Green Living

Friday, September 16, 2011   /   by Justin Hoffmann

Green Living

Today, House & Home introduces a new series that will detail how to incorporate green features throughout the home for increased energy efficiency, improved health and safety, and overall comfort and cost savings. This week’s article begins with an explanation of what green means.

From flooring to paint, there are lots of ways to green up your home — and lots of reasons, too. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier for the people who live in it.

Tori Spott, a real estate agent with Shorewest who has a Green Designation from the National Association of Realtors, said that most homeowners want to be environmentally friendly, but they’re often concerned about the expense of going green and whether they’ll see a return on the money and time invested.

“The truth is, there are many easy and affordable ways to make your home green,” Spott said. “Simply replacing your existing appliances with greener versions will reduce energy consumption, which in turn reduces your energy bill.”

Why go green?
Going green is no longer a trend — it’s become a common-sense way to live. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, green homes are healthier, more comfortable, more durable, more energy efficient and have much a smaller environmental footprint than conventional homes.

If you’re ready to take steps toward greening your home, here are some green products and practices to help you get started.

• See the light – Replace traditional incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CFLs use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

• Conserve water – Showering is one of the leading uses of water in the home, accounting for nearly 17% of residential indoor water use, or about 30 gallons per household per day. According to WaterSense, an EPA-sponsored partnership program, installing a low-flow showerhead can help households save more than 2,300 gallons of water per year, without sacrificing shower performance.

• Breathe easier – Forgo standard wall paint, which typically contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. Instead, buy a zero- or low-VOC paint product, now offered by most major paint manufacturers.

• Save energy – Install a programmable thermostat, an ideal tool for controlling the heating and cooling of your home. Simply by using pre-programmed settings (i.e. programming a cooler temperature during the day when the house is empty), a programmable thermostat can save about $180 every year in energy costs according to the EPA.

The green brand
When incorporating green building products into your home, be sure they have been certified as eco-friendly. Below are some terms from reputable and federally approved organizations that you should be aware of when shopping for green home goods.

• Energy Star – A trusted, government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, Energy Star-labeled products meet energy efficiency specifications based on a set of key guiding principles, including the ability to achieve energy efficiency through broadly-available, non-proprietary technologies.

• LEED for Homes – A voluntary rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes.

• WaterSense – The WaterSense label makes it easy for consumers to recognize products and programs that save water without sacrificing performance or quality. Independent, third-party licensed certifying bodies certify that products meet EPA criteria for water efficiency and performance by following testing and certification protocols specific to each product category.

In the long run, a greener home isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also good for homeowners. Minor changes like installing ceiling fans and low-flow toilets or switching to low-VOC paint can add up to major cost saving and reduce potential health risks for families.

By Rebecca R. Konya

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