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Ten Ways That Your New Dream Home Can Be Greener

Nov 27, 2007
Are you building your dream home? If your dream of the future includes a brand new home, you are in a position to make your dream house one that is good to the environment. Here are ten choices that can make your new construction home a lean green machine.

Select a site that is handy to public transportation or otherwise reduces your dependence on automobile travel.

If you're like most people, your biggest contribution to pollution and energy use is driving. When you choose a home site that reduces your need to use an automobile, you'll be reducing the amount of carbon based fuel that you use as well as reducing the amount of air pollution that you personally contribute. Many of the newest subdivisions and communities are designed to put everything that you need within walking distance of your front door.

Choose a design that makes use of natural features and lighting to reduce energy use.

The design plan of your home can make use of passive solar design to make the most of natural light and shade to reduce the amount of energy you use to heat and cool your home. A southern facing roof, for instance, is ideal for installing solar water heating panels. Shade trees on the east and west sides of your house can keep the entire house cooler without the need for air conditioning.

Pick energy efficient windows and doors.

If you're going to splurge somewhere, splurge on the most energy efficient doors and windows you can find. Low-e glass can make it possible to have those gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows you want in the study without completely destroying your energy profile. Energy efficient doors and windows provide the seal that you need to keep your inside air in and outside air out. They'll cut down on heat transfer between the indoors and out. Break resistant glass in your windows will increase the ability of your dream home to resist hurricane force winds (which, btw, will lower your insurance costs).

Use high efficiency lighting systems.

Lighting is about more than light bulbs and fixtures. When you choose your lighting systems, consider using programmable timers to turn lights on and off using a sensor, dimmable lighting controls and task lighting areas that will reduce the amount of overhead light that you need. Outdoors, use motion sensors for landscape lighting rather than lights that stay on all night long. You'll see the overall result in lower utility bills and less light pollution.

Use a properly sized heating/cooling system - and be sure that it's Energy Star compliant.

Over and undersized heating and cooling systems waste energy. Choose the right size system for your home.

Use sustainable building materials for floors, countertops, cabinets and other surfaces in your home.

Bamboo floors are all the rage in the building trade right now, but bamboo is not the only sustainable, green material out there. You may actually be more green using local wood than importing bamboo from the other side of the world. Consider concrete, which is surprisingly versatile and stylish in the right hands, and is extremely green.

Install plumbing that conserves and reuses water.

Choose plumbing fixtures that reduce water use without compromising water pressure. These are some of the least expensive choices you can make - aerators in all of your faucets, low flow shower heads, low water use toilet tanks. A new and increasingly popular option is a plumbing system that harvests rain water and reuses "gray water" - water that has been used for washing up, laundry and dishwashing, for instance. Gray water can be used for any purpose that doesn't require potable water - your washing machine, flush toilets, showers, etc. By reusing water, you cut down on the amount of water going through the municipal wastewater treatment and reduce your need for fresh water.

Choose low maintenance landscaping options.

Drought resistant grass and native plants can virtually eliminate your need for an irrigation system because they rely on Mother Nature for their water needs. But there are other options that can make your landscape an active part of your greener strategies. Including a roofed porch or patio adds shade to your property and reduces your energy use by providing an outdoor space to escape the heat. If you choose a pool or spa, look for features like an integral cover to prevent evaporation, timers that turn filters off and on and filtration systems that reduce the need for harmful chemicals like chlorine.

Choose low VOC materials and supplies for floors, finishes, carpets, cabinets and paints.

Volatile organic compounds are gasses that are given off constantly by many of the materials and finishes used in building homes. VOCs can cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems, skin irritation and other health problems. They're also damaging to the environment because they contribute to smog. Look for paints, adhesives and other supplies that are labeled low VOC. Opt for light colors when you paint (light colors are usually lower VOC than darker pigments), and avoid carpet and vinyl flooring. Low VOC products are usually comparable price-wise to their conventional counterparts.

Select appliances and mechanical systems that are in the top 20% of their category in the DOE Energy Guide labels.

The Department of Energy labels appliances and mechanical systems for your home with an energy rating. Choose appliances that meet or exceed the standards for Energy Star compliance whenever possible. Consider a tankless hot water heater instead of the standard hot water tank heater, and pick Energy Star compliant appliances for your kitchen, laundry and heating/cooling systems.
About the Author
Calum MacKenzie is real estate professional serving the New Tampa real estate and Wesley Chapel real estate markets.
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