While the purchase price of an eco-friendly or "green" home can be higher, they
can also save money over the long run. New levels of innovation and creativity
in green home design has provided significant gains in energy conservation as
well as materials that are beautiful, long lasting and provide an aesthetic
living environment. Green homes are also designed to inhibit mold and be mostly
free of toxic chemicals, resulting in reduced health costs, and most
importantly, providing longevity and quality of life.
Many homebuyers already stretching their purchasing power to the maximum are
reluctant to spend an additional 10 to 20 percent for a comparable green home.
However, some green homes with a premium price can pay back those extra dollars
in as little as five to seven years and can pay even bigger dividends with a
higher resale value.
Energy savings is the number one area of savings in a green home, and that is
good for the environment, as your average home has a carbon footprint about the
same size as two cars. A properly insulated home contributes more to energy
savings than any other factor, so look for a new home that has insulated top
plates in the framing, caulked wall plates, foam core between framing and
exterior sheathing, and wall and ceiling insulation that exceeds minimum
Windows are another huge source of heat loss. Look for Energy Star-rated Low-E
windows with a rating of .33 or less. Most Low-E windows use vinyl-framed
windows, a material that is not considered green and can fail prematurely.
Although more expensive, a longer lasting and more green solution is for a
wooden/metal clad window. As with many green products and materials, longevity,
aesthetics and environmental sustainability are the payback for the extra
Highly inefficient forced air heating systems installed in unheated spaces lose
heat right out of the gate, with further losses occurring on long duct runs.
Forced air furnaces require regular maintenance and break down more often than
radiant heat systems, therefore increasing cost of ownership. Zone control is
difficult with forced air and contributes significantly to the circulation of
allergens and dangerous chemicals off-gassing from carpets, paints, finishes and
insulation. Cost savings with radiant heat is achieved using smaller amounts of
energy, zone control and lower cost of ownership with reduced maintenance and
healthier indoor air quality.
Hot water is another significant source of energy use inside the home. Solar
heated hot water systems can be installed on the roof to preheat tap water as
well as the water for a water-based radiant heat system. In our mild Northwest
climate, the water heater will probably never even turn on from May to October,
realizing a payback in as little as five to seven years, depending on individual
usages and water distribution layout.
A good energy conservation strategy also includes lights and appliances. Be
sure electric ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, hot water heaters,
washing machines and dryers all have the DOE Energy Star rating that ensures
savings up to 30 percent or better over non-rated appliances. Front loading
washing machines use less water and energy, while clothes come out dryer
requiring less time and energy to dry. About 25 percent of our electrical usage
comes from lighting, so look for homes that make good use of natural light to
reduce lighting demand and use fluorescent lights and compact fluorescent bulbs.
Green materials for flooring, countertops, insulation, wall finishes, cabinets,
exterior siding, and even the framing itself, should meet the standards of being
renewable, sustainably harvested, durable, recycled and recyclable, and do not
outgas toxic chemicals. While it can be difficult to find materials having all
these attributes, durability is especially important to increase times between
remodels, and when materials have finished their useful life, hopefully they can
be recycled or put into a landfill to easily decompose. The benefit of avoiding
expensive remodels prematurely is obvious, but the use of green materials also
ensures sustainable harvests of raw materials in an environmentally friendly way
for generations to come.
A healthier home that reduces energy bills, puts less CO2 in the atmosphere,
uses durable and sustainable materials and gives a higher resale value not only
makes good economic sense, but will collectively make our world a better place