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Residential energy use causes 21% of Greenhouse emissions, more than that blamed on cars. Concern about the quality of our future has brought focus on Green building in North Carolina and across the country. This blog is not intended to initiate debate, but to bring clarity to an important focus in construction. Last month we wrote of some easy updates for existing homes, the focus here are construction ideas that with a little green, can make you some Green.
Green homes can be identified/ certified by four methods with many similarities:
Energy Star Homes (EPA guidelines with third party verification)
NC Healthybuilt Homes ( an inclusive laundry list of items that a builder gets awarded points for completing from site management to material us )
Leed for Homes (design and efficency list)
National Green Building Standards for Homes
These are different certifications but have a common goal of making homes 20 to 30% more efficient and lowering their impact on the enviroment.
Borrowing from each of these programs, here are some practical ideas that can be easily implemented in new construction but can also add efficiency to existing homes:
Effective insulation- Spray polyurethane Foam (SPF) is a very effective product because it fill holes made for wiring and plumbing, fills holes often missed in caulking, and it doesn’t compress as found in areas of traditional insulation. SPF is best used in new construction because the vapors given off by the foam can be toxic. In new constuction those vapors have time to disipate.
High preformance windows- windows are rated as Energy Star just like appliances.
Tight construction and ducts- HVAC ducts can be taped to prevent leakage particularly around boots. There are also whole house wrap products like Tyvac that can help lower energy loss.
Efficent heating, cooling, and heating of hotwater- Heating water accounts for approximately 15% of a homes energy use. Tank-less hot water heaters are heater’s that only heat water as it is needed, instead of all the time as with a traditional (tank ) heater. Heating 20 to 80 gallons of water constantly produces standby energy losses. It is estimated that tank-less systems produce 45% to 60% saving vs. minimum standard equipment.
High efficiency HVAC systems should also be part of any new construction or renovation plan. Most HVAC contractors use computer modeling to effectively map the most efficent size and seer for a residence.
Energy Star appliances- Appliances are responsible for 20% of the energy use in a typical home, so improvement here can produce dramatic savings.
Use of CFLs in lighting generates 75% less heat when lighting a home plus they last up to ten times longer than a traditional light bulb.
Use of renewable building products should also be a key consideration. Wood products like bamboo and pine are classified as renewable and thus enviromentally sound to use. Some builders are also using recycled products and/or those salvaged during demolition or renovation. Old mantles, savaged marble, old oak doors, and wood floors are all being reused.
Water efficient plumbing fixtures- Many new plumbing fixtures offer efficient flushing systems and water flow inhibiters. Toto offers some cool products for the bath, and if you want to take it up a notch, rain water collection systems can be used in irrigation.
Just as a point of interest, typical hot water usuage in a home:
Clothes washer 26%
Learn more at energystar.gov