Trendy solar panels aren't always realistic
There may be more efficient ways to save energy throughout your home that are much more inexpensive.
Before you embark on installing those pricey solar panels, you might want consider the myriad other ways you can save without spending nearly the amount of dough.
The Washington Post offers some tips from the playbook of Austin, Texas-based architect Peter Pfeiffer, who with Dallas architect Betsy del Monte has devised an "Energy Use Pyramid" that helps those seeking a new home weigh what they spend and save on energy efficiency.
Similar to the old U.S. Department of Agriculture food pyramid, the base of the Energy Use Pyramid consists of the most basic of needs, including the size and placement of the home, how well it's insulated, and assets such as trees and overhangs that provide shade.
How you use your energy takes up the middle spot, with Pfeiffer encouraging energy efficiency throughout your home, from appliances to lighting and more. Even if you spend more to buy these products, the energy savings as well as their durability will pay off. From the article:
Most consumers are familiar with Energy Star appliances, but the amount of energy savings in the latest models may come as a surprise. A Whirlpool Duet front-loading washer uses 75 percent less energy and 60 percent less water compared with a standard top loader. With a spin speed of 1,300 revolutions per minute, it wrings out about 65 percent of the wash water, reducing drying time and the energy the dryer consumes.
And in the top spot, along with the fats, oils and sweets, are the ways you can generate power yourself, such as through solar panels and wind turbines.
Just like the food pyramid, it's not like he's saying to cut them out entirely. The Post actually includes a photo of Pfeiffer cleaning off his own solar panels. But he is saying that they're a big expense that should be included as a bonus, though perhaps not as the base of your savings.
On that note, the photo of him cleaning his solar panels also is a warning to interested parties that such renewable-energy systems require a bit more maintenance than just throwing some bleach in your washing machine once in awhile.
However, it's important to keep in mind while reading about this pyramid that the creators are architects with their clients in mind. Not that I don't think their judgment is sound, but if you already own your home and want to add a few solar panels, I'm pretty sure that would be a lot cheaper than buying a new home that boasts the most efficient building orientation.
While we're on the subject of being green, I also wanted to point out a new Web site that the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about today called Live/Work World. The idea is to help those seeking a home produce a smaller carbon footprint by cutting out their commute entirely. Live/Work World consists of, well, spaces where you can both live and work.
Don't get too excited if that's exactly what you're looking for, because as of yet the site only includes properties in Los Angeles. Let's keep our eye on the site, though. This could be the next green trend.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.