can dramatically cut utility bills without great expense. More comprehensive options include full solar array and solar/battery or solar/fuel cell installation.

Living plants, not just trees, can provide shade and a high degree of cooling effect for buildings. Large shade trees are the traditional method to shade a structure from the sun. Smaller green plants and vines closer to the building and grown on netting can provide both cooling shade and fresh food. Just reducing direct sunlight on a building will cut air conditioning needs more than many people would think. Light colored or white roofs and walls also contribute to a cooler interior.

Whenever it is time to replace electric equipment, always buy the latest and most energy-efficient replacement product. As with light bulbs, this makes a difference with both direct electricity usage as well as with indirect cooling power usage. Apply this rule for refrigerators, air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers,  water heaters, computers, televisions, etc…

Eco-friendly housing is now available

The price of electricity, water and natural gas or propane can be a significant percentage of the cost of home ownership. Reducing the size of the house itself can be a very effective way to reduce energy usage. Better insulation and more efficient appliances are other proven energy, and therefore money, savers. Let’s review several approaches to eco-friendly housing.

The homes built by Tiny Texas Houses are part of a growing wave of downsizing by homeowners around the world. The housing produced by this Luling, Texas company are small, energy efficient, portable and made almost entirely from recycled materials. See the owner of the company talk about his passion on YouTube.

Earthships are very energy-efficient homes built mainly of used automobile tires, dirt, aluminum cans, glass bottles. The “company” is based in Taos, New Mexico and has built many homes in the surrounding area. The massive exterior walls of an earthship absorb solar energy during the day(even if cloudy) and release it at night, naturally stabilizing the interior temperature. This type of construction works best when one side of the house can be built into a hillside.

Shipping containers have been gaining popularity as an inexpensive and ready available resource for housing. The containers are easily stacked or joined to create larger living spaces. They are easily insulated for energy efficiency. The resulting dwellings are very sturdy and highly to hurricane or earthquake damage. Besides individual homes, shipping containers have been used for student housing in Le Havre, France and for a medical center in the Sudan.

Those with larger budgets of course have more options for eco-friendly living. Soccer star Gary Neville is building an underground zero-carbon-footprint home in Lancashire, England. The 8,000 square-foot house will consist of a central kitchen surrounded by the other rooms like flower petals. It will make use of solar panels and wind turbines for electricity and a ground-source heat pump for heating and cooling.

*originally published with photo at

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