Everyone Can Build Green

By Dave Knospe

Building green or retrofitting a home to be more green is at the top of many home owner’s priority lists. In one informal poll 64% of the people questioned said the main reason they were considering green was the need to reduce energy costs. Another 55% wanted to go green for the health benefits, and almost half felt it was just the right thing to do.

You could consider building green, or retrofitting your home, as a method of future-proofing your home, especially when it comes to rising energy costs. There are some very simple steps you can take to make sure your home is green.

Stop the drafts

One of the biggest energy drains for any home is the draft. These are the air leaks that let warm air out and cold air in. You feel this especially when the wind start to blow. The higher the wind speed, the faster your house cools.

Stopping the drafts is one of the simpler green strategies to put in place. Make sure all your moving windows and doors are properly weatherstripped. Watch for weather stripping that is brittle or torn. Check all the pipes that enter the house. Are they caulked? Check for cracks in the caulking. Shrinkage isn’t uncommon, so a touch-up may be needed. And be sure to make sure there are no gaps where the walls meet the foundation.

Beef up the attic insulation.

Building green and retrofitting for a greener home involves making sure the roof isn’t letting all your heat out. While heat radiates in all directions, hot air circulates toward the ceiling. If your roof isn’t insulated adequately, it will add significantly to your energy bill each month. A foot deep is the recommendation for maximum effect.

Install double or triple pane windows.

If you are building a new home, install double pane windows with low-E glass. Some people claim that triple pane windows are overkill, but if you live in a very cold climate or very hot climate, they may well be worth the extra expense. Avoid windows made of metal as these conduct cold and heat into your home. Wood and vinyl are better choices. Make sure that wood frames have quality seals.

It is relatively easy to retrofit older homes with energy efficient windows. If your budget won’t allow it, installing the plastic storm window kits inside your home is a good alternative. Plastic is resists the flow of heat and will help keep your warm air in and the cold air out.

Install your water heater in the house.

How many times have you seen the hot water heater sitting in the cold garage or basement? This is a real energy waster. You can cut energy costs considerably by just installing the water heater in the house. If it’s too late for that, make sure you wrap the heater in a water heater jacket. Much like putting on a down coat to ward off the cold, a fiberglass jacket helps slow the penetration of cold into the tank. If you stay in the cold long enough, though, you know how the cold eventually gets to you. The same thing happens to the hot water heater.

Insulate pipes and air ducts.

Make sure that hot water pipes are wrapped with pipe insulation. Insulate the first six feet of water pipe going into your hot water heater, as well. This helps prevent cycling which can cool your house down.

Make sure that any metal air ducts don’t leak. You want all your hot air to reach its destination. And then make sure they are properly insulated. Metal is one of the best conductors for hot and cold. Exposure to the cold air in the basement will waste valuable energy.

Use compact fluorescent bulbs.

The price has come down so much on these bulbs, there just isn’t any excuse to not use them for most applications. The only place they don’t work is in unvented light fixtures. Considering how much you save in electricity usage with one CF bulb, replacing obsolete fixtures makes a lot of sense.

If you build all these green tips into your new home, you will future-proof your home from escalating energy costs. It doesn’t cost that much to retrofit an older home with these green ideas either. Building green and rebuilding green offer financial as well as ecological rewards.

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