Green for Green - Save Money, Live Better - Use Less Energy!

Energy conservation and green building is the talk of the town, the president has it on his agenda, the energy industry talks of new energy sources every day, and government departments promote renewable energy and programs that encourage overall natural resource conservation and energy efficiency – it’s a hot topic and getting hotter!


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that US buildings account for 39% of our total energy use, 12 % of water consumption, 68% of electricity use and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions. The Department of Energy and the EPA combined forces and developed the Energy Star program; mostly known for its energy ratings on household appliances; it also provides an energy rating system for new homes. Why is Energy Star so important to a homebuyer? It provides an independently verified certificate of building quality.


There are quality standards for almost all products you buy, and a stamp that shows that someone checked to see that the product met the quality standard; that is, until you come to the most expensive product in everyone's life: their home.


Building to standards that are independently verified and tested keeps everyone involved committed to a quality level that otherwise would be questionable and at the discretion of an individual builder. The Energy Star certificate signifies a level of quality and performance that you can trust, and it is encouraging local builders to use it as a competitive advantage.


If you wish to go beyond just energy conservation the U.S. Green Building Council Leading Energy and Environment Design (LEED) for homes fills that bill.


Green home labels such as Energy Star, and LEED, have been established to verify and communicate to consumers that a home is designed and built to be energy efficient. LEED homes also feature efficient water use; sustainable non-toxic building materials; and other features that reduce their impact on a homeowner’s health and the environment.


Researchers recently studied data from 1.6 million homes sold in California over the last 5 years, and found that an average home priced at $400,000 would increase its price by 9% if it were labeled with LEED, or Energy Star. It is difficult to put an exact cost on all the direct and indirect advantages of a green labeled home; however, the EPA estimates an average 40% reduction in energy costs.


There are three main components associated with energy efficiency and comfort in homes. How tight the home is at preventing outside air and moisture from getting inside; insulations ability to keep the heat in during winter and out during summer, and how effective and efficient the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system is. The difference between a tight high-quality built home and a leaky low-quality home can be a 60 percent difference in energy bills, and a drafty, uncomfortable and unhealthy living space.


All buildings lose some energy in the form of winter heat loss and summer heat gain, and these losses need to be continuously replaced by your heating and cooling system. In reality, up to 40 percent of a home's energy can be lost through air and moisture leakage alone. Moisture damage also reduces the effect of insulation; and encourages mold, mildew and fungi buildup that can create health problems. Sealing and insulating a home effectively significantly reduces pollutants and keeps out pests and noise.


Heating and cooling is the most critical core component in a home; if it’s incorrectly selected, sized or installed a homeowner can end up paying a high price? Improperly sized equipment leads to discomfort, higher energy and equipment costs, shorter equipment life and noisy operation, and once it’s installed it is difficult and expensive to fix.


Every home has different energy needs and an analysis using the Air Conditioning Contractors Association manual J, S and D computer simulations is essential. Unfortunately, builders and homeowners who ask HVAC contractors for these calculations are usually met by a blank stare and resistance. If this happens move on and don’t be coerced by claimed rule-of-thumb analysis and experience based on all homes being the same tightness and insulation quality.


There are many other attributes too building energy and environmentally efficient homes, but one way to know that you have purchased one of the best is to look for the green labels of Energy Star and LEED. These labels guarantee a high level of independently verified construction quality. You will know exactly what levels of insulation you have, what the leakage levels are, how efficient all your mechanical systems are and how much money you will save on energy costs. You will also live in a very comfortable and environmentally friendly home that commands a higher price.