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Go Green, Save Green
Thanks to higher standards and stricter building codes, many of today’s new-built homes already feature environmentally friendly materials, appliances and operating systems.
Unfortunately most – if not all – older homes aren’t so lucky. Rarely were features and materials like these included in their original construction. But thanks to an increased awareness by homeowners looking to upgrade their homes, more and more older homes are getting a “green facelift.”
Change Is Good
The modern homeowner considers much more than just cosmetic change when they plan their renovation. Every aspect of the process—the actual construction, the materials used and how the end result can continue to help the environment are taken into account. “Homeowners often start a renovation project due to comfort issues, durability concerns, desired aesthetic/functionality changes or increased space needs,” says Laura Capps, director of residential green building services for Southface in Atlanta. “Once they’ve decided to make changes to the home, they begin to investigate options for making those upgrades more energy and water efficient, and healthier for their family.”
Although many renovations start with projects that improve water and energy efficiency, there are many other green renovation options. “When selecting materials and appliances, homeowners are able to specify green products that will save them money, improve indoor air quality and increase comfort while having less of an impact on the environment,” Capps says. “Common examples include low-VOC paints and sealants, recycled-content materials, ENERGY STAR appliances, WaterSense fixtures, and high-efficiency lighting. Less obvious, but often more critical, are those improvements that cannot be seen once the renovation is completed, such as air sealing, duct sealing, filter changes, improved insulation, spot and whole-house ventilation, and corrected moisture-management issues.”
Even the job site itself can be green, says Judy Mozen, CR, GCP, president of Homecrafted Homes Inc. in Roswell. For example, the crew can recycle materials whenever possible (including workers’ drink cans and bottles), reuse wood, and give or sell materials to those who can use them in a brand new way.
Easy Ways to Be Green
So what are the most common ways you can evolve your home into a green machine?
1. An easy place to start is to better insulate your home, using spray foam or traditional insulation, Mozen says. “It’s not just to keep utility bills down, but spray foam can also reduce noise,” she says.
2. Along these same lines, Mozen says homeowners are also“tightening” their homes, meaning they are plugging air leaks by weather-stripping around doors, foaming (with insulation) around exterior pipes coming into the home, replacing gaskets and caulking around exterior light fixtures, and installing gaskets around electrical sockets. “Essentially, you are sealing it up so you can reduce your heating and cooling costs,” she says. “Even a circle with a 1-inch diameter can make a big difference.”
3. Many homeowners are also opting to replace or upgrade their heating system with high-efficiency equipment, as well as adding insulation and high-performance windows, says Randy Glazer, president of Glazer Design & Construction in Atlanta.
4. Reducing water usage is another good starting point. “Start simple with changing to a dual-flush commode so you use only the water you need,” Mozen says. Another suggestion is upgrading the dishwasher or washing machine with energy- and water-efficient models. These cut down on both water and electricity use, resulting in lower utility bills.
5. If you aren’t sure where to start with your home, Capps recommends a whole-house assessment to identify the best bang-for-buck green improvements to make during the renovation. “Those improvements typically will include air sealing, duct sealing, insulation, plus spot and whole-house ventilation,” she says. “Once those core needs have been addressed, changing light bulbs, water fixtures and appliances to energy- and water-saving devices and choosing ENERGY STAR appliances at time of replacement will go a long way.”
6. When shopping for eco-friendly products, be sure to shop around to find what works best for your home and your budget. “Always replace with the most energy-efficient product you can afford,” Mozen says. “Just replace with something better than what you had before.”
In fact, every step you take to improve the “green” side of your home could reap big rewards for both you and the environment. “Consumers are recognizing the connection between green homes and improvements to health and utility savings,” Capps says. “Real estate transactions are doing more to disclose the energy costs associated with homes, further informing consumers on the costs of not being green. As awareness increases, the market will continue to meet the demand. Atlanta and other markets throughout the country have shown a clear increase in sales price for green homes with reduced listing time.”
As with any renovation project, going “green” takes work and money, so it’s important to do careful research so you can include those eco-friendly aspects into your overall renovation. The end result could leave your neighbors “green” with envy.
Green Adds Up
Technology can help homeowners not only save money but also reduce their negative impact on the environment. From light bulbs and dishwashers to windows and washing machines, modern technology decreases energy and water consumption while still providing quality services.
Here are just a few of the ways “green” renovations and upgrades can be good for you, your wallet and the great outdoors.
• A new ENERGY STAR-qualified dishwasher will save an average of 1,300 gallons of water during its lifetime.
• Nearly 70 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, which releases greenhouse gases and other air pollutants into the atmosphere. Using energy-efficient appliances that use less energy will help reduce air pollution and combat global climate change.
• Homes with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances save about 30 percent of indoor water use and yield substantial savings on water, sewer and energy bills.
• A family of four can save 14,000 to 25,000 gallons of water per year by installing high-efficiency toilets.
• Stopping household water leaks can stop an average of 10,000-plus gallons of wasted water for each U.S. family per year.
• If every American home replaced a single light bulb with one Energy Star bulb, together we would prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the carbon sequestered annually by more than 3 million acres of average U.S. forests.
• By choosing ENERGY STAR products, people have already saved more than $267 billion on utility bills and reduced carbon pollution by 2.1 billion tons.
• An ENERGY STAR light bulb saves about $6 a year in electricity costs and can save between $40 and $135 during its lifetime. It also uses approximately 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb, lasts 10 to 25 times longer, and produces about 75 percent less heat, which can reduce home cooling costs.
Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency & U.S. Department of Energy