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Building a Green Home

New Homes built today are twice as energy efficient as homes that were built  in the 1970's (only 40 years ago).  The standard materials we use and the equipment we install today lasts longer and have a smaller environmental footprint. 

A Green Home takes that to the next level.  Before you start planning your green home take a minute to decide what your goals are and then you will know how to evaluate your options.

What Shade of Green are You?

I am concerned about the environment.

I want an efficient home that brings down my bills over the years.

I want to protect your family from toxic chemicals.

Saving the Environment

When you are reviewing Green Home selections remember to consider where the materials came from, how they are processed, and what happens to the waste. 

Recycled - Sometimes recycled and reused materials are a great choice even if they require more labor to install. Consider finding recycled wood flooring, counters made of recycled granite or glass, and heirloom light fixtures.  Avoid old windows and doors because they will cause a loss of heating and cooling energy.  Try using what you have instead of covering it up - polished concrete floors are an option instead of carpet, tile, or wood.  They can be beautiful, long lasting, and you don't use up resources and produce waste.

New - You want new and high efficiency heating and cooling systems, appliances for sure.  Low-E vinyl windows, doors, and extra insulation will reduce your energy needs. There are also new finish products that use renewable resources to help you lower your impact on the environment - like bamboo flooring.

Protecting the environmentWater - North Florida sits on the Floridan Aquifer.  Our water is pumped up from the aquifer and our runoff flows through the ground and eventually into it.  Reduce your consumption by installing low-usage fixtures, and using native plants and grasses for landscaping (Xeriscaping).  Keep the aquifer clean by disposing of chemicals, paint, and oils properly at the local dump - never pour them on the ground or into your septic tank.

Power - Find out what your local power company uses to generate electricity.  If it is a dirty source, like burning coal, you may want to consider installing systems that reduce your electricity needs.  The costs for solar panels and a solar water heater can be offset by tax credits.  Insulating your home well (insulation, windows, and doors) will reduce your electric needs, and upgrading your HVAC system to a high SEER unit will make it easier to heat and cool your home using less energy.

Waste - There are usually several dumpsters filled when a new home is built.  You can reduce the amount of trash carted to the landfill by using some materials that are prefabricated in a factory setting where computers are used to build as precisely as possible, which limits waste.  Factory built roof trusses are a great example of that  - they are stronger and more efficient than site-built versions.  Smaller trees are used to produce OSB board than regular plywood, so the resource is more easily renewed. 

Saving Money

Some materials and equipment will last longer and outperform others.  If they happen to be less expensive then the industry starts using that new material as standard.  As the home buyer you should compare basic features from builder to builder to be sure you are getting the same quality.  After that you should focus on whether you want to invest in materials that extend the life or increase the efficiency of your home.  If paying a little more today means you double the life of your roof it may be a good investment for you to make.

Florida SunshineEnergy Efficiency - Your monthly expenses are a constant drain on your finances.  Reducing the cost to operate your home will keep money in your pocket every month. One of the most efficient investments per dollar you can make is to increase the amount of insulation in your home.  After that consider upgrading your windows, and doors for a higher insulation rating - and don’t forget to have them well sealed.  The next level of energy efficiency is to look at an efficient air conditioner, a passive hot water system, or a tank-less hot water heater.  Consider putting your air handler inside the air conditioned space of the home, like in a hall closet.  Solar panels are also something you may consider - depending on the tax incentives you an get they could pay for themselves.

Longevity - Look through the National Association on Home Builder's "Guide of Average Lifespan of Household Components" and ask for quotes to upgrade the major systems in your home.  Some of the obvious systems are: upgrade the roof to 50-year metal, look into higher quality appliances, invest in cabinets that will not crack, peel, or separate, choose flooring that can stand up to your lifestyle.

Of course, the best way to extend the life expectancy of any of your home's systems is to take care of them.  We will give you a packet with all the owner's manuals for you to review, and we will walk you through the maintenance of your home's systems to make sure you can get the most of out them.

Your Break Even Point - Your main focus should be how long it takes you to recover the extra cost of upgrading any of the materials or systems in your home.  You need to decide if it is better to pay for that now or budget for a new replacement down the road.

Protect my FamilyProtect your family

If your focus in on making  your home as healthy and safe to live in as possible then pay attention to gas emissions, air filters, and water quality.

Breathe - Newer homes are so well insulated that indoor air quality has become more of an issue lately, and the inside of a new home can smell pretty strong.  To breathe easier you should look for "low V.O.C." materials (volatile organic compounds).  Ask for carpets that don't emit formaldehyde and paints that stop smelling after they dry (for the most part).  The finish on your cabinets should be low V.O.C. also.  If you are allergic to mold and mildew ask for a high-quality air filter and ultraviolet cleaners for your air conditioner.

Drink - Whether your home uses a well or is supplied by a city you water in North Florida comes from the aquifer.  If you have well water test it to make sure it's safe for drinking.  Many people prefer water softeners and other on-site treatment systems.

Live - Think about installing in-wall pest control tubes - it lets your Exterminator spray the poison right where the bugs live instead of into your living space.  Use native plants and grasses for landscaping (Xeriscaping) to reduce the amount of pest spray you need to use around your home.

More Topics to Explore

» Find a Builder You Can Trust » Building a Green Home » What to Expect