Whether it is a new home you are building from the ground-up, or your existing home that can be made more energy-efficient, you can take charge of your effect on the environment for future generations. Residential Home Services Network estimates that 16% of all greenhouse gasses come from residential dwellings. That means human activity from our homes is contributing to warming global temperatures, shrinking ice sheets, rising sea levels, and a whole host of other detriments to the earth. The good news is that you can do something about it.
What does “green” even mean?
“The trouble is ‘green’ is that it’s a very vague term that doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” says Scott Branc, owner of New Urban Home Builders LLC. “We bring in an energy consultant to specifically define what energy-efficient upgrades we will use.” Owning a greener home to most means living in a home that is better for the planet than older homes or those with a very high HERS rating. The HERS Index is a rating assigned to a home based on its energy-efficiency. The lower the number, the more energy-efficient the home is. The reference average home has a HERS Index rating of 100, so a home with a rating of 70 is 30% more efficient.
Where do I start?
To begin, have your home HERS rated, or if building a new home, talk with your builder about the score of their average home. They will look at air leakage, attics and crawl spaces, ceilings and roofs, windows, vents, your HVAC system, among others. Branc explains that his ratings are in the low 50s- high 40s, “it depends on what level of energy-efficiency the client is looking for. We have a base level of insulating and then begin to build up with recovery ventilators, net zero heating and cooling, geothermal options, and even more beyond that.”
What you can do now
“The number one way to increase energy-efficiency is to add insulation,” says Branc. “That way you’re getting the most bang for your buck and decreasing energy loss.” Spray foam insulation is a very effective way of insulating your attic and forcing warm air to stay contained in the living areas of your home. “Make sure the windows don’t leak,” Branc suggests. “Windows are the second biggest source of air infiltration which decreases your R-value.” R-value is the measure of heat transfer in a home. The higher the R value, the less air from your home is being transferred through the walls and windows.
Don’t have the money right now to make these updates? Swap out your appliances for some that are Energy-Star rated. At least swap out your light bulbs for LED or compact florescent lamps (CFLs). The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors reports that CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy. You can also consider installing efficient low-flow showerheads. A FREE change can be the way you do your laundry. Wait until you can run a full load of laundry, avoid high-temperature settings, and air-dry clothes when possible.
It can be hard to justify all the up-front costs of building a new green home or renovating to a more energy-efficient home because there is no tangible way to see your impact on the environment. It is, however, something you can see on every heating, cooling, and water bill you receive after the renovations. Installing energy-efficient appliances not only benefits the common good, but it helps you save money in the long-run! In energy-efficient homes you are also getting rid of the “drafty home” feel and keeping heat inside during the winter. It’s a win for the ecosystem and it’s a win for your wallet.