Amanda Thomas, an associate at the Washington office of global architecture firm Gensler, consults on sustainability issues for universities, law firms, restaurants and other large commercial clients on how to build and maintain LEED silver spaces (the firm has designed for George Washington University, George Mason University, the GSA headquarters and the law firm McDermott Will & Emery).
So when it came time for Thomas to green her own home — a 1,258-square foot townhouse near Eastern Market that she closed on last October — she relied on the same concepts she recommends for clients, but scaled them down for a single-family residence. She let Where We Live into her home last week to share easy, inexpensive tips on how to make your home more energy-efficient, whether you own or rent:
• Lightbulbs: Change incandescent and florescent lightbulbs to LED lightbulbs, which are more energy efficient and can last much longer.
• Thermostat: Install a programmable thermostat that you can turn off or adjust for when you leave the house. Thomas paid $70 for hers.
• Faucets: Add aerators to faucets and showerheads. They add air to the water as it comes out, which cuts down on water consumption. Thomas’ faucet aerator cost 30 cents.
• Toilet: Convert your toilet to a dual-flush system, which uses less water. At-home kits go for as little as $20.
• Remodeling: Try using biodegradable, plant-based adhesive remover when taking off old tiles or flooring. Use low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint that has fewer irritants for people with allergies and asthma; Thomas uses one that has has an antimicrobial finish that is mold and mildew resistant.
• Appliances: Look for the blue Energy Star sticker when buying major appliances like washers, dryers and refrigerators. It means they meet EPA requirements for energy efficiency. Thomas also bought a gas clothes dryer, which uses less energy than electric dryer, but wired the home to be compatible with either in case the home’s next owner has an electric one.
• Water heater: Thomas replaced the old water heater with a $3,000 gas-based tankless water heater, which cuts down on water usage and the energy it takes to heat the water. Unlike a traditional tank that stores several dozen gallons of pre-heated water, a tankless heater is only activated as needed.
What do you do to make your apartment, condo or house more energy-efficient? Share your tips in the comments section below.