The current financial crisis in the United States and worldwide makes it hard for many homeowners to focus on environmental concerns. Business people must keep their eyes on the bottom line in order to survive, and upgrading to the latest green technologies seems like an unwarranted expense. Recently, however, people are beginning to realize that ‘being green’ is not just about saving the planet, it is about saving money.
Every year, American households spend $200 billion for energy, and use over 720 billion gallons of potable (drinkable) water for non-potable water needs like irrigation and toilet flushing. The University of Maryland’s WaterShed is designed to provide all the energy it needs on a yearly basis using a combination of high-performance windows, insulation, solar panels, and solar hot water collectors. The solar panels alone could save a family $2500 per year on energy bills, about 40% of what they spend on health insurance. It also uses a green roof and constructed wetlands to store and filter rainwater and gray water from the house. Using filtered gray water and rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing would save enough drinking water every day to supply a city like Phoenix, Arizona for an entire year.
In addition to saving money for individuals, WaterShed’s energy and water improvements (if used widely) would save many billions of dollars for cities and towns on water treatment and storm water management costs.
Of course, achieving these savings for our economy means changing the way we build, renovate, and maintain our homes. It also means investing in technologies like solar panels. But these investments are also opportunities for business innovation. Imagine the boost to the U.S. economy, and the number of domestic jobs created if we manufactured the solar energy and water-saving technologies here, and sold them all over the world.
WaterShed is not only a template for how we can live in harmony with nature, it is also a showcase for technologies that can help transform our economy away from scrambling for diminishing resources like oil and clean water, and toward a sustainable future.
To achieve these magical figures, do households have to skimp on the modern convenience Americans are so accustomed to and live in the Stone Age? Not at all! This analysis bears in mind the average living style of a typical homeowner, striving to minimize sacrifices to comfort.
With rebates on Energy Star appliances and energy-saving solar panels, there isn’t a better time than now to Go Green and save money!