If you want to build smart, build green.
They are one in the same. It only makes sense that we design and build homes to be energy efficient. Not only is this notion good for your monthly pocket book in the form of utility bills, it is good for the earth.
All the green initiatives from LEED to the National Green Building Program are jump starting the industry in the right direction, but ultimately many of the themes will be incorporated into your local building code. In Michigan, we can see the beginning of this cycle with the adoption of a new Energy Code. As this evolves and green mandates are in place, we will see everyone building green. It is the future.
I have come up with a simple way to remember important green concepts that we should all adopt. So take A SWIM, in the green future.
A = Appliances
S = Suppliers
W = Windows/Doors
I = Insulation
M = Mechanicals
Newer appliances can have a great impact in reducing your energy and water needs. Items like refrigerators, dishwashers, and washers/dryers are much more efficient than their predecessors of 10 years. New toilets, front load washing machines, and shower heads reduce your water consumption with minimal comfort impact. The replacement of these aging components also makes great sense. Not only do dishwashers and washers use less water, they require less detergent further decreasing the environmental impact.
The single most important item I can share when it comes to Green investing in the home building market is, “do your homework”. If you have yet to hear the term Green Washing, consider this your introduction. It seems every manufacturer wants to ride the Green wave and the onus is on the consumer to decipher what is behind the marketing collateral.
Consider materials used in production. Are they renewable? Are they from recycled sources? Are the ingredients obtained in close geographic proximity? Whenever, feasible you want to answer “Yes” to those questions.
Purchasing high quality doors and windows that minimally meet Energy Star standards is essential. Manufacturers have products that exceed Energy Star standards that deserve consideration. Low-e glass reflects radiant infrared energy and the units are becoming more common in the marketplace. When evaluating windows it is important to understand a few of the key Low-e terms. Windows with a U-factor lower than .30 are exceptional and are well worth the premium. It is also important to evaluate the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient and your needs will vary based on your climate.
This topic is a must do. Insulating your home well is instrumental in reducing your energy needs. In recent years new products have much higher R values per inch and far superior air barrier qualities. Not only has product performance greatly improved, it is far easier and less daunting to address. Roofers are adding insulation to their bag of tricks. When a roof is opened up during their efforts, they can blow in insulation helping to address this critical performance component of your home. Instead of taking off drywall or exterior sheathing, small holes can be drilled to allow products like open and closed cell spray foam to expand in cavities. Not only does this help to close air gaps, foam has a tremendous R value per inch of thickness. Want to go the extra green mile. You can double down with responsible material management by incorporating cellulose, which is recycled newspapers, into your insulation strategy.
Huge strides have been made in the mechanical units that warm and cool our air. Whether it be a high efficiency furnace, heat pump or a dive into geothermal, you will greatly reduce your energy needs.
Water heaters, particularly electric, have evolved just as rapidly. GE has a new unit that acts similar to a heat pump and uses the air nearby as the primary heat source. Gas powered instant hot water heaters only warm the water you need when you need it as opposed to a heat tank that is constantly warming water in the event you make the request.
Going green is smart, responsible and undoubtedly the future.