There are no national standards for what a “green” home really is. The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) has the most recognized green building and retrofitting/remodeling standards in the country. But there are others—all with different standards. There’s the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Build It Green and Built Green (yes, different organizations). Then there are local standards such as Arlington, Virginia's Green Home Choice Program. Well you get the picture--whose standards do you use. But here’s the thing—right now, in the Washington Metro area where I do business, there just aren’t a lot of new homes being built to any particular "green" standards. Many builders are at least building all new homes to EnergyStar standards. But as I said last week, energy efficiency alone does not a "green" home make. And with the exception of USGBC, most of these ratings are for new construction.
So most of my clients are just trying to figure out what things they should do to upgrade and retrofit their older existing homes—either the one they’re buying or the one they’re selling—to make them more eco-friendly. What is the first thing you should do? Well I believe reducing your energy consumption is one of the most important and cost effective things to do first. This isn't necessarily sexy like putting in cork or bamboo floors or ice stone countertops. But it will have a measurable effect on reducing your impact on dwindling and non-renewable resources as well as significantly reducing utility bills. Even if your home is only ten years old, it probably pretty energy inefficient.
First, insulate. I know—BOOOORING. Oh well—so use the money you save on utility bills to buy an Ipad or something. The cost of heating and cooling a home is 50-60 % of the total energy bill. A few hundred dollars spent on insulation alone can cut a home’s energy bill by up to 20% per year. There are many types of insulation and I’m not going to discuss them here. But there are environmental concerns to some degree for most of them. So check out this link that discusses the pros and cons. Some of the cons do have indoor air quality issues. I will tell you that my favorite insulation is made from blue jeans. It’s the ultimate in reduce (get rid of some of your 10 pairs of jeans), reuse, and recycle thinking.
Second, air seal--also not exciting. But like insulation, air sealing stops you from paying to heat and cool the outside of your home. You can find many leaks simply by feeling the air coming in around doors and windows. However, many leaks that come from spaces holes in attics, basements and crawl spaces. These can be harder to find and a much bigger energy waster. You might consider having a professional energy audit. Energy auditors use equipment, such as infrared cameras and blower doors, designed to suss out all the leaks in your house. Some state energy departments have programs that are free or for a nominal fee, will do an energy rating on your home.
Oh, and by the way-- there’s a 30% federal tax credit (up to $1500) on energy efficiency purchases until December 31, 2010. So this is the year to give that home you’re buying or selling, an energy makeover.
My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.