Aiming for net-zero: Five cheaper ways to get there

Posted by on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 at 10:46am.

Okotoks has always been a progressive town, ready to embrace new technologies and green energy. Net-zero is now the new goal, where a home creates as much energy as it uses and it is indeed a lofty and noble goal.  It can also be pricey to retrofit your home with things like solar panels or geothermal technologies.  You will get your money back, at some point but not for a while.

However, there are a few energy-efficient hacks you can consider as you move towards a net-zero home that are more cost efficient as you work towards living a greener life.

Here are some expert-recommended ideas to help you get started on your path to energy efficiency:

Unplug your appliances

Tie a string around your finger, set an alert on your phone, put post-it notes on your front door so you’ll be reminded before you leave the house to unplug everything.  Even when you’re not using them, appliances draw power.  Certain things, like programmable coffee makers, clock radios and your cable box would be a pain in the neck to unplug, plug back in and reset on a daily basis.  But things like your cell phone charger, blender, tea kettle, toaster, laptop charger – maybe even a power bar in your living room that lamps are plugged into.  These smaller things that are easy to plug back in use something called “phantom power”.  Some experts reveal that you can reduce as much as 10% of your use just by doing these little things.

Shop at local stores

There’s a push right now to shop for locally-produced foot. It’s a trend called the 100-mile diet but this principle can be applied to things like buying renovation materials.  No doubt you’ll already by looking for the greenest building materials possible but try to find things that are produced close to home.  As well.  Less time in transit getting to the store, less time for you driving all over the place equals a smaller carbon footprint.  Everyone wins.

Go small or go home

Yes, solar panels can be a bit pricey especially if you get great, big huge ones.  But you can dip your toe into the solar energy world for less if you get more modest solar panels for your homes.  Smaller panels, more insulation in the roof and maybe throw in a new high-efficiency furnace and boiler – all cheaper options than covering every square inch of your roof with solar panels.

Passive in a non-aggressive way

Harness the warmth and light from the sun in a more passive way – through your windows. Open the blinds and curtains in the windows to let the light in.  You might need to cover your artwork on the wall or move furniture out of the way if there’s danger of fading.  This is called passive energy and it works.  Some designers working with builders to create net-zero homes are taking advantage of south and west-facing walls to capture sunlight in the home.  Seems like such a simple thing to do.

Is your home leaking?

Your home is like an envelope. If it’s not sealed properly energy will leak out all over the place.   Find a company that will do an energy audit and find out where heat is daring to escape.  A blower door energy test is something you can do.  One you’ve sealed up the cracks, so to speak, you can get something called a heat-recovery ventilator because you still need fresh air in your house so that moisture doesn’t built up.  What this little gizmo does is make sure fresh air comes in while stale air is pushed back outside.

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