Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is a green home / common misconceptions / energy saving tips

What is a Green Home

Although certifications are necessary to officially designate a home “green,” anyone can make their home and their lives greener. A home’s individual green features are what make it environmentally friendly or “greener.” An environmentally friendly home is a home that—compared with a standard home—uses less energy, water, and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier for its inhabitants. Homes can be built green-conscious, or they can undergo green enhancements (eco-conscious alterations or remodels) after they are created.

A home that is eco-friendly should encompass one or all of the five key green principles outlined below and should:
* Conserve natural resources
* Use energy efficiently
* Have improved indoor air quality relative to normal building standards
* Create less waste to build and live relative to normal building standards
* Be part of a livable community

The home pictured above, Coachella Valley’s first LEED®-(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified home, includes features that will result in a 75 percent water savings and a 30 percent savings on a typical electric or gas bill. Additional features: ENERGY STAR appliances; efficient glass; extra insulation; paperless drywall; solar electricity; special high-efficiency HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning); a “fresh-air exchange” system that prevents stale air from being kept inside the house; drought-friendly landscaping and regionally native plants; tank-less water heaters in the house and casita; and water-saving faucets and toilets.

Energy Saving Tips

Unplug Electronics

  • Unplug electronics, battery chargers and other equipment when not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.

Save Water

  • Installing faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads will cut water heating costs by 50% and save up to $300 per year. It will also cut water use by up to 50%. As much as 19% of California electricity is used to pump, transport and treat water.

Adjust Your Thermostat

  • Setting your air conditioner 5° higher will save up to 20% on cooling costs.

Buy Energy Efficient Appliances

  • Always buy ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and equipment - they're up to 40% more efficient. Find rebates and incentives in your area using our rebate finder.

Adjust Your Water Heater

  • Turn your water heater down to 120° or the "Normal" setting when home, and to the lowest setting when away. Water heating accounts for about 13% of home energy costs.

Keep Cool With Ceiling Fans

  • Reduce air conditioning costs by using fans, keeping windows and doors shut and closing shades during the day. Most ceiling fans use less energy than a light bulb.

Be Smart About Lighting

  • Turn off unnecessary lighting and use task or desktop lamps with CFLs instead of overhead lights.

Power Down Your Computer

  • Enable "power management" on all computers and make sure to turn them off at night. A laptop computer uses up to 90% less energy than bigger desktop models.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water

  • When possible, wash clothes in cold water. About 90% of the energy used in a clothes washer goes to water heating.

Load Up Your Dishwasher

  • Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when fully loaded. Fewer loads reduce energy and water use.

Maintain Your Clothes Dryer

  • Make sure your dryer's outside vent is clear and clean the lint filter after every load. When shopping for a new dryer look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off when clothes are dry.

Find and Seal Leaks

  • Sealing cracks, gaps, leaks and adding insulation can save up to 20% on home heating and cooling costs.
  • Test for air leaks by holding a lit incense stick next to windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing or weather stripping.

Take a room-by-room tour of ENERGY STAR @ home and learn what you can do for a more comfortable home that saves energy, money and our environment. Launch the room-by-room tour in a popup window

Good Investment Recommendations

Programmable Thermostat

  • Install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat – It can save up to $100 per year in coastal areas and over $150 inland and pays for itself in less than 12 months. Make sure to install it away from natural cool and hot spots.

Seal Your Ducts

  • Have your heating and cooling ducts professionally sealed to save up to $120 in coastal areas and up to $190 inland per year.

Seal Your Home

  • Seal your home's envelope – walls, floor, ceiling and roof – to save up to 10% on your annual energy bill:
    • Add weather stripping around windows and doors to reduce drafts.
    • Use caulking to seal around ducts, plumbing and any other openings in walls, floors and ceilings to reduce air leakage. Begin in the attic, a common place for warm air to escape.
    • Seal larger gaps that cannot be covered with caulk or with expanding foam.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

  • After air sealing, determine the current level of insulation. In the attic, measure the depth of existing insulation using a ruler. If there is less than R-22 (7 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 6 inches of cellulose) you could probably benefit by adding more. Most U.S. homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic. Insulating ceilings, walls, attics, floors, crawl spaces and basements to recommended standards can reduce heating and cooling costs by 5% to 25%.

Upgrade Your Heating System

  • Replace heating equipment more than 15 years old with new ENERGY STAR qualified models. Equipment must be sized and installed properly.
    • Old furnaces cost more to operate per year than new, ENERGY STAR qualified models that are 15% more efficient than standard models.
    • An ENERGY STAR qualified electric heat pump is 20% more efficient and can save you about $130 annually.
    • An ENERGY STAR qualified boiler uses features like electric ignition and new combustion technologies that extract more heat from the same amount of fuel, to be 10% more efficient than a new, standard model.

Maintain Your Cooling System

  • Have your air conditioning unit serviced to cut 15% of cooling costs.


  • Install high efficiency windows, which are 40% more efficient than standard windows. Consider replacing single-pane windows with double-pane windows that are gas-filled with high performance glass (e.g., low emissivity or "low-e" glass). ENERGY STAR qualified windows may help reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 15%. The windows must be sized and installed properly.

Common Misconceptions about Green Homes

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about green homes--as well as current information.

1) Green homes are more expensive. Although some green remodels and buildings can be expensive, buying a new green home doesn’t have to be more expensive than a traditional home. When builders construct a new home to “green” certification standards, they often pass the cost along to the buyer, which can make the initial price of a new green home higher than that of a traditional one. However, as energy costs continue to rise, many buyers are finding the long-term savings they will accrue from an energy-efficient house outweigh the higher price tag. Also, as the practice of green construction increases, the cost of green building will continue to decrease.

2) Anything that claims to be green, is. Many companies are jumping on the green bandwagon; however, there are many products that claim to be green, but in fact aren’t. Your green-credentialed REALTOR® or EcoBroker® should be able to help you discern what is truly “green” and what is not. Make sure you—and your REALTOR®—know the difference and can cut through the greenwashing.

3) A new home is always a green home. Just because a home is newly built doesn’t necessarily make it environmentally friendly or energy efficient (a key component to having an eco-conscious home). In fact, most new homes are NOT environmentally friendly, as typical materials utilized include VOCs, etc. Having a professional energy audit conducted is the best way to find out how energy efficient a new home is.

4) Green homes look unconventional. As the above photo demonstrates, green homes can look the same as traditional homes; they just have different features that make them more environmentally friendly.

5) Green homes are uncomfortable. Green homes can have the same features as a typical home; they just function in a different, more eco-conscious way. Additionally, although some green products, like low-flow toilets, often get a bad rap for not working properly, typically, green products function at the same, if not higher, levels than your standard products.

Did You Know?: Building a standard 2,500-square foot-home creates approximately two tons of construction waste. Construction of a green home usually generates 50 to 90 percent less waste.

Check out these fine homes:

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