The tough economic times have definitely added to the challenges going green. Regardless of the tremendous savings opportunities in upgrading existing older buildings, efficiency is taking a back seat to meeting the expensive demands of daily life with reduced income. A fundamental problem is the lack of infrastructure.
Working in the energy field, I see the absence of a cohesive, product-neutral approach to help ordinary homeowners build a master plan. Education and outreach efforts are also spotty at best - in spite of excellent government efforts online and through the media. But in the end, it seems that most energy retrofits are performed by a segment of the population with deep pockets, who are tech savvy and generally immune to the challenges going green.
From my experience, very few lower middle income families are aware of the plethora of programs - nor do many of them care.
Here's more straw on the camel's back: the diversity of specialized contractors and tradespeople can definitely overwhelm and intimidate homeowners, especially when deciding what features to improve: comfort, value, energy savings, or aesthetics.
If you are an average homeowner like me, then the daily grind of work and life's obligations may leave you with precious few hours - and dollars - to obsess over home energy challenges, unless they work their way into weekend projects.
Living Off the Utility Grid...Or Not
If you are lucky enough to own property that allows you to harness solar, wind or hydro power, then you might be interested in your own off-grid power generation (not tied to the utility company). You should ensure that the property recieves *unobstructed* sunlight for at least 5 hours a day or perhaps steady, or prolonged winds, or is close to a water source such as pond, lake or stream.
If you would like to stay connected to the utility company, then you have the option of buying a solar electric system and feeding electricity back into the grid, or even becoming a small power generator for the local community. And you can apply for a variety of incentives, rebates and credits.
What about most of us, living in cities, suburbs or areas that restrict the use of our property’s resources? After all, coughing up tens of thousands for a solar electric system, or geothermal heat pump, gutting and retrofitting every mechanical system in our house may not feasible for many of us. Can a limited budget and some lifestyle changes really make a difference? What other options are available other than shutting lights or hanging my clothes to dry on a line?
Technologies, Products, Incentives...Oh My?
W all have a general understanding of energy concepts, but can’t seem to get past the complex challenges going green. Sure, there are a great number of institutional and governmental sites that offer factual information – a LOT of it – but leave us mainly overwhelmed.
There is a plethora of technical information on technologies, products, funding, mortgages, incentives, etc. A lot of this information is either too technical or too general, and DON’T even get me started on applying for incentives and rebates. That’s enough to turn the best of us catatonic. My advice... Start with an Energy Savings Game Plan:
Access to Appropriate Information
An important strategy to overcoming challenges going green is public awareness and education. How many children, or adults, for that matter, have an understanding of what is behind the flicking of a power switch? Not many. Same goes for food and what it takes to get it into stores and on the dining table.
It is also useful to look at alternatives, and options. While making a home more energy-efficient by plugging the leaks is the first step to reducing costs, learning about the choices in alternative energy sources is the next step toward sustainability, in the long-term. There are several informative websites for homeowners. Below are just a few that I find useful, informative and good reads:
Alternative Energy Action Now
Alternative Energy Concepts
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