Whether you’re building new or buying a new home, the building materials you choose can have a big impact on your utility bills going forward. Additionally, adding solar to your home can help you power your home should the grid fail due to extreme pressure.
Any home can use passive solar to heat the space. Plant deciduous trees to the east, west and south of your home to block sun in the summer and let it pass through in the water. Plant heartier, thicker evergreens to the north to cut down on the intensity of winter winds. Add awnings to the south end of the house to keep the heat from building up and invest in thermal drapes to protect the house from UV build-up in summer and heat loss in winter.
Solar panels are extremely durable and have a long working life because there are no switches or mechanical pieces to fail. Once the power is collected in your DIY solar panels, it’s routed through a charge controller to avoid overloading any system in your home.
From the charge controller, power is routed to your batteries, then through an inverter and into your service box. While you will need a professional at points in this setup , there are many solar additions you can make to reduce your power draw without an electrician.
Consider starting small. Invest in a simple solar light to use in your home and hang it to use as a nightlight. Use solar lights in your yard, and add a motion-sensor solar light to a dark corner of your home. Finally, look into a solar panel and battery setup that you can use to charge your phone, tablet or laptop. Such tools will get you thinking about power in a new way.
Protect Your Home from the Elements
If you’re building new, consider adding icynene spray foam to the exterior walls and crawlspace of your home. Not only do these sprays do a wonderful job of keeping your home warm, but they will cut down on traffic noise. This foam is made from castor oil and has terrific insulating power.
Windows and Doors
Take care to install weather-tight windows with UV resistance to avoid solar heat building up on the hottest days. Of course, you’ll want to uncover the windows when the winter sun shines on your space. Carefully seal all doorways and stop wind from blowing in under doors and around frames.
Consider Your Footprint
The bigger the house, the more space you have to heat and cool. Consider the square footage you actually need and try to find ways to live a little smaller. Within the house itself, try to work with low VOC paints and consider flooring that doesn’t require a lot of petroleum or old-growth resources, such as bamboo or cork.
A small house, well-sealed against the elements and powered by the sun, can be a wonderful way to live lightly on the earth. Carefully consider your appliance purchases and the materials you use to build and update your home from an environmental viewpoint.