Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Green Homes

Over the last few years creating a green or sustainable home envirement has been gaining traction. The major reasons for this trend has been to help create a healther,more comfortable home envirement that also lowers its energy footprint. There are a number od different organizations such as National Association of Home Builders(NAHB)United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and Energy Star that have rating systems that helps the public determine how the level of greeness of each home. Each of the system has a somewhat different matrix that determines the which green elements have been used to rate the home. The Home Energy Rating System,HERS is one of the more efefctive rating system.In short, it sets a specific benchmark for a homes performance and compares the individual home to this standard. The major factors that are compared include the homes energy use(electric gas and oil useage) and takes into account the homes size. While its a goal to have your home certified green by one of the rating agencies,its still possible to have a green house without being certified green.Making a significant reduction of energy, water useage,using less building materials and healthier materials(usually less VOCs and toxic resins) and reducing mold and unhealthy gases in the indoor air is key to having a green home. One of the key steps in creating a green house is determining a baseline for your home.One method is to use a carbon calculator for your house(can be found by Googling Carbon Calculator) This information usually requires inputting your monthly gas,electric and oil costs.Rather than using dollar values,you will need to know the yearly therms of gas used,kwh useage of electricity and/or gallons of heating oil.Most calculators will also factor in miles driven in your vehicle. The other way to help determine your homes baseline is to have a door blower test and thermal imaging done on your house. These tests require specialized equipment and usually cost money,but they help assess how leaky is your home and where the leaks occur. Once this is determined,you can establish a plan that can help make your house a greener home envirement. Assuming you have a limited budget,one of the most cost effective step is to insulated the walls of the house and attic. Air sealing the various cracks in the walls,attic and basement are usually part of the process. In Massachussetts,there is a program that provides a free home energy audit(determines the house performance) and will provide free CFLs,low flow shower heads and programable thermostats. In many cases,they will provide insulation and airsealing(up to $2000 per year with the home owner paying 20% of the cost.For more information.More expensive methods of helping to reduce energy load is to purchase more efficient heating systems and water heaters. Replacing older appliances with newer ones that are Energy Star Rated will also help bring down electric and heating costs. Using solar panels to help pay for electric bills but are not always cost effective. Each of these sugguestions can be done in stages with a final goal to be completed in a number of years.Using web sites such as www.dsire.org can show which tax incentives and rebates are available for each project or purchasing appliances. Carefully checking which chemicals(if any) are being used in buidling materials and paint can help avoiding chemicial issues in your home. While purchasing a new heating system,placing insulation inside the house or replacing windows,can be an expence,this cost can be reduced by rebate and tax breaks. The key factors are also reduced purchases of gas,water and oil.If done correctly your homes will be nore comfortable. If your systems are properly maintained they may also reduce the maintaince on the systems and their life span.