What can you do when building a new home to lessen the harmful impact on the environment? With all the resources and knowledge available today – there is no reason not to build an environmentally conscientious, green home. Here are the 5 most important things you can do:
Don’t build more than you need. You don’t want to build too much house, instead you want your home to feel and fit “just right”. A house that is too large will contain wasted space. Unused space and cost you more to heat and cool. When planning your home, take careful consideration of your current lifestyle. By the same token, do take time to think ahead. If you plan on expanding your family, or plan on caring for your senior parents, put the right accommodations and resources into place. Will you be living in your home 10, 20 or 30 years? As you age, consider what your future needs and lifestyle are and plan for such.
Go solar. No matter where you live, build your home so you have unobstructed solar access from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon with a southern exposure. Place the majority of your windows on the southern side, and place overhangs or awnings to shield the sun’s hot summer rays. Use energy efficient low-e windows that will absorb and radiate the sun’s heat. (low-e windows can save up to 24% on heating & cooling costs) Plant trees near your home to offer natural shade on the southern sides and take advantage of skylights (with shades) to maximize the sun’s energy.
Use adequate insulation. The greatest energy savings to your home will come in the form of your home’s insulation. Spray polyurethane foam insulation (which contains no urea formaldehyde) has the highest R-Value in the market and uniformly seals cracks and crevices and eliminates drafts. And gives you a quieter indoor environment too.
Use environmentally friendly products. Everything from your roofing material, building materials, insulation, to your flooring, counters and cabinets and paints can be environmentally friendly. Many of today’s home products are made recycled materials (composite material decking, recycled glass), or are natural (cork, bamboo) and harvested sustainably. Other products are very durable (lifetime warranty shingles, granite countertops), keeping replacement waste out of landfills.
Use energy efficient products. Choose appliances and electronics with the Energy Star label for energy efficiency. For heating and cooling, consider geo-thermal. Geothermal can save up to 60% on heating & cooling compared to other systems, operates for years with little maintenance, and excess heat can be used to supplement the home hot water heater. Choose LED lighting, which can last 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and use 75% less energy. Widespread use of LEDs could save the equivalent of $30 billion at today’s electricity prices.
Some of the choices will increase your initial building cost, but they have the potential to save you a LOT more down the road. Green is the preferred, smart way to build a home that respects the environment, saves resources and your money in the long run.