What to Know About Building a Green Home

If you’d like to reduce the impact your home has on the environment, you can do a number of things when building your home that will make your home more environmentally friendly. How you live in your new home, as well as how you build the house, not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also saves you money in the long-run.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Use Internet resources such as the EPA’s Green Homes page and Energy Star website to learn what’s already available for building a green home. Find a contractor who has already built a green home or homes. Contact your local power company for information they provide on reducing your energy use.

Think Small

High ceilings, extra bedrooms, a large garage and more square footage may be status markers in your neighborhood, but require more materials and more energy use. Even if you are firm in the exact number and types of rooms you want, measure existing rooms you think would suit your purpose and design your new home with enough space for each room, but not more than you need. Consider lower ceilings to save money on heating, cooling and materials.

Include a Passive Solar Design

Use a design that takes advantage of the sun without solar panels. Face your home and build walls and windows to absorb the sun’s heat to warm rooms. Use materials that let sunlight in and retain heat. Use window materials that let you keep the sun out during warm summer months.

Choose Green Materials

When choosing flooring, siding, roofing and other materials, you now have many attractive options that don’t damage the environment as much as traditional materials. Recycled materials have the least impact, followed by those made with recycled materials. Abandoned building may have beautiful floors you can have or buy cheap. Synthetic flooring has the look of wood but the durability of stronger materials.

Reduce Home Energy Use

Once you’re in your house, be energy efficient. Save money and live green year-round with energy efficient doors, windows, insulation and appliances. Purchase low-flow toilets and showerheads, as well as an efficient washer, dryer, dishwasher and water heater. Energy efficient light bulbs last much loner than regular bulbs. Visit the EPA’s Energy Star website  to learn more about energy efficient appliances and its WaterSense and IndoorAirPlus programs.

Solar panels may seem like an expensive investment, but can more than pay for themselves in four ways. First, you’ll have lower heating and cooling costs, saving you money each year on utilities. Over the life of your home, you’ll likely pay for the system just through lower utilities. Second, a solar energy system increases the value of your home, helping your recoup your investment even faster. Third, some local and state governments offer subsidies and tax credits if you install a solar energy system. Fourth, if you create more energy than you use, you can sell it to your local power company each month.

Make Recycling Easy

Include a trash compactor in your kitchen or garage, and make it easy for family members to recycle. Put bins in an easily accessible area and make them easy to transport to and from the curb each week, if you have local pickup service. Consider how you’ll transport recyclables to your local recycling center if you must do that.

Install Low-Impact Landscaping

Use native plants and grasses that have adapted to the local environment and may need less treatment and watering. Xeriscaping is a landscaping practice that aims to reduce water use. This type of landscaping uses fewer plants, efficient irrigation or watering and includes more materials such as pine straw or rocks for decorating.

Additional Resources

Checklist for Environmentally Responsible Design and Construction

EPA Green Homes page

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