How to Find a ‘Green’ Home
If you’re looking to lessen your impact on the environment or want to benefit from the lower bills an efficient home can provide, you may be considering a “green” home. ENERGY STAR certified homes typically use 15-30 percent less energy than typical new homes — which can add up to significant savings for a homeowner, on top of the environmental benefits. With growing interest in efficient homes, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates that 84 percent of new residential construction will have at least some sustainable features by 2018.
How do you find a green home — or make your current house more energy efficient? Follow these tips to help minimize your home’s impact on the environment.
What’s a ‘Green’ Home?
Since there’s no universal definition of what constitutes a “green home,” David Ellis, executive vice president of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (GAHBA), suggests buyers look for houses with reputable green certifications, such as those offered by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Another similar option is the ENERGY STAR Certified Home program.
These programs aim to standardize what it means for a home to be eco-friendly by providing a certification and rating based on guidelines for construction features and best practices. These often include things like the use of recycled materials, energy-efficient design and sustainable landscaping practices. In addition to using processes and materials that minimize the impact to the environment, ENERGY STAR states that it’s also important to consider the impact of the home once it is being lived in — it should be designed to reduce the use of utilities, which saves the owner money and also helps reduce the use of natural resources. The program checklists and certifications also can serve as a guide to help homeowners transform an existing property into a certified green home by making the necessary improvements in energy efficiency and sustainability.
“These certifications ensure buyers get a home that has met basic industry specifications for green building,” Ellis says. A buyer who sees that a home is “green” certified by a reputable program or organization will know that a third party verified that the home was designed and built using compliant green standards.
How to Find a ‘Green’ Home
While “green” homes are out there, how do you find one? If you’re going to have a new home built, find a contractor familiar with sustainable building practices. ENERGY STAR provides state-specific lists to help you find an energy-efficient builder in your area. If you’re hoping to build a LEED-certified home, the USGBC provides lists of organizations that you can search to find someone to help with your project.
If you aren’t looking to build a new home, you may want look for a real estate professional in your area who specializes in green homes. You can work with them to find a house that has the features that are most important to you.
What to Look for in a ‘Green’ Home
As you’re searching for a “green” home, ENERGY STAR recommends checking:
- Walls and windows to be sure they are well-insulated and not drafty
- Air ducts to see if there are consistent air flow and comfortable temperatures throughout the house
- Heating and cooling systems, such as an ENERGY STAR certified furnace or air conditioner
- Appliances, such as the refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher, to be sure they are energy-efficient
- Lighting — check for ENERGY STAR light fixtures and light bulbs, such as LED bulbs
You can also use these tips to make your current home more efficient. The USGBC offers tips for making your existing home greener — from installing a programmable thermostat to reducing water usage with low-flow shower heads. The group notes that even small changes, like upgrading your appliances and properly sealing ducts, can result in savings and an improved green lifestyle.
Whether you’re in the market for a new home or want to update the one you already live in, there are ways to go green, you just need to know where to look.
Originally published on July 17, 2014.