In the face of scarcity, we find great creativity, as seen through the recent proliferation of efficient, renewable, and independent power solutions. The development of green technologies may soon outpace the rise of gas prices, which will save us money and curb emissions that contribute to global warming. How fast this happens is up to us; and contrary to most people’s assumptions, it’s not on the road where we’ll speed up progress but in our homes and offices. Buildings account for nearly half of the greenhouse gases sent into the atmosphere, so finding ways to improve efficiency at home can go a long way toward improving the environment, saving cash, and supporting the research and development of ever better technologies.
Home energy-saving devices still haven’t completely overcome the stereotype of ungainly eyesores on otherwise lovely houses, but they’re getting closer. Now that solar energy can be collected through photovoltaic roof tiles instead of enormous elevated panels, efficiency can be subtle—even elegant—which means that environmentally conscious design addicts can have their cake and eat it too. Indoors, advancements in insulation, appliance mechanics, and lighting have enabled a fresh compatibility between energy conservation and style.
Ease of use with energy-saving devices is another consideration that’s long been regarded as a barrier to adoption among many homeowners. We assume alternative technologies are hard to install and even harder to maintain—that you have to be a DIY enthusiast to take advantage of them. But it’s now easy to find preassembled, ready-to-use products, and many companies offer installation and service.
It’s also possible to tap into green energy without making any modifications to your home or site. Many energy companies offer their customers green options. In Washington, Oregon, and California, for example, you can opt for your power to come directly from wind farms or, where that’s not possible, to have a portion of your payments go toward the development of green energy technologies in the form of "credits." When purchased from a general energy provider, choosing green doesn’t usually cost more. This kind of plan gives consumers the power to drive the distribution of renewable energy and decrease consumption of fossil fuels.
Throughout the following pages we’ll explore the available technology, and take a look at ways to save energy at home.
When not working in design, Sarah Rich writes, talks and forecasts about food and consumer culture.