If I Want a Green(er) Home Where Do I Start?

There are no national standards for what a “green” home really is.  The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) has the most recognized green building and retrofitting/remodeling  standards in the country.   But there are others—all with different standards.  There’s the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Build It Green and Built Green (yes, different organizations).  Then there are local standards such as Arlington, Virginia’s Green Home Choice Program.  Well you get the picture–whose standards do you use.  But here’s the thing—right now, in the Washington Metro area where I do business, there just aren’t a lot of new homes being built to any particular “green” standards.  Many builders are at least building all new homes to EnergyStar standards.  But as I said last week, energy efficiency alone does not a “green” home make.  And with the exception of USGBC, most of these ratings are for new construction.

So most of my clients are just trying to figure out what things they should do to upgrade and retrofit their older existing homes—either the one they’re buying or the one they’re selling—to make them more eco-friendly.  What is the first thing you should do?  Well I believe reducing your energy consumption is one of the most important and cost effective things to do first.  This isn’t necessarily sexy like putting in cork or bamboo floors or ice stone countertops. But it will have a measurable effect on reducing your impact on dwindling and non-renewable resources as well as significantly reducing utility bills.  Even if your home is only ten years old, it probably pretty energy inefficient.

First, insulate. I know—BOOOORING.  Oh well—so use the money you save on utility bills to buy an Ipad or something.  The cost of heating and cooling a home is 50-60 % of the total energy bill.  A few hundred dollars spent on insulation alone can cut a home’s energy bill by up to 20% per year.  There are many types of insulation and I’m not going to discuss them here.  But there are environmental concerns  to some degree for most of them.  So check out this link that discusses the pros and cons.  Some of the cons do have indoor air quality issues.  I will tell you that my favorite insulation is made from blue jeans. It’s the ultimate in reduce (get rid of some of your 10 pairs of jeans), reuse, and recycle thinking.

Second, air seal–also not exciting.  But like insulation, air sealing stops you from paying to heat and cool the outside of  your home. You can find many leaks simply by feeling the air coming in around doors and windows.  However, many leaks that come from spaces holes in attics, basements and crawl spaces.  These can be harder to find and a much bigger energy waster.  You might consider having a professional energy audit.  Energy auditors use equipment, such as infrared cameras and blower doors,  designed to suss out all the leaks in your house.  Some state energy departments have programs that are free or for a nominal fee, will do an energy rating on your home.

Oh, and by the way– there’s a 30% federal tax credit (up to $1500) on energy efficiency purchases until December 31, 2010. So this is the year to give that home you’re buying or selling, an energy makeover.

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Gale10

Gayle Fleming

http://www.goinggreenhomesva.com

gaylefleming48@aol.com

703-625-1358

My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.

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How Many Light Bulbs Will It Take To Change The World

While we wait for the government to make up its mind about carbon credits and/or carbon and gas taxes, the easiest and fastest thing we can do to cut our personal carbon emissions and save money is to change every single light bulb we use to CFLs.  I’m sure there’s no one reading this blog hasn’t already heard this.  I’m going to attempt to debunk some of the excuses I’ve heard for why people aren’t changing their bulbs.

But before I do that,  I’d like to note that since buildings consume 40 percent of all the energy used in the U.S and 70 percent of all the electricity, it is imperative that those of us who daily contribute to this astonishing number take some responsibility for reducing it.  The first place that we all have control of is our homes.  Another astonishing number that I would like to sear into your brain is that the 300+ million people in the United States consume fully 25 percent of all the energy in the world!

There is no doubt that governnments will have to step in to do the heavy lifting.  Some state governments are taking the lead.  Californians for instance, because of policies put in place by the state, currently produce less than half of the green house emissions of their fellow Americans.  California’s per capita electricity consumption has stayed flat for the last thirty years while the rest of the country has doubled it’s consumption, according to research from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the nation’s most important environmental advocacy organizations.

So to address the “why I haven’t changed my light bulb” excuses:

1.    They’re too expensive.

CFLs do cost more than incandescent bulbs. But, they last for up to 10,000 hours.  So you’ll replace them every few years, not every few months.  Besides that, prices have come way down especially if you purchase them in the big box stores like Home Depot.  A four pack of  14watt bulbs (the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is only $5.85.

2.   What about the mercury?

“An average CFL contains 4 milligrams of mercury. That tiny quantity of mercury — essential for the energy efficiency of CFLs — is about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen and is far less than the mercury inside other common household objects. For example, watch batteries have 5 times the mercury and older thermometers have 500 milligrams, equal to 125 CFLs.” (NRDC website) Home Depot has a recycling program for CFLs .  Also check with your city or county since they may have a recycling program for CFLs as well.

3.   What if I break one?

CFL’s last so long that there’s less chance of breaking one.  Read more about CFLs and what to do if you break one.

4.   I don’t like the light from CFLs.

It’s true the light is different in CFLs .  So you’ll probably have to adjust your expectations.  This isn’t much different than when we change anything  in our lives to something we’re not used to.  Here is an interesting article about one homeowner’s experience as she made the switch from incandescents to CFLs.

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, Keller William Realty

 www.goinggreenhomesva.com              gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com        703-6251-358   

Follow me on Twitter@ecogayle

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