Priorities for a Green Home: My Wish List
I’m busy house-hunting for the first time, and even busier following good house-buying advice from friends. One of the biggest points was to write out a detailed wish list about my must-haves for a home and — surprise! — most of them are eco-friendly. Here’s my green-home priority list:
Lots of yard space — but not for a water-guzzling lawn, thank you very much! I’m going to use that yard space for gardening and, hopefully, some backyard chickens too. Get me started dreaming and pretty soon I have that yard populated with chickens, geese, goats, and at least one cow… but I think I’ll start with the garden and the chickens first.
Southern exposure. Having the yard and lot oriented the right way — where it won’t be constantly shaded by vegetation or worse, neighboring structures — means my garden (and chickens!) will have plenty of sun. (Southern exposure is important for me because I live in Alaska… the optimal direction may be different in your neck of the woods.) Although installing rooftop solar panels isn’t the absolute highest priority on my list, I want to at least have the option. Again, good sun exposure is crucial.
A small house. I was looking at big fixer-uppers, until a friend gently reminded me that I’d have to pay to heat all that big, empty space I don’t really have a need for. (In warmer climates, you might have to pay to cool it.) So I made a more realistic assessment of what I really want and need in a home, and have now scaled my ambitions down to a manageable size. Not only will this reduce my energy bill (and carbon footprint) come winter, it’ll also give me more space on the lot for — you guessed it — chickens!
A basement. I recently visited an EcoShelter — that is, a self-contained home with systems modeled after those of a living organism — and was mightily impressed by their gray-water recycling system. Apparently installing such a system is much easier if you have a basement to put it in, so that’s now a mid-level priority on my list. Since I’m shopping for a relatively small house, having a basement will also expand my storage possibilities.
A woodstove. Using a woodstove as your primary heating source isn’t much fun — been there, done that — but I like the idea of having a stove for backup heat and cooking in case of power outages, or supplemental heat during the winter to help keep my energy costs down. This is definitely only an issue if you live in a cold-weather climate, or if you’re concerned about rising energy costs (I know I am). I look forward to the possibility of maybe replacing the woodstove with a pellet stove or similar option in the near future.
You might be surprised by some of the things that aren’t on this list. I’m not too concerned about some of the smaller details that go into an energy-efficient home, like a programmable thermostat or energy-efficient appliances. All of those are reasonably easy updates that I can make myself and, since I’m shopping in the low price range, I really have to prioritize when it comes to what I can’t fix (the size of the lot, the size of the house, whether or not there’s a basement, and so on) and what I can, eventually, fix up myself.
I’d really love to get a place with a high-efficiency heating system, energy-efficient windows, and a composting toilet already in place. But when you get right down to it, I can make all of those are modifications later — as long as I buy a place with the right potential.
I’d love to know what’s on your green-home wish list — and I’m still on the lookout for good cold-climate advice, too. Let me know what you think in the comments!
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