Updating Your Window Technology

Window performance can be complicated. As a resident of southern California, you want a frame and pane that both conserves energy, keeps the house cool, and resists flame in case of a wildfire emergency. Finding the perfect, energy-efficient window is possible with the correct tools. Here, we will detail several popular window features you may want to consider when building or renovating your sustainable home.

Dual-Paned Glass—This option is perfect—nearly necessary—for southern California homes. The dual-paned glass provides energy efficiency by limiting airflow, allowing your home to stay warm or cool in extreme temperatures. The dual-pane also protects homes against fire; a window can shatter from heat alone, and broken glass allows flames to enter a building more easily. If you choose this type of window, the outer layer will break before the inner layer.

Tempered Glass—If you have the ability, opt for tempered glass in your southern California home. This material is heat-treated to make the glass up to four times stronger than its untreated counterparts. Additionally, tempered glass does not shatter into shards. Instead it fractures into small, relatively harmless pieces of material.

Fiberglass Frames—A window’s frame can significantly affect its performance. Fiberglass frames, though expensive, are low-maintenance, energy efficient and more fire resistant than cheaper wooden frames. This is an excellent choice for southern California homes. PVC, also called uPVC and PVCu, is also a popular option, as it is less expensive than fiberglass. However, this material will need to be replaced more frequently.

Smart Roofing is Important in Southern California

Southern California is hot, and the record-breaking drought has only added strain to residents trying to keep cool. If you are building a new house or completing a sustainable renovation of your current home, carefully consider your roofing options. You may think aesthetics and durability are the primary factors in roof design, but your material choice has further implications—from reducing your carbon footprint to keeping your home cool in the hot summer months. Below, we will detail several popular roofing options and assess their use in southern California.

Wood shingles are popular and inexpensive, but they have low fire danger ratings—this might affect your insurance rates, especially in southern California. Additionally, though California doesn’t get much rain, sun exposure may cause wooden shingles to warp and crack, leading to the need for replacements. In sum, wooden shingles are not a sustainable option for California homes.

Clay or slate tiles can withstand some of the hottest temperatures possible. In fact, many clay roof manufacturers offer warranties of 100+ years. The initial price is expensive, but you will likely save money over time; their fire safety rating can potentially lower your insurance rates, and their durability will prevent the need for frequent replacements. However, do your best to purchase reclaimed tiles; mining the clay is not a sustainable process.

Metal roofs are popular for their low prices and quick, seamless installation. These roofs outperform conventional asphalt shingles under adverse weather conditions, including high winds, hail, and fire. They also keep interiors cooler as temperatures rise. As a result, this is a great sustainable choice for southern California homes. Just be sure that the metal has no hazardous chemical coating—rain could strip it off and pollute nearby soil or groundwater.

Roof design is nearly as important as the material. For example, utilizing a living roof—most often covered by grass and vegetation—can lower both heating and construction costs. Similarly, roof overhangs and canopies can prevent excessive heat gain from direct exposure to the sun. When choosing a design, however, be sure to understand the weather and climate of the area. Figuring out the fire danger rating of your area and materials can greatly inform your decision.

 

Consider Solar Energy—It’s Perfect for Southern California

Solar energy is becoming an increasingly popular source of energy for residents around California. Factors such as high insolation, community support, declining solar cost, and the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that 33% of California’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, have made this a popular choice among commercial property owners. However, private and residential property are also strong candidates for solar installation.

Switching to solar energy allows your home to become more sustainable while putting a few extra dollars back in your wallet. When you go solar, monthly costs are immediately lower. As soon as you switch over, your carbon footprint shrinks. This is great news for southern California homeowners who feel that sustainability is important but don’t have the funds to make massive renovations.

In the past decade, residential electricity costs have increased steadily. In fact, the average U.S. residential electricity price is expected to rise more than two percent annually in the next few years. To that end, buildings contribute 39% of all carbon emissions in the United States; going solar, especially in large numbers (such as in the state of California), can have a huge impact on that number. An average residential solar panel system eliminates three to four tons of carbon emissions each year.

Southern California residents can expect to see additional pay-off from solar energy. The demand for properties equipped with solar panel systems will only continue to grow. In fact, a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Laboratory found that solar panels added an average of $17,000 to sales prices. In an oversaturated market such as Southern California’s, this is a big draw.

California has always been at the forefront of the solar energy movement, and sunny southern California is a great place to install solar panels. If you are thinking seriously about making the switch, we recommend browsing the Southern CA Solar Energy website for additional information and consultation directions.

Switching to LED: The Easiest Way to Increase Sustainability

If you live in southern California, you are likely searching for ways to increase your home’s sustainability. Unfortunately, most of us cannot afford the switch to sustainable appliances–let alone a comprehensive sustainability renovation. Luckily, a simple solution exists for those looking to cut costs and their carbon footprint. It’s not new, and it’s not particularly innovative, but making the switch to LED bulbs is the easiest way to accomplish sustainability goals.

Switching to LED light bulbs offers significant energy savings over incandescent, halogen, and compact fluorescent bulbs. On average, LED lights consume 80% less energy when compared with standard incandescent bulbs–that huge percentage difference quickly translates to dollars in your pocket. To that end, though LED lights require a larger up-front cost, they last up to 50,000 hours–around 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen bulb. If used 12 hours every day, an LED bulb will last more than 11 years. Over time, your energy savings will make up for the initial expense.

LED light bulbs are also more sustainable. With fewer necessary replacements and a reduced energy requirement, they utilize fewer resources than their halogen and incandescent counterparts. The carbon footprint of a person or household is directly related to the amount of electricity consumed. Estimates suggest that nearly half of our carbon footprint is due to electricity, while around a quarter is due to lighting alone. In decreasing the energy necessary to light your home, you significantly minimize your carbon footprint.

If you want an easy, low-cost, and fast way to make your southern California home more sustainable, switching to LED lighting is an excellent option. Bulbs are available for almost any purpose and in any shape, and new models offer dimming ability and softer, warmer light.

Sustainable Design for Wildfire Survival

Wildfires are changing the California real estate landscape. In late 2017, a single wildfire torched nearly 141,000 acres of land, forcing 212,000 to evacuate a massive section of southern California. More than 86,000 homes in Ventura and Los Angeles counties are at risk of severe damage by wildfire, and future blazes can extend farther north. Every southern California real estate decision should be informed by the potential for wildfire damage. To that end, basic architectural design decisions can greatly improve the chances of your home surviving one of these disasters.

 

Before we discuss architectural decisions, we should talk about location. The chaparral biome is most susceptible to wildfires; characterized by hot, dry summers and very mild winters, this climate encompasses southern California and northern Mexico, heightening the risk for fires. If you can help it, try your best to avoid this type of climate and ecosystem. Another way to address the risk? Build a sustainable mobile home or invest in a trendy “tiny house.” When the winds pick up, you can bring your house along to safety.

 

Protecting your home against wildfires starts with understanding the ways in which your home may be at risk. This starts with the exterior. When designing your southern California home, invest in ignition-resistant roofs. Some of the most insidious problems drip down through cracks and openings in the traditional Spanish tile roofs. These materials, with help from the wind, may only seek to exacerbate any wildfire coming in your direction. Builders may offer the option to fire-stop individual tiles in an existing roof, but you should choose tiles made of fire-rated roofing materials, picking a design that interlocks tightly.

 

Window protection is imperative in the southern California heat. The weakest link in defending against fires, you should focus on fire-proofing these features with a roll-down metal fire protector. Easily hidden by drapes and curtains, this is one of the only ways to protect yourself from shattering glass in the case of a wildfire. Moreover, builders should extensively research ember resistant exterior availability. Stucco, fake brick, tile, and concrete block—all climatologically appropriate and widely available—are perfect for resisting wildfire. Be sure to devote attention to the underside of overhangs, as flames may be trapped, resulting in very high temperatures.

 

Designing a new home (or redesigning your existing home) should be exciting, not scary. In implementing a few of these suggestions, you can increase the likelihood that your home will survive a potential wildfire; the decisions you make during the building process will determine the impact your home makes on the environment.