Practicing green efforts alleviates strain on wallet

Freedom New Mexico

Recent fuel price surges, coupled with Barack Obama’s election, have given environmentalists new energy. Even without it, as a practical matter, we would do well to consider “green” alternatives when looking to buy a new home or upgrade an existing one.

Obama has said he plans to impose policies that will reduce the demand for energy by 2020 by 15 percent below the Department of Energy’s projections, which is a 1.1 percent increase per year. Given the country’s natural population growth, this could mean stringent changes in how we are allowed to use our energy.

According to his campaign Web site, Obama will demand consumption reduction targets on utilities, and change construction standards to make buildings more energy efficient.

The president-elect’s energy plan seeks to have at least 10 percent of our electricity produced from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025. He also intends to implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

A Democratic Congress is almost certain to give the new president whatever legislation might help him achieve those goals, and then some.

We can assume, then, that stricter building codes will be written, forcing people to implement energy-saving measures by force. It’s a good idea, then, to begin considering such upgrades when people can afford them, and not have to deal with such expenses that would be mandated regardless of our economic condition.

Wind-generation facilities provide potential for a new earth-friendly source of power. Solar energy may also become a realistic option someday.

In the meantime, residents can look for ways to make buildings more energy efficient. This would include adding insulation whenever and wherever possible, using the best materials possible whenever making any renovations, and checking energy-efficiency numbers whenever buying new appliances.

Of course, energy conservation begins with developing habits that reduce energy use, such as turning off lights and other electric items that aren’t being used, and moderating thermostat controls.

It’s worth noting that while many energy-efficient items such as light bulbs cost significantly more than the least expensive options, the energy savings often offsets the higher price in the long run.

That fact isn’t always enough to convince people on limited budgets to take the higher-priced alternative, though, especially without empirical data to back up efficiency ratings that often are embellished or made under optimum conditions that don’t exist in the average household.

To this end, companies that build solar home systems, insulated windows and other energy-savings devices should consider entering into agreements with building developers, who often erect model homes in new subdivisions to attract clients. Such display homes seem a good way to show what they have to offer. Ideally, they might set up two similar homes, one built to minimum standards and the other equipped to conserve energy, and show the differences in monthly utility bills.

Looking for ways to use less energy is always a good practice, and it pays off by lowering our utility bills. Developing those habits now, and making smart upgrades when necessary can ease the burden of complying with any new mandates our “green” government might impose in the future.