Green Building

Going "Green" is the hot topic these days. While it sounds complicated there are well defined steps that make a home "Green" and Energy Star® compliant. Both are great features resulting in a more comfortable and durable home. In addition, it may mean significant cost savings in terms of energy and water efficiency as well as lower maintenance costs.

To earn the ENERGY STAR, a home must meet guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes. And with homebuyers increasingly interested in green building, energy efficiency is the place to start. That's because the energy used in homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and risks of global warming. So, the less energy used, the less air pollution generated. And the easy way to make sure a new home is energy efficient is to look for the blue ENERGY STAR mark, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. Learn more about how Green Begins with ENERGY STAR Blue.

This label identifies a home as having earned the ENERGY STAR Any home three stories or less can earn the ENERGY STAR label if it has been verified to meet EPA's guidelines, including: single family, attached, and low-rise multi-family homes; manufactured homes; systems-built homes (e.g., SIP, ICF, or modular construction); log homes, concrete homes; and even existing retrofitted homes. ENERGY STAR qualified homes can include a variety of 'tried-and-true' energy-efficient features that contribute to improved home quality and homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air pollution:

  1. Effective Insulation
    Properly installed and inspected insulation in floors, walls, and attics ensures even temperatures throughout the house, reduced energy use, and increased comfort.

  2. High-Performance Windows
    Energy-efficient windows employ advanced technologies, such as protective coatings and improved frames, to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer. These windows also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings

  3. Tight Construction and Ducts
    Sealing holes and cracks in the home's "envelope" and in heating and cooling duct systems helps reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, and noise. A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility and maintenance.

  4. Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment
    In addition to using less energy to operate, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems can be quieter, reduce indoor humidity, and improve the overall comfort of the home. When properly installed into a tightly sealed home, this equipment won't have to work so hard to heat and cool the home.

  5. Efficient Products
    ENERGY STAR qualified homes may also be equipped with ENERGY STAR qualified products — lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans, and appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines.

  6. Third-Party Verification
    With the help of independent Home Energy Raters, ENERGY STAR builder partners choose the most appropriate energy-saving features for their homes. Additionally, raters conduct onsite testing and inspections to verify the energy efficiency measures, as well as insulation, air tightness, and duct sealing details.

Benefits

Home buying is complex enough without having to know all the details of energy-efficient construction. Instead, look for the government-backed ENERGY STAR label to easily identify homes that are truly energy efficient. Find the house of your dreams and enjoy peace of mind knowing that it also meets strict energy efficiency guidelines.

LOWER OWNERSHIP COST
Compared with standard homes, ENERGY STAR qualified homes use substantially less energy for heating, cooling, and water heating-delivering $200 to $400 in annual savings. Over the average 7 to 8 years you may live in your home, this adds up to thousands of dollars saved on utility bills. Additional savings on maintenance can also be substantial. Financing your home purchase using an energy efficient mortgage can also lead to savings.

BETTER PERFORMANCE
Properly installed energy-efficient improvements deliver better protection against cold, heat, drafts, moisture, pollution, and noise. An energy-efficient home helps ensure consistent temperatures between and across rooms, improved indoor air quality, and greater durability.

SMART INVESTMENT
To date, more than 8,500 home builders have partnered with EPA to construct more than 1 million ENERGY STAR qualified homes. The trend is clear. By choosing a home with the ENERGY STAR label, you can be confident that it will have an increasingly valued feature when the time comes to sell.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Did you know that your home can be a greater source of pollution than your car? In fact, 16 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from the energy used in houses nationwide. Energy used in our homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and global warming. Simply put, the less energy we use in our homes, the less air pollution we generate.



Key Components of a Green Home

Green homes incorporate environmental considerations and resource efficiency into every step of the building and development process to minimize environmental impact. The design, construction, and operation of a home must focus on energy and water efficiency, resource efficient building design and materials, indoor environmental quality, and must take the home's overall impact on the environment into account.

Energy-Efficient Features
Many of the energy-efficient qualities of a green home are easy to spot. Appliances, windows, and water heating systems will likely have ENERGY STAR® ratings. The home should also include efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs. Renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic electricity and water heating systems, further decrease the overall energy consumption within the home.

Water-Efficient Features
Fixtures and appliances such as low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets, and ENERGY STAR dishwashers and washing machines all conserve water. Programmed, low-volume irrigation systems, rainwater collection systems, wastewater treatment systems, and hot water recirculation systems also save water.

Resource-Efficient Features
These decisions—from home size, to orientation on the lot, to floor plan layout—are made in the design of your home and development of the lot. The house orientation and design should take advantage of natural daylight to reduce lighting needs, and should use strategies to reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. The home should contain renewable materials, including rapidly-renewable wood species such as bamboo, and recycled-content materials in carpets, tiles, and concrete formulations.

Indoor Air Quality Features
The heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC) must be appropriately sized for an efficient and properly ventilated home. Fans in the kitchen and bathrooms should cycle fresh air inside, and release stale air. Low-VOC paints and finishes and wall papers should be used as well.

Outside the Home
In a green home, care should be taken to preserve trees and other vegetation native to the area. Landscaping should contain plants that are appropriate for the climate, and grouped according to water needs. Driveways and other impervious surfaces should be reduced as much as possible, and may be composed of gravel, permeable block pavers, grids, or other permeable systems.