Because of their constant use, and misuse, popular phrases such as “carbon footprint” lose their original meaning over time. When this happens, the expression can become a vague, catchall term that means whatever the user chooses for it to mean.
According to the energy reference site produced by the University of Calgary, “A CO2 footprint or carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced as a result of an individual’s actions over a set period of time - generally over a year. Whenever an individual drives a car, heats his or her home, or buys food and other goods a certain amount of carbon dioxide is produced as a result of the manufacturing, fuel extraction or transportation. ”
Reducing the carbon footprint has become a mantra for environmentalists. However, it is not necessary for one to be an eco-activist to care about this subject. Saving money is another excellent reason for reducing this “footprint,” and this factor cuts across all economic and political lines.
The State Color of Colorado: Green
Some states are said to be “Red” and others are deemed to be “Blue.” However, most residents of Colorado would say their state is “Green.” This is due to its pristine, natural beauty, which drew these residents to the area in the first place!
Mike Schroetlin, the CEO of Schroetlin Custom Homes in Denver, builds custom homes for families who can afford to make an investment in a luxury home. They are successful professionals not “eco-warriors,” and they care about reducing the carbon footprint.
“We have found that if it can help with energy savings and monthly bills, home owners are interested in environmentally friendly options,” he said. “Understandably, there are very few people that are willing to spend $10,000 on a ‘green’ feature if it provides no other reward or financial payoff.”
In building his successful custom home business, Schroetlin has discovered ten ways that homeowners can save the environment, save money and reduce the carbon footprint of their home.
#1 Proper Insulation is Critical
Insulation materials, technology and building code regulations continue to advance and savvy consumers are taking advantage of these trends.
“Insulation code requirements are increasing all of the time,” Schroetlin said. “This has the effect of making even the most standard homes more energy efficient. Using higher R-value insulation in exterior walls and ceilings, as well as spray foam insulation in strategic areas are great ways to save on energy bills and reduce the carbon footprint of a home.”
#2 More Efficient Heating and Air Conditioning Reduce a Home’s Carbon Footprint
“Most homes are built using ‘forced’ air heating and cooling systems,” Schroetlin notes. “In the case of heating, a forced hot air furnace draws the room air through duct work to a furnace, where the air is filtered and heated. The warmed air is then blown back into the rooms. Highly efficient furnaces and air conditioners are offered in a variety of different efficiency levels. Two stage and variable stage furnaces are very helpful for energy efficient and home comfort.
“Radiant heating and cooling systems are considerably more expensive than a forced air system, but they can be very efficient. A geothermal system can also be incorporated into either a forced air or radiant system. This is more expensive up-front, but in Colorado the radiant and geothermal systems can pay for themselves fairly quickly with lower energy bills. Programmable thermostats can also provide amazing control, which can also help with overall energy efficiency.”
Are you interested in reducing the carbon footprint of your custom home? Contact Mike Schroetlin at Schroetlin Custom Homes to learn more.
#3 A Window to Energy Savings
Colorado has more sunny days than many other states, and while this natural light is glorious, the sunshine can wreak havoc on a home’s carbon footprint. It doesn’t have to be that way.
“Today's windows are exponentially better than in the home you grew up in,” Schroetlin said. “Double pane glass and Low E window coatings have become almost standard in today’s construction. Some additional options to help with energy efficiency are triple pane glass, argon gas between the panes, and even higher Low E values than standard Low E.”
#4 There’s an App for That!
Since all of those gadgets consumers can’t seem to live without - smartphones, laptops and dozens of other tech toys - are powered by electricity (which is one of the primary drivers of carbon emissions), it seems only fair that technology should be used to reduce them.
“From an app on your smartphone you can adjust your window coverings to open and close on a schedule,” he said. “You can dim your lights or turn them off.” You can also adjust your thermostat and turn off your sprinklers if it’s about to rain.
“There are so many other energy saving controls that a homeowner can control from their smartphone from anywhere in the world!”
#5 Local Building Materials Can Save Energy
Transportation is one of the biggest culprits for increasing carbon emissions. In the home construction industry, there are literally thousands of building materials that must be transported to the building site. If these can be locally-sourced, reduction in the carbon footprint can be realized.
“One factor that many people don’t consider is where the building material is coming from,” Schroetlin notes. “For example, in our area, if your brick comes from a local supplier like Acme Brick, rather than being hauled hundreds or thousands of miles away, it can have a big effect on energy savings.”
Michael Earley of Acme Brick agrees. “Our plant in Castle Rock uses the latest and most efficient technology to fire locally-sourced clay into highest quality brick. We use natural gas, as opposed to coal, to fire the brick and this fuel emits considerably less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plus, since this plant is in the Denver area, there are substantial savings in transportation costs and a reduction of carbon emissions.”
What about other environmental advantages of brick?
“Brick definitely helps with overall insulation and energy savings,” Schroetlin added. “The moisture and air infiltration control is a large factor. The thermal mass of brick isn’t reflected in the R-value ratings, but it provides a greater efficiency and comfort than another (non-brick) type of wall assembly with the same R value.”
#6 Energy-Saving Appliances are Important to Include
If reducing a custom home’s carbon footprint is the objective, the appliances and fixtures must also meet strict energy-saving guidelines.
“Almost all major manufacturers of appliances, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, have great options for ENERGY STAR - rated fixtures,” Schroetlin noted.
According to its website, “The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced ENERGY STAR as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through its partnerships with 18,000 private and public sector organizations, ENERGY STAR delivers the technical information and tools that organizations and consumers need to choose energy-efficient solutions.”
#7 LED Lighting is a Bright Idea
When used by millions of homeowners, something as trivial as a light bulb can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint.
According to the EPA,“One of the simplest, but most effective things a homeowner can do to save energy in your home is to install LED (light-emitting diode) light fixtures and lightbulbs. The EPA notes that residential LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. Plus, LED lightbulbs are becoming less expensive all of the time.”
#8 Turn Off Appliances When They are Not In Use
No one doubts the contribution of technology for helping to reduce the carbon footprint of a custom home. However, something as “low tech” as a light switch is a “tool” that any member of the family can use to reach this energy savings goal.
“It’s really pretty simple, “Schroetlin notes, “If the lights are turned off when no one is in the room and the electronics are un-plugged when they are not in use, electricity can be saved. One good example of this involves phone chargers. This appliance is notorious for using large quantities of electricity, even when it’s not charging a phone. Unplugging it after it has served its purpose will save a small amount of electricity, which over months and years, will add up!”
#9 Using Less Water Will Save a Precious Resource
Coloradans know how critically important water is to the area. It is essential to life and it also can have an impact of the carbon footprint.
“Residential water must be treated,” Schroetlin noted. “This requires energy for the treatment plants. Using less water will result in savings for both the water itself and the energy for its treatment, pumping and heating. Water-efficient showerheads, faucets, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines can also contribute to the reduction of water use.
“Landscaping is another area where water can be saved in a custom home. We use climate-appropriate grass for lawns, scrubs and trees and we install water-efficient irrigation systems.”
#10 Renewable Energy Sources: Steep Up-Front Costs but Becoming More Attractive
The state of Colorado has plenty of sun and wind and because of this many custom home owners are considering these as possible power sources. According to the Energy Department, “Colorado is a leader in renewable energy, with investments in wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and other renewable energy resources increasing over the last decade.
“Wind accounts for the largest percent of renewable energy generation in Colorado, with more than 17 percent of total electricity generated in the state in 2016. Colorado also is ranked eleventh in the nation for installed solar capacity, with 926 MW installed as of 2016.”
“As storage technology improves and increased customer use reduces the costs of solar collection cells and wind turbines, these renewable energy sources will likely grow in popularity,” Schroetlin said. “Ultimately, the use of these energy sources will be driven by their return on investment.”