Incorporate Green Elements Into Your Building and Design
● Published by Aimee Cormier
By Michelle Matthews Calloway
Save Money By Using Energy-Efficient Materials
The New Year is an exciting time filled with changes and transitions. Many individuals use this time to set financial goals, often with the purpose of achieving home ownership. These efforts eventually yield the sweet fruit of sacrifice, and the dream comes true: It’s time to build or buy a new home.
Despite the monetary outlays involved in purchasing or building a house, choosing to “go green” will enable homeowners to save money for years to come. Follow these “green” strategies and keep some “green” in your pocket!
What Makes A Home “Green?”
A green home is designed to improve the way the home uses energy, water and materials, to reduce the impact on human health and the environment. When a homebuilder considers a green home, the builder makes decisions to use products that are environmentally friendly and sustainable throughout the building process. These decisions minimize the environmental impact of the home not only during the months of building, but also during the years of inhabitance.
Advantages And Features Of ENERGY STAR® Certification
If you decide to purchase a previously built home, determine from the onset if the home is ENERGY STAR® certified. A new home possessing the ENERGY STAR® label has been inspected, tested and verified to meet strict requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Homes with ENERGY STAR® certifications are designed and built to standards well above most other homes on the market. In comparison, ENERGY STAR® homes provide as much as 30 percent in energy savings. In addition to energy savings, these certified homes deliver better quality, comfort and durability.
Efficient walls and windows are one of many features in ENERGY STAR® certified homes. In addition to high-performance windows, the insulation in walls, floors and attics is designed and installed to block drafts. Even the air ducts are placed with efficiency in mind, so that rooms get enough air to have consistent, comfortable temperatures throughout the house. Proper placement is important because if the ductwork is too small, the home’s heating and air conditioning units will not run at peak efficiency – thus creating higher utility bills over time. Additionally, energy efficient equipment and products used for heating and cooling the house save money and offer comfort.
These energy efficient improvements not only economize, they provide a house with warmth in the winter and cool in the summer. By building energy efficient houses, homeowners can operate their homes with less power and fewer resources. Such a green choice will continue to remit long after the home is a reality.
Examine Building Products
Don’t despair if new construction is out of your price range. Even if the homes shown to you by your realtor are not ENERGY STAR® certified, you can still select a home offering energy efficiency and green features – if you know what to look for.
When the house is shown, don’t focus strictly on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Be sure to examine carefully the house to determine if the building products used in the home will reduce energy bills. Before going house hunting, create a checklist of ENERGY STAR® appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators, light bulbs and clothes washers. Include HVAC systems and energy efficient windows on your list. Check the energy ratings of the heating and air conditioning unit.
Examine The Roof
Also, look for a roof that offers an excellent warranty. Ask about the age and materials used for the roof; and look out for curling, broken, missing or fading shingles.
Ideally, the roof should have a strong warranty – a 50-year warranty is considered excellent. This certification will ensure that you won’t have to replace the roof for a long time. For a green option, look for a home with a “Cool Roof” with an ENERGY STAR® rating that can lower the overall energy costs of the home. The Cool Roof Rating Council defines a “Cool Roof” as one that strongly reflects sunlight and also cools itself by efficiently releasing radiation to its surroundings. The roof stays cooler and reduces the amount of heat transferred to the building below.
Check The Front Door
Did you know that the door to the home could play a key role in keeping the home green and energy efficient? When house hunting, carefully examine the main entry door to determine its composition. Solid fiberglass doors are usually as much as four times more energy efficient than solid wood doors. Something else to consider: fiberglass doors resist rotting, wear and tear and weather damage.
Be sure to look carefully at the weather stripping around the door. Make sure it’s not worn out; old weather stripping can cause air leakage. Look for bubbling, faded paint and rust and other signs of wear. Your keen visual inspection will determine if the door needs to be replaced.
What About The Windows?
Ask the realtor when the windows were last replaced in the home and find out what type of framing material was used. Don’t be drawn in simply by aesthetics – can you open the windows? One way to determine the age of the windows is by operating them. They should open, close and lock very smoothly.
The windows in many energy efficient homes are framed with vinyl because vinyl offers excellent insulation. Windows that are considered “top of the line” have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction for optimal energy efficiency.
Size Up The Siding
Is the home constructed of low-maintenance exterior siding, brick or wood? What about the shutters and trim? These essentials are important factors to consider when searching for your new home. Examine the trim work, porch railings, shutters and any other exterior decorative features. If these are old, poorly installed or made with substandard products, you may find signs of rotting, insect infestation or the need for repainting or repair.
Look carefully at each side of the home’s exterior for signs of rotting, loose or missing pieces or, heaven forbid, termite damage. Vinyl and other polymeric siding, including insulated siding, are each certified and independently verified to meet or exceed unique quality standards and performance characteristics. Brick and stucco exteriors are also easy to maintain and provide dependable, long-lasting exteriors.
One Final Option
You don’t have to move or purchase a new home to go green. Instead, you can transform your present home into a green one by applying many of the tips in this article. You can start big, even with a small budget, by purchasing ENERGY STAR® certified appliances. Let this discussion be a guide for a greener energy efficient home.