What Is an Environmentally-Friendly House?

Debra Durkee

An environmentally-friendly house uses materials and technologies that minimize the environmental impact of the home itself and those who live there. Products such as fluorescent lights and energy-efficient windows can help conserve energy resources while also lowering costs. Technologies such as toilets, washing machines, and showers that use less water also help with conservation. Some of the most extreme environmentally-friendly homes are powered by solar panels or geothermal energy.

Making furniture from reclaimed wood or salvaged driftwood is a good way to conserve resources.
Making furniture from reclaimed wood or salvaged driftwood is a good way to conserve resources.

Energy conservation is one of the most important ideas in an environmentally-friendly house. Toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines that use less water can drastically cut back on a home's overall water usage, while shower heads and sinks with built-in aerators can also make smaller amounts of water go farther. Many appliances are designed to use less energy; tankless water heaters heat water as it is used, instead of running constantly to keep a large supply of hot water available. Windows rated for energy conservation help keep heat inside, and positioning windows to take full advantage of the sun will help cut down on heating costs. Heating elements installed under the floor of the home can be energy efficient.

Homes near streams and rivers can be powered with hydro-electricity.
Homes near streams and rivers can be powered with hydro-electricity.

Solar panels and wind turbines, previously thought to operate on too large a scale for a single-family home, have been adapted to suit smaller buildings like residential homes. An environmentally-friendly house can also be designed with a geothermal system, which uses the heart generated by the Earth itself and changes it into a usable form of energy. Homes near rivers or streams can also be outfitted to use water power.

Smart washers are washing machines that are designed to increase energy efficiency and reduce water use.
Smart washers are washing machines that are designed to increase energy efficiency and reduce water use.

An environmentally-friendly house can be finished with a wide variety of green products. Soy-based paints cut down on contaminants, while synthetic wood can be used to finish outdoor projects like decks and furniture. Indoor furniture can be made from reclaimed wood, which can be taken from sources such as old buildings or salvaged from driftwood.

In addition to building materials and appliances, the items in environmentally-friendly houses can also help cut down on their carbon footprints. Electric cars release much less pollution than gasoline-powered vehicles. Recycled glass can be used to create mosaics and murals, and whole, recycled containers can be put to use in practical ways such as for planters. Adding a garden will not only help keep the air clean, but can also supply the home with fresh herbs and vegetables. An environmentally-friendly house can be equipped with a rainwater drainage system that captures rainwater for use in gardens and lawns.

Getting power from sustainable sources, like wind power, can help make a house more environmentally friendly.
Getting power from sustainable sources, like wind power, can help make a house more environmentally friendly.

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