Energy efficiency is not just a concept to be preached, it ought to be standard practice for all homes

Energy efficient house design is one that is in harmony with nature. One that aims to reduce the environmental impact of a structure and one that is resource-efficient throughout its life cycle. A cycle that starts from design to construction to operation to maintenance to renovation to right until demolition.

The objective of designing energy efficient homes is to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment. This optimises demand for electricity, water and other natural resources. These offer the best quality of life in terms of clean air, cooler climate, adequate ground water, rich flora and fauna, natural lighting, ample wind-flow as well as recreation areas for children and adults.

By using unrestricted glass facades and extensive air-conditioned spaces, a lot of modern day buildings end up isolating the internal from the external environment, thereby resulting in extremely high energy consumption. An energy efficient building, on the other hand, generates its own electricity on-site through renewable means. Water demands are taken care of through a sustainable process of rainwater harvesting. By recycling and reusing all its waste on site, such buildings burden the environment to the minimum. Something that is achieved by striving to generate and utilise on-site resources to construct and operate the building, and then ensuring that all the waste material is managed on the site itself through recycling and reuse, leaving nothing (if possible) to be put into the municipal systems.

There are certain limitations for old houses to go green, due to their materials and construction style. However, new buildings can be made energy efficient easily. For instance, houses with air conditioning need high quality windows and doors. The material they are made of plays a vital role here. If they are highly heat conducting, the energy rates will go up. So you will need to use insulated materials in order to reduce your energy consumption. Similarly for water consumption, rainwater reservoirs are an amazing idea to ensure uninterrupted water supply even during the hot summer season.

The number one benefit of this kind of housing is, of course, from the name itself – energy saving. More benefits can be derived from this like lower electric bills and lower cost of maintenance. It is also more comfortable to live in, less hazardous and more durable. The best part about such houses is that they help you save energy and money in the long-run without having to sacrifice your comfort and style.

Becoming more cost effective isn’t just for those of us who want to preserve our surroundings and our environment. Being cost effective can really help ease your pocket. Whether it’s something as big as setting up residential solar sections, or something as small as switching off the lights, there are a number of ways to save energy. There are many actions you can take to help your house be more cost effective. Some energy-efficient changes are one-time investment strategies and others can be done on a regular basis. Even if you only apply two or three of these changes you will be preserving energy, money, and nature, all in one go.

Adding new or additional insulating material for your roof, basement and surfaces along with using climate strip protection to make sure your windows and doors are properly enclosed will keep cold air from leaking out in summer and will keep warm air inside during winter. Metal window supports allow heat exchange easily while vinyl supports are much more resistant to warm exchange.

Retrofitting a home for energy-efficiency will cost you money in the short term, but will eventually benefit you. This will, however, require some effort on your part. Start with a power review. First, do a simple visible examination to find the most apparent gaps, breaks between gates and doorframes. These can be enclosed instantly and will often generate tremendous benefits.

Energy auditing experts provide a written review that details potential energy upgrades. The review includes suggestions for sealing cracks and metal gaps. They also suggest additional insulating material in surfaces, roofs and ceilings. The audit also recommends insulating material for hot water lines from water heaters to changing taps in the house. Initiatives to close and fill ducts that transport hot and cold air from heating units and air conditioners is always mandatory.

In your pursuit to make your home energy efficient, you will need to seal the gaps that occur while installing wall switches and electric sockets. They can be easily enclosed by installing small, inexpensive froth gaskets, which are available at local electrical stores. To close a switch or electric socket, even on inside surfaces, remove the protection dish, then place the froth gasket and attach the protection dish back again. Larger gaps can be loaded with extendible foam, which comes in applying containers. Very large openings can also be fixed with backer rods.

Another energy-saving strategy is to add insulation material. The older the house, the more insulation material you’ll need to add. Consult professional power auditors who will suggest exactly how much insulation material you will need to meet your requirements. You will see for yourself how such changes increase the energy performance of your house.

(The writer is founder and director of REPL, New Delhi)

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