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A Little Green Goes A Long Way

Apr 24, 2008
These days it seems that the fashionable trend in living is going green. By that we mean more and more people are choosing to opt for cleaner energy, less waste, environmentally friendly building materials, paints and flooring plus energy efficient appliances. Al Gore's award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth did more to stir up interest in the green movement than most published scientific studies did. Whether or not you support the global warming theory, one thing you can't dispute is the obvious savings, both in the environment and your finances, that making some simple and if you're willing, not so simple, green improvements to your condo or house. Not only will this benefit you as long as you live there, but it will also make your home more attractive to potential buyers if you should decide to sell.

Perhaps the easiest thing you can do to start saving money and energy is to replace your old light bulbs with energy efficient ones. The newer compact fluorescent bulbs are available in a wide assortment of sizes and last a lot longer than basic light bulbs, all while saving on electricity consumption. New compact fluorescent bulbs often use as little as 20 percent of the energy that an older bulb will use. You can also install timers on outside lights.

To improve water consumption you can install low flush toilets and also either attach aerators to your faucets or buy new ones with aerators already installed. This simple device mixes air with the water flow, which creates good pressure with less water. You can also replace the shower heads in the baths with low flow heads.

A typical hot water heater will run constantly to keep the water hot at all times, making this appliance one of the most costly to operate in your home. You can either improve the heating efficiency of the tank you currently have by adding insulation around the tank or wrapping the pipes. You can also install one of the newer models that only heat water on demand, not constantly. Tankless models work very well and can save up to 50 percent of what an older model would cost to run. There are also solar powered hot water heaters for the ultimate in energy efficiency.

You can also go the extra mile with saving water by installing a rain water collection system to water your lawn and landscaped plants, plus making sure that you only plant native species that are tolerant of local climate conditions will also benefit your outdoor environment.

The appliances in your kitchen as well as your washer and dryer are another major area where you can green up your home while saving energy and money in the long run. Replacing some or all of your kitchen appliances with more efficient Energy Star rated ones will reduce electricity consumption and they will run much more efficiently. Remember that for every perk like an automatic ice maker or defrost, a refrigerator becomes less energy efficient. This is especially important because in the average home, a refrigerator uses the most electricity of any appliance you own. Washer and dryer models are now available that operate much more efficiently. Front load washers not only hold bigger loads, they use less water and energy.

For some really major savings you can replace your outdated heating and cooling system with an energy efficient one. Older systems, especially boiler-based ones, are usually extremely inefficient. Newer systems with programmable thermostats allow you to adjust settings according to the times you are home and need more heating or cooling. Just by installing a ceiling fan in even just the biggest room in your home and then lowering the setting on your air conditioning by 3 to 6 degrees, you can save as much as 25 percent on the cost of cooling your condo or home.

Insulation is critical to saving energy, and an average home will lose about 50 percent of its heat through the ceiling and walls if not properly insulated. Check the R value, which is the rating system for insulation value, of what you currently have in your home or what you are considering installing. The higher the R value, the better the insulation value. Don't be fooled by thinking the thicker or heavier the insulation, the better. You should only look at the R value when deciding on what type.

For a basement in a typical home in North America, the suggested R value insulation should be R-12. One inch of insulation is basically equal to 30 inches of concrete. Of the different types of insulation, Expanded Polystyrene is the best, with blown in Cellulose a close second and Fiberglass in third place. It is also important to install some type of water proof barrier or membrane to protect insulation from moisture. If insulation gets wet it severely reduces its performance.

By adding some simple or some slightly more difficult green touches to your condo or home, you will not only improve your own savings, but will help the environment and probably entice more buyers to your home if you decide to sell. For more tips on selling your home or to find out more about some popular green developments and condos, you can check out the helpful information on http://www.aboutchicagorealestate.com
About the Author
Kim Richards resides in the Chicago area and writes about new condo developments and real estate for various sites, including North Shore Insider
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