Eco-Friendly Home Building

Innovations Boost Energy Efficiency



NewenHouse photo by Taffline Laylin

Smart, innovative, technological breakthroughs are making buildings more energy-efficient, healthier to live in and highly attuned to our connected world.

“Homeowners continue to be interested in green building options because they help foster a healthier, more comfortable and affordable home—and it’s good for the environment,” says Dan Chiras, Ph.D., of Gerald, Missouri, founding director of the Evergreen Institute and author of The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy.

Panel Insulation

“Structural insulated panels in walls, roofs and floors dramatically reduce air leakage and heat loss through thermal bridging, or heat conduction through framing materials, facilitating a more energy-efficient home that can maintain comfortable temperatures with lower fuel bills than a conventionally built home,” advises Chiras. Find manufacturers via the Structural Insulated Panel Association at sips.org.

Efficient Heat Recovery

“The energy recovery ventilator, or ERV, ensures fresh air in tightly sealed homes with little heat loss,” adds Chiras. The UltimateAir RecoupAerator, a wholehouse air filtration ERV, also flushes out harmful airborne pollutants commonly found in residences, replacing them with clean, fresh, healthy air.

Solar Monitor

“Many solar energy users want to monitor their system using their computer, tablet or smartphone through advances in energy software,” says Allison Lindquist, with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), which hosts the Annual Energy Fair and sustainable living event every June in Custer, Wisconsin. “One highlight last year was PacketFlux Technologies’ SiteMonitor.”

“When a homeowner views their energy monitoring data, they quickly begin seeing the correlation between their energy consumption and production,” says Leon Dulak, the MREA site manager. “The direct correlation drives them to change how they live and use energy.”

It costs slightly more on a monthly mortgage to build a home that costs far less per month to operate.
~Dan Chiras

Energy Storage

Tesla Motors does more than produce high-end electric cars and solar shingles. The company is also on the cutting edge of future energy storage. Tesla’s new, compact Powerwall 2 battery system, complete with inverter, can power an average two-bedroom home for 24 hours.

Chiras says, “Utilities throughout the nation are cracking down with special fees on solar-home owners that occasionally pull electricity from the grid. I think more people are going to opt to go off-grid or install a Tesla battery to provide nighttime power to preempt this. It’s easier to maintain than a standard lead-acid battery, and should last as long. When its useful life is over, the homeowner returns it to the company.”

“Saltwater-based batteries for homeowners are coming up,” observes Clay Sterling, assistant professor of electrical technology at Kankakee Community College, in Kankakee, Illinois. “The batteries from Aquion Energy are nontoxic, safe and recyclable.” Their Aspen series of aqueous hybrid ion batteries contain neither heavy metals nor toxic chemicals and are non-flammable and non-explosive, adding to their safety.

Home Plans

Building green gets easier with green home plans. The prototype, super-insulated, 970-square-foot NewenHouse sustainable home in Viroqua, Wisconsin, is about 50 percent smaller and more than 80 percent more energy efficient than the average American home. The plans-and-services package for the Passive House-certified NewenHouse home features double walls for insulation and a super-efficient heat recovery ventilator. Four different home plans are available for houses under 1,000 square feet.


John D. Ivanko is co-author of ECOpreneuring. Liam Kivirist captures the latest technology news on TechSocket.net.

 

HOME TECH UPDATE

Nest Smart Thermostat
Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat replaces the old thermostat and immediately starts saving energy and money. Partnered with a smartphone, custom settings will lower the temperature at night, warm up the house upon waking and reduce heating or cooling swings when owners are away. On average, people save 10 to 12 percent on heating bills and 15 percent on cooling bills according to Energy Trust of Oregon reserach, with the device often paying for itself in less than two years.

Blueair Purifier
Leveraging a mix of filters, ionizers and fans, the Blueair HEPASilent air purification system captures 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.1 micron. A range of sizes are available to suit different spaces.

Haiku Light
The Haiku Light fixture from Big Ass Solutions brightens when someone enters a room and turns off when it detects the absence of movement. The light-emitting diode (LED) fixture produces 50 percent more light than a typical 15-watt compact fluorescent light (CFL).

Natufia
The Natufia Kitchen Garden is a fully automated vertical garden that easily fits into a kitchen area. Natufia manages the non-GMO, certified organic seed germination, watering, nutrient needs, humidity control and light cycles, freeing the gardener to simply pick and savor year-round fresh produce. While pricey, it provides an option for urbanites that both lack outside growing space and prioritize convenient healthy eating.

Smart Robot
This handy droid vacuums up dust mites, allergens, pet hair and dirt. iRobot’s Roomba 880 detects debris, maneuvers around most furniture and curtains, features a high-efficiency particulate air filter to suck up the small stuff, works on a variety of surfaces and automatically plugs itself in to recharge.

Self-Cleaning Toilets
The bowl of Toto’s MH wall-hung, high-efficiency toilet with powerful 3-D dual flushing is coated with a nanotechnology glaze that seals the porcelain with an ionized barrier; its non-porous surface repels visible and invisible waste. The company’s smart toilet model also cleans itself.


This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Gardening Asanas

Overdoing garden work can produce aches and pains, but by integrating yoga positions while planting and weeding, we can emerge pain-free after hours of being on our knees and bending.

Indigenous Wisdom

Indigenous elders from around the world meet together to pass down four sacred gifts of wisdom we would do well to heed.

Nature’s Remedies

Creatures in the wild ranging from microbes to elephants cope with parasites, pests and pain using natural substances; it all suggests why our preserving the natural world is good for us, too.

Healthy Climate, Healthy People

As the Earth slowly heats up, we’re being affected by rising allergens, disaster-related trauma and the increase in insects carrying dangerous diseases.

Whole Grains Help Us Eat Less

When overweight Danes exchanged refined grain products such as white bread and pasta for whole-grain equivalents, they tended to feel full sooner, eat less, lose weight and have less inflammation.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »This Month

Zen Shiatsu Training

Business Spotlight
Shiatsu School of Vermont, one of two schools certified in the U.S. to offer Zen-style shiatsu certification, is offering a one-year Certified Practitioner Program starting this September.

Transformation Through the Art of Breema

An upcoming weekend retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Movement from April 20 to 22 will provide a fulfilling entry into Breema’s philosophy, self-care exercises and bodywork.

Tour Green Homes at Green House Festival in Brookline

Mothers Out Front has organized a green home tour from noon to 3 p.m. on April 8, in Brookline.

Sleeping Better Naturally

Business Spotlight
At The Organic Mattress, a family-owned specialty sleep store, people will find mattresses made from natural and organic ingredients, including organic cotton, wool and natural latex made from the sap of rubber trees.

Rising Seas Threaten Boston

The Climate Action Business Association (CABA) is standing up to protect Commonwealth small business communities against imminent danger.

Peace on Earth

My latest favorite author is 20th-century new thought leader and philosopher Emmet Fox. His piece below feels like a perfect fit in light of the world’s celebration of our planet on Earth Day this month.