Simple changes can save energy

It’s easier than you think to paint your house “green.”


Simple changes can save resources and energy — and perhaps slow global warming. A growing demand for energy efficiency topped findings from the American Institute of Architects’ home-design trend survey for the second quarter of 2007.


The group’s chief economist, Kermit Baker, said the panel of 500 architecture firms found high demand for insulation panels, tankless water heaters, geothermal heating and cooling, and green flooring products.


Warren, Vt.-based architect John Connell, a member of the institute’s housing committee, said the No. 1 question he gets from confused homeowners is where to start. ”None of the more sexy energy-saving installations — small windmills on the roof, photovoltaic panels, solar-water collectors — make any sense until you’ve done your insulation, weatherstripping and other fundamentals,” he said.


For the do-it-yourself homeowner, this is Connell’s plan for immediate action:

• LIGHTING Changing to fluorescent bulbs makes sense despite concerns about how to dispose of the small amount of mercury they contain. ”If you put in compact fluorescent lighting today you won’t have to change those bulbs for a couple of years at least — and systems are quickly evolving to deal with disposal as more and more people do this,” Connell said.

• WINDOWS First, with a compass, identify which windows face south and which north. Use insulating shades on those windows to keep heat in or out and slow the loss of energy, Connell said. You can open and close windows and shades to help heat or cool the house, depending on season and location.

”In the south, thermal shades work best on the outside, for a cooling effect in hot climates,” he said. They’d have to be made of materials that stand up to UV rays. “In the north, shades work best on the inside for keeping heat in.”

• APPLIANCES Taking good care of appliances has a big payoff. “Everything in my life, including the car, could save energy, if I just maintain it properly,” Connell said.

• RECYCLE HEAT Recycle your heated clothes-dryer exhaust through an appropriate filter into your house.

”It’s so simple. Go to the local hardware store and ask for a bypass filter — it’s just an eight-inch (20-centimetre) cube. You just need a screwdriver and the instructions are right on the package,” he said. “The bypass helps humidify and heat the house, while the filter still prevents lint and dust from getting into the air you breathe.”

This change also helps prevent ice build-up and rot on the outside of the house where the exhaust is vented.