It doesn’t take much time across the Atlantic to understand that Europeans have a lot of practice conserving scarce resources. And one of the key starting points is thinking smaller.
It’s not a “too small” approach to appliances or tools, it’s a “just right” approach. European vehicles are smaller, lighter and more efficient, and so too are kitchen appliances, bathrooms and living spaces.
Heavily taxed for decades, gas prices remain a deterrent to inefficient large American style vehicles, and most Europeans drive smaller versions of vehicles sold in the U.S. Previous spikes in gas prices have edged Americans toward smaller and more efficient vehicles, as well as hybrid and electric cars. Public transportation, including electric trains, buses and subway systems enable residents to travel easily and inexpensively throughout the continent.
Public spaces like hotel hallways, parking garage stairwells and public restrooms are illuminated using timed switches or motion sensors to detect people. Once the next area is reached a new light turns on and the old one extinguishes.
Bathrooms are nearly universal in featuring dual flush toilets to reduce water consumption. Lo-flow shower and faucets keep water use within conservative limits.
Europeans are more savvy about refrigerators, choosing not to refrigerate some items like fruit and eggs, while also doing a little bit of shopping each day, so storing food for long periods of time is not necessary.
Many European countries have developed extensive solar or wind power networks, tapping into abundant available resources to counter uncertainty in oil-based fuels. In a recent survey by Pure Energies, six European countries produced a combined 69.2 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy compared to the US’s 12 total GW. Germany topped the list with a whopping 35.5 GW. To be fair Germany, in particular, has provided costly subsidies to encourage domestic solar arrays.
A trip through the countryside reveals wind turbines scattered among the fields and mountainous areas, again tapping into winds to power towns and cities.
Some of these resource-saving practices can be easily adopted and adapted for our own use. Many are already in place. However, if the European mindset of “just right” is applied to many of our scarce resources, we can conserve water, fuel and money.
So how can you get started? Building a new log home is the ideal time to start thinking about “just right” and ways to take a bite out of fossil fuel consumption. Katahdin can work with a solar power contractor to design in solar power or water systems to heat and cool your home. Actually, it’s never been a better time to consider photovoltaic solar arrays as the costs have dropped significantly and the technology and power is truly state of the art. Add to that the opportunity to take advantage of alternative energy tax credits and the return on investment can be whittled down.
The HVAC system is probably the largest consumer of energy in a home, and selecting a mode of heating and cooling that fits best with your lifestyle and climate is an important decision. Often HVAC contractors will rubberstamp a heating system, and also tend to oversize systems for the square footage of a home. Careful questioning can get the system that’s “just right.”
Other options include a residential wind turbine, such as one made by UGE called the HoYi! turbine, a small and powerful vertical turbine that fits well into a home site.
Water conservation is easily facilitated with new dual flush toilets that are powerful and efficient, advanced low-flow faucets and showerheads. Gray water recycling paired with landscaping that can filter gray effluent before it returns to the water table are also more easily implements with lots of innovative designs tailored to your geographic area.
Powering down your electrical consumption can be accomplished by motion sensing LED lighting for exterior and interior areas, like garages, play rooms, closets and laundry rooms. Selecting energy efficient appliances can also cut a big chunk of consumption of water, electricity, natural gas or propane.
One home may seem like a small contribution to the big picture, but every tile in the energy and water conservation mosaic contributes to the future and can save a homeowner a significant amount of money in the long term.