Working Toward a Greener Home and Planet

As homeowners in California, we are all aware of the importance of conserving water and energy, but we may not realize that over 50% of consumers rank green and energy-efficiency as high on their priority list when buying a home and are willing to pay more for a home that is energy efficient. New homes today, can be built as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) homes, which are rigorously tested and are the pinnacle of green certification. Converting a home to LEED status would require an intensive renovation and can be costly, however there are many ways to convert your home to green, which can be a great marketing tool when you go to sell your home. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources and creates less waste than a comparable standard home reducing the impact on human health and the environment. When converting a home to a green home, the EPA has developed specifications to consider such as energy efficiency, air quality, water conservation, building materials and land usage.

Whether you are doing a green makeover, or going green gradually, there are key areas to consider. When replacing systems and appliances in your home, look for a blue Energy Star label, which is a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. Energy Star products save on utility bills, provide better indoor air quality and help protect the environment. All major kitchen appliances can be replaced with Energy Star appliances, including ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers and microwaves. Lighting can be Energy Star certified, these fixtures use 90% less energy and produce 70-90% less heat than traditional light fixtures. They also distribute light more effectively and efficiently.

Many home owners are researching solar panel systems which convert sunlight to energy. However, if solar is not an option, HVAC systems can be updated to more efficiently cool and heat your home, with ducts reworked to minimize leakage. Adding programable thermostats like “Nest” to automatically regulate temperature setting for different times of day will save on your energy bill. Air filtration systems can be added to remove harmful toxins from the home. The EPA estimates that indoor air is two to ten times more polluted than outdoor air. Windows also have the Energy Star label which will tell you the windows that perform best in the So-Cal climate. If you do not want to replace your windows, there are Low-E, or low emission films that can be added to your windows that will help to reflect heat, rather than absorb heat. The type of window framings you can choose from have different strengths: Vinyl windows are good insulators, but expand and contract with temperature changes, affecting leakage; wood is affected by moisture change and requires regular maintenance, fiberglass is stable but expensive; and aluminum is stable, but a rapid conductor of heat increasing energy consumption.

In California, low flow water fixtures are mandatory, but installing aerators on faucets can increase water conservation. Landscaping with native vegetation will reduce water consumption. Installing a drip irrigation system to maintain your landscape can save from 20 to 50 percent on water, due to an estimated 90 percent of the water going directly to the ground rather than an estimated 30 percent when sprayed.

There are many ways to work toward a greener home, not only saving money on your energy bills and making it more desirable when it is time to sell, but also making the planet a safer and cleaner place to live.

Lisa Lorentson

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