Improve Energy Efficiency in your Building
Energy efficiency refers to the method of reducing unnecessary energy consumption by utilizing less energy to provide products and services. Energy efficiency has been a rising trend around the world in recent years, especially in home design and construction, due to the rising costs and the environmental problems that greenhouse gas emissions cause. In residential and commercial buildings, energy is used for space cooling, water and space heating, appliances, electronics, and lighting, which can be costly on the users. By taking a few simple measures and investing in energy-efficiency, both energy and money can be saved, and carbon footprint is reduced.
Here are some tips to consider when improving the energy efficiency of your building
1. Seal the Building Envelope: Properly sealing a building is considered one of the most cost-effective way of reducing heating and cooling energy use. It makes a building more comfortable and energy-efficient by improving air quality, reducing leakage, and making cold rooms in the building warmer. Air leakage is usually the largest driver of energy use in the building. It is the biggest cause behind outside air drafts, hot or cold spots, and other moisture problems such as mold and mildew. Air sealing materials – such as caulks, foams, and air barriers that include plywood, drywood and concrete – used around doors, windows, light fixtures, plumbing, wiring, and fireplaces help prevent inside hot air from escaping through the gaps in cold weather or outside hot air from entering through the gaps in summer.
2. Insulate the Building Envelope: Insulation and sealing are complementary. While sealing prevents air from escaping or entering through the gaps and holes in the building, insulation prevents heat from flowing in through the materials used on the home shell, such as wood, concrete, steel, or glass, etc. This helps increase the energy efficiency of the building, reducing the heating and cooling costs on the occupants, as it will keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. There are many types of insulation, such as fiberglass, cellulose, icynene, and foam board. They all absorb heat and help make the building as airtight as possible.
3. Use Cool Roofs: Cool roofs are a means of cooling. Cool roofs can benefit buildings and their occupants, as they helps reflect sunlight and decrease the temperature of the entire roof. Cool roofs absorb less heat than standard roofs, which helps lower the temperature in the building and increase inside space comfort while decreasing the need for air conditioning. Highly reflective types of coatings, sheet coverings, highly reflective tiles and shingles are some of the ways that can be used to transform a standard roof into a cool roof.
4. Use Smart Landscaping: Smart landscaping is a cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing way to lower energy costs and use. A well-designed landscape can help protect buildings from summer sun and winter wind. The shade trees and shrubs, for example, can help block infrared radiation in summer and let them come through in winter.
5. Select an Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling System: Since heating and cooling take as much as half of the energy used in buildings, reducing the energy required for these systems is very important to achieve energy efficiency. Choosing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems can help achieve that goal. One of the easiest ways to save energy is by installing ceiling fans in place of air conditioners. Regulating thermostats or installing a programable thermostat can also help save energy by automatically turning down heating and cooling systems according to the changes in outside temperature. Heat pumps are also an alternative to furnaces and air conditioners because they move heat rather than generate it, which is why they can provide similar space conditioning with more energy efficiency.
6. Install an Energy-Efficient Water System: Water systems are another large source of energy usage in buildings. Upgrading or installing new water systems can help save costs and energy. Low-flow plumbing systems such as showerheads, faucets, and toilets can help reduce energy usage, as they use the minimum amount of water needed. Fixing leaks and insulating hot water pipes also help reduce energy on water heating. As for water heaters, tankless water heaters provide hot water only on demand through a gas burner or any electric element, which means that they use much less energy than water heaters that keep water hot around the clock. It is also worth considering solar water heaters as they use sunlight through solar collectors to heat water, thus considerably reducing energy wastage.
7. Install Energy-Efficient Lighting: Lighting fixtures are an important element of any building. Installing energy-efficient lighting can help reduce energy wastage. Bulbs that have LED or CFL are considered the most efficient and can last longer than any other lighting source. On the other hand, installing sensors, timers and photocells can also help save a lot of energy, as they automatically turn lights off when not in use. Natural light during daytime is also another light source that can save energy and electricity.
8. Select Energy-Efficient Appliances and Electronics: Choosing energy-efficient appliances and electronics helps reduce energy consumption and wastage. Smaller appliances usually use less energy. For example, induction stove tops and microwave ovens are significantly more energy efficient and faster than regular ones. Air drying clothes or using heat pump dryers also help save a lot of energy. Placing refrigerators and freezers far away from warm areas can make them more energy efficient. Close heat sources can make them use a lot more energy than necessary because they would need it to remain cool.
Nowadays, the use of renewable energy to achieve energy efficiency has been increasing due to its proven benefits. Solar panels are currently providing the most cost-effective renewable energy for an energy-efficient building. Solar panels work in sunny and cloudy weathers and can fulfill the whole building’s energy needs, including energy required for heating and cooling, appliances, water heating, and lighting, which makes it a complementary element for energy efficiency use strategies.