What exactly is an energy-efficient home? A more efficient home implies a reduced use of energy and other resources, such as water.
How can an energy-efficient home benefit your personal economy and the environment? First, when we reduce the consumption of energy at home, we help to reduce the impact of climate change on a global scale because we produce fewer emissions of greenhouse gases. But that’s not all. We also contribute to a way of life less damaging to the environment and support the sustainability of the limited resources available, be they water, electricity or gas. A family in an energy-efficient home will most immediately notice, however, a drop in the cost of its consumptions of these products. Logically, consuming less energy means spending a smaller part of the family income to pay for these basic necessities.
Many of you want to know what kinds of environmental technologies allow us to reduce consumption. Aren’t they extremely expensive? Approximately how much do they cost? Will this investment be worth it for me in the medium and long term? There are different types of environmentally friendly technologies, depending on the type of resource to be preserved, the budget and the place where they will be installed. The ones most often used in housing, because of their low costs, are the following:
1. Thermal Insulation: A thicker layer of insulation reduces the exchange of heat and cold with the exterior and reduces the need for air conditioning or heating, thereby lowering the consumption of electricity and/or gas.
2. Passive ventilation: An architectural design that improves the ventilation of a home also can reduce the need for air conditioning, which consumes large amounts of electricity
3. Shade: Shade on the side of the house that receives the most sunlight keeps the interior fresh and cuts down on the use of energy.
4. Triple pane windows: They have the same effect as thermal insulation, reducing the exchange between interior and exterior.
5. Efficient equipment: Solar heaters, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CPL) and gas-fueled water heaters that greatly reduce the consumption of water and electricity.
The costs of these technologies vary widely depending on the country and the context, but in general they range from about US$25 for a low-flow faucet to as much as US$700 for an efficient air conditioning unit, US$1,000 for a solar water heater and between US$100 and US$400 for thermal isolation in walls and ceilings.
The time needed to recover the investment varies greatly depending on the technology. But a standard group of measures that saves about one ton of CO2 per year – how some energy efficiency projects are estimated – may require a one-time investment of US$1,200 and achieve savings of US$35 per month or US$420 per year. That means this standard set of measures could recover the initial investment in three years. These figures are based on past experience, and actual figures are determined by the environmental technologies selected.
This drawing of a cross section of the “eco-homes” built by the SADASI company in Monterrey, Mexico, shows an example of the low-cost, environmentally friendly technologies used in this program, which has helped to build 27,000 low-cost and energy efficient housing units in Mexico.
In many cases, environmentally friendly technologies have economic advantages and without a doubt help to reduce our global emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. To learn more about these technologies, you may visit the Web page of the well-known Green Mortgage program in Mexico.
To learn more
- VIDEO: Ecocasa, to confront climate change and improve the quality of life
- Ecocasas: Better for your pocket, better for the planet
Gisela Campillo has a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain), and a master’s degree in applied environmental geoscience from the University of Tuebingen (Germany). After working in the private sector in Germany, in energy and automotive companies, Gisela worked for the Sustainable Development Unit of the World Bank in Mexico, where she participated primarily in projects for urban development and climate change. Since 2011 she works in the IDB as a KFW Trust Fund Appointee and is assigned to the Climate Change Division, where she cooperates with the mitigation team, specially in energy efficiency in the housing sector and geothermal energy projects, as well as the coordination of projects by the Clean Technology Fund of the Climate Investment Funds.
Follow Gisela on Twitter @CampilloGisela and Caribbean DevTrends @IDB_CarDevTrend