Homes are far better insulated than they once were; windows are weatherized and various insulation materials are available for different climates and different areas of the home (attic/basement as opposed to main floor(s) walls). Modern thermostats have programming functions to avoid excessive heating or cooling. We set the temperature we would like to maintain and the system heats or cools to that point and then shuts off to save energy.
In a more recent trend, appliance companies have begun to sell energy efficient appliances. In my experience these appliances work slowly, but they use less watts of electricity and less water.
What the above poster says is true about advances in thermostat programming and insulation improvements. However I think some of the changes we’ve made in housing design unfortunately cancel out the energy efficiency of those improvements. The average new house built in 1950 had a floor area of 983 sq. feet as oppose to the average house built in 2000 which had an average area of 2266 sq. feet. We’ve created houses that are larger (despite the shrinking household size) and thus require more energy to heat or cool if the system depends on electricity or gas. Overall I’d say in most aspects houses today are less efficient than houses in the 1950s. Do we have the technology to build more efficient home? Definitely – check out Mike Reynolds, an architect who has spent the past twently years designing homes made from recyclables that are orientated to the sun, utilize passive solar heating, collect and filter rain water, and are completely off the grid. These houses are amazing but are the exception, not the norm of modern day construction.
Although some homes have moved away from sustainability since the 1950s, there are many eco-friendly design techniques out there that continue to innovate and “green” your way of living. For example, energy efficient windows help cool your home on hot summer days. Also, appliances with the energy star rating are much more efficient than they used to be. Furthermore, a lot of the building materials and chemicals are safer than they were in the 1950s.
Overall, we have become more sustainable in certain ways, but in other ways we have cancelled out those benefits.
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