Over the last decade, we’ve seen a real increase in the adaptation of products that society had not too long ago deemed “unrealistic”.
U.S solar installations nearly doubled in 2016, now totaling over 1.3 million installations country-wide. High-efficiency water fixtures and appliances like showerheads, sprinklers, and clothes washers are widely available and more affordable than ever. Low-flow toilets are not only widely available, but also required in many places – including the entire state of California.
But is this it? Have we now done everything we can to build sustainability into our everyday lives?
Of course not.
Here is a short list of things to consider as you’re building your eco-friendly smart home or advocating the green tech lifestyle:
1. Reduce emissions by having an all-electric home
It’s no secret that gas, as a utility, is cheap. It’s also no secret that businesses and homes produce roughly 12% of all greenhouse gas – and a big chunk of that is from the gas consumption related to space and water heating.
But it’s completely possible to reduce those emissions without sacrificing your heated floors. The electricity on the California power grid is growing cleaner and cleaner over time. By 2030, California policy aims for 50% of its electric power to come from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.
With clean energy coming to the all-electric home, the carbon footprint coming to the home drops compared to homes that use fossil fuels to power their appliances.
And not to mention, the electric home is much safer than a home that has gas appliances – especially following natural disasters like earthquakes and severe weather.
2. High-efficiency water heating appliances
Water heating systems are the second largest energy user in your home, accounting for 18% of electricity costs. To be as sustainable as possible it is incredibly important to insist on having high-efficiency appliances.
Most of the water heaters in U.S. households have storage tanks (98% in 2009), although tankless water heaters is a growing segment that has shown higher energy use efficiencies. Heat pump water heaters, which are powered by electricity, are another trend in the water heating industry and operate by transferring heat (often from the air) into the tank. Here at Nexus eWater, we do something similar by using your soapy greywater as a heat source for your new water heating.
In addition to reducing GHG emissions associated with water heating, all of these high-efficiency options offer products that provide remote monitoring and reporting that allow you to better integrate them into your smart home, too!
3. Smart(er) irrigation systems
Smart irrigation systems have been around for some time, so it’s possible if you’ve bought a home in the last 5 or 10 years you probably have one… but they are now smarter than ever.
Skydrop is one product we have recently encountered and in addition to the usual features (measuring soil moisture, inputting specific soil and plant types, etc.) it also creates and adjusts water schedules based on real weather data.
Why pay someone to maintain your landscape when you can do the majority of the work from your smartphone? Smart water belongs in smart homes.
4. Incorporate alternative sources of non-potable water
And don’t just stop at smarter irrigation controllers. Expand that mentality by being smarter than ever with your irrigation supply.
If you live in California, new landscape irrigation regulations have made using alternative sources of non-potable water for applications like irrigation more desirable than ever. The city of Sacramento already permanently limiting lawn watering as “a way of life” is surely just a sign of things to come.
But it’s possible to have the landscape you want and use water ethically and responsibly. How? By using alternate sources of non-potable water.
These “alternate sources” include storm water, rainwater, and grey water.
5. Insulate literally everything
So, you have an all-electric home and using all-electric, high-efficiency appliances… what could go wrong?!
Insulation. You are now heating and cooling in the most responsible and efficient manner, so don’t ruin it by making your appliances work extra hard due to loss of heating or cooling!
In addition to the usual suspects such as attics and walls, make sure to treat your window design and selection as an integral part of your energy-efficient home. There are real opportunities on the horizon, too, for what the industry is calling "smart windows" – so don't miss out!
Perhaps the most unappreciated aspect of sustainable living is also the most important variable for any new homebuyer: location, location, location.
Emissions related to transportation makes up 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions include passenger car, SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans. These sources account for over half of the emissions from the sector. If you want to keep a small footprint, choose a location that allows you to minimize your driving as much as possible by living in an area that is walkable or close to areas you that you frequent.
Of course, as the grid becomes more sustainable the rise of electric cars could become even more important.
Are you building an eco-friendly smart home? We'd love to hear about it!
Josh Fuller, Marketing & Sales
Josh Fuller is a 3-year team member at Nexus eWater and leads Nexus’ inside sales and marketing activities. Josh earned his BA in Communication and Information Sciences in 2009 and his MBA in 2014, both from The University of Alabama.