At Liberty Power, we’re all about freedom. One of the most direct, and exciting I might add, ways of exercising freedom is building your own home. It’s a way to make your ideal living arrangements come to life; translating your imagination into your day-to-day surroundings. When you build your own home, you get to build towards your own preferences and lifestyle. The house becomes an expression of one’s self, shaping your daily routines to the contours of your creativity. Building your own home also allows you to steer clear of market trends. You can avoid common styles in your area, add personal touches, and commit to green, carbon-neutral living more seriously than houses built for investor profits.
However, as always, these dreams are shaped by reality—and in this case, by your budget. A full aviary or a 10 car garage may be nice to dream about, but just because you’re drawing the plans doesn’t mean you can afford the materials or time to build them. Building your own home is, as with shaping your life, a series of compromises between your dreams and your capabilities. At the end of the day, you only have so much time and money to invest in the project, and it’s up to you to place these investments in the areas most important to you. But even though there’s no magic way to pay for every whim of your residential fantasy, there are ways to maximize the capabilities you already have to get a little more of what you love. So, in the interest of freedom, we at Liberty Power have come up with a list of the top 10 ways to build a green home on a budget:
1. Build Vertical, Not Horizontal
Two of the largest costs involved in building a home are the foundation and the roof. Therefore, a ranch home with the exact same amount of square footage as a two-story home, will cost more money. Avoid this by building multiple stories, simultaneously improving your energy efficiency by reducing plumbing and duct runs. Furthermore, multiple story houses have a higher surface area to volume ratio than ranches, which means they expose less area to outside air and reduce the energy needed to heat or cool the home.
2. Pay Attention to Landscape and Orientation
Think about ways to use your land to your advantage. For one, laying a foundation on level ground is far cheaper than laying one on a slope. If you must lay your foundation on a slope, consider building vertical by turning your basement into a garage. To maximize heating and cooling benefits, orient your house so the longest side faces the south to catch maximum sunlight. Build an overhang on your roof to shield the house from the higher-angle summer sun while still allowing the winter sun shine in.
3. Choose Low-Cost, Renewable Materials
Materials are a huge factor in the overall cost of your home. Low-cost options, such as natural linoleum tile for your bathroom or kitchen, can generate serious savings. Finding and using local goods can also make a big difference. Instead of shingling your roof with expensive slate or polluting asphalt shingles, you can use sheet metal from your local recycling center. Depending on your area’s building codes, you might also consider earth-bag construction and small-diameter wood.
4. Choose Simplicity Over Complexity
Here’s one from Howard Roark, famous fictional architect: build for purpose, not for ornamentation. A simple square is far easier and cheaper to build than a jigsaw floor layout. Clean roof lines are preferable to fancier, fashionable options, as they are easier and cheaper to build. Unnecessary external or internal design touches can be nixed. Done correctly, these choices can create a natural, everything-in-its-place sense of purpose for your home.
5. Invest in Insulation
Good insulation is one of the easiest ways to lower your ongoing heating and cooling costs. A properly insulated home will require a minimal amount of heating or AC use, which reduces your home’s carbon footprint while lowering your bills. It’s also important to seal any passages air may escape through, such as around vents, ducts, windows or doors. Without proper caulking, even the best insulation loses a large degree of effectiveness.
6. Set Up Solar Panels
Solar panels are a great way to reduce your ongoing electricity costs in an environmentally friendly way. It’s possible to power your entire home with an installation and sell excess electricity back into the grid. The orientation of your house plays a large role in the effectiveness of solar panels; the greatest exposure should be to the south, allowing you to take advantage of the sun’s angle in the northern hemisphere.
7. Consider Geothermal Heat
Not every home is capable of using geothermal heat, which pumps up heat from deep in the earth. For the ones that are, it can be a goldmine. Although it does require an upfront installation cost, the system can effectively eliminate your ongoing heating bill due to its low usage costs and high heat volume. Even better, especially for those with large families, it provides a nearly unending supply of hot water.
8. Pick Energy Efficient Windows, Fixtures, and Appliances
One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint while lowering your energy bills is the use of Energy Star rated windows, fixtures, and appliances. These windows are highly effective at insulating your home, due to features like multiple panes, pane distance spaces, quality frame materials, specially coated glass, and noble gases as insulation between panes.
9. Take Advantage of Incentives, Tax Breaks, and Certifications
The federal government, as well as many state and local governments, provides incentives and tax breaks for green homes. Solar panels and geothermal heat can yield returns, as can energy-rated appliances and fixtures. Consult your local government to learn about becoming certified, and therefore eligible, for incentives in your area.
10. Lock in Your Electricity Rates with a Fixed Rate Energy Plan
There will always be room for improvement once your house is complete. One of the ways to budget for this is with a fixed rate energy plan from a third party energy supplier. A fixed rate plan means you pay the same rate every month, as opposed to the typical variable rate plans, which shift with the market. Knowing what your energy bill will be ahead of time can help you put together a budget, and put away savings to invest in finishing touches and new home projects.
Building your own home is a powerful expression of self. It’s an exercise of freedom. The best part is, once the project is complete, you get to start living in it for as long as you like. At Liberty Power, we’d love to be there to help you in this ever-after. To learn about our fixed rate energy plans, contact us today.