Owning a home is considered by many to be a fundamental goal to strive towards. Luckily, home building and remodeling offer some of the greatest opportunities to improve our relationship with the environment.
The challenge comes in coordinating the effort needed to build and refurbish "green." Not all architects and contractors are experienced in working with eco-friendly materials or alternative energy sources; the same is true for most do-it-yourselfers.
You may have to compromise some of your dream-home plans if, for example, you've had your heart set on rare Brazilian rosewood floors. Additionally, some conservation choices aren't initially cheap, such as installing solar panels. But in the long run, building more energy-efficient houses is a big cost-saver.
The following Web sites allow you to determine how efficient your home is and provide a good overview of the advantages and alternatives necessary to build an efficient home:
Home Improvement, EnergyStar Labeled Homes program
An ENERGY STAR labeled home generally uses 30 percent less energy for heating, cooling and water heating than a home built to the Model Energy Code, while protecting the environment and saving you money. Labeled homes are typically newly built homes that have been verified to meet certain energy efficiency guidelines, but can also include existing homes. Check out the website.
Home Energy Saver
Home Energy Saver is a detailed web-based calculator that compares your home's efficiency to that of other homes in your area and provides suggestions to upgrade and improve the efficiency of your home.
Green Building Advisor
Green Building Advisor is an innovative, interactive software tool that helps you identify green design strategies for your building projects. Enter information about a project and – based on those inputs – GBA generates a prioritized list of strategies organized into categories for easy review. It also includes case studies, a product database, and is web-interactive.
Here are some more great tips:
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
They use an astounding 75 percent less electricity, last 10 times longer, and while initially costing more to buy each CFL will net you $50 in savings.
NOTE: Dimmer switches, currently, are not an electricity-saving mechanism.
Look for the Energy Star label if you need new appliances.
This is a certification of efficiency from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Use a solar-powered water heater.
Fact sheets are available from the US Department of Energy, and also check out the database of states that offer solar incentives.
Install ceiling fans.
You'll be surprised how much less air conditioning you'll need.
Improve insulation in your ceiling or attic, caulk cracks, and replace worn weather-stripping.
Use "low-emittance" windows.
These double-paned windows are filled with argon gas and coated with an invisible layer of metallic oxide or silver to keep in light energy and to prevent radiant heat from escaping.
What it comes down to is this: Having the home you want and having an eco-friendly home are no longer zip codes apart. Green options keep multiplying and increasingly make economic sense. As the number of people on earth continues to grow, green housing is more vital than ever.
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