Green Homes

Green Homes cost more. I will never recoup the higher costs in energy savings. Local builders here are not building green yet… green is a west-coast thing.
I know the arguments for not pursuing a green home when it comes time to buy your Tallahassee, Florida home. What you need to know is the answers to these statements have changed in the last few years. Green certified homes like Energy Star are being built all over the Tallahassee, Florida region, and many builders have started certifying ALL their new homes. In many cases, you will pay little if any extra to have a green home. And the energy savings are real and the payback times reasonable. Most new home builders selling certified green homes have them tested for energy efficiency before you close and provide the results to you.
The best place to start to familiarize yourself with energy-efficient construction is with the available green building certification programs. There are several widely recognized certification programs that you will run across in the Tallahassee, Florida market. Each has its own focus but all offer buyers an opportunity to buy a green home with the comfort of knowing the construction met strict standards:

EnergyStar is by far the most widely utilized program by area builders. To earn this certification, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are typically 20-30% more efficient than standard homes. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) packages and Lighting packages can also be available in some instances.

EarthCraft is a residential green building program started by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association in partnership with Southface. Homes with this certification have spread throughout the southeast, including Charlotte. This program serves as a blueprint for energy- and resource -efficient homes.

The Environments For Living certification provides a rigorous set of requirements for home builders, treating the home as a “system of systems” that work together, with limited guarantees on comfort and heating/cooling energy use. It’s Certified Green program adds even more benefits in areas like indoor environmental quality and indoor water conservation.

LEED for Homes is a rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes. They use less energy, water and natural resources, create less waste, and are more durable and comfortable for occupants that standard construction.

Through the National Green Building Program, the National Association of Home Builders has set a standard to help its members move the practice of green building into the mainstream. Energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, sustainable or recycled products, and indoor air quality addressed in this certification.

Home energy ratings are performed on new and existing homes Home Energy Rating System (HERS). The lower the score, the more energy efficient the home will be… EnergyStar homes must score at least an 85 in Tallahassee’s climate zone. Test methods include a “blower door” test, a HVAC duct test to determine if they leak air, and optionally infrared photography techniques.
Additionally, home energy ratings are utilized by many financial institutions to qualify homes for energy-efficient mortgages. If you are serious about saving money on energy bills and indoor air quality, working with a qualified home energy rater to get your own audit performed before a purchase is essential.

The most utilized active solar application is to heat domestic water. Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. To read more about solar water heating, use this Dept. of Energy site. To learn about available incentive and rebate programs, check this database as well as this EPA site. Active solar applications do not stop at heating water. Although less prevalent in the Tallahassee area, they include smart roofs that incorporate photovoltaics and space heating and cooling systems to maintain whole-house temperatures. Visit this site by the American Solar Energy Society to learn more.

The main elements of simple passive solar design in a green Passive solar designs are easiest to implement at the planning and design stages of a new home. However, existing buildings may be quite easy to retrofit with passive solar improvements. There is no “cookie-cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” solution to passive solar design, as good solutions will be tailored to specific latitudes. A design that works well in Minnesota is not a design that would work well here in Tallahassee. Roof overhangs, for example, are designed specifically for your latitude mindful of prevailing wind direction and other climatic features specific to location.

They take advantage of the earth’s nearly constant temperature, around 60 degrees below the frost line in the Charlotte area, to heat and cool buildings. They work by pumping water and a refrigerant under the ground to be heated or cooled by the earth and then pumped back through piping in the house. In the winter, the earth is used as a heat source, and in the summer as a heat sink. These systems are effective in any climate. The systems pollute less than traditional fuel-burning systems and are about three times more efficient. They are also more efficient than conventional heat pumps because water can transfer a greater amount of heat than air. Geothermal system components can last up to 50 years since parts are installed indoors or underground instead of outdoors.
Geothermal systems reduce the probability of a fire or carbon monoxide leak in a home because they do not require any combustion. Another huge benefit is the reduction of pollution. According to the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, geothermal systems reduce CO2 emissions by about 1.1 million metric tons over 20 years, which is “the equivalent of converting about 58,700 cars to zero-emission vehicles, or planting more than 120,000 acres of trees.” Geothermal systems have the EPA ENERGY STAR® label, which not only indicates that using these systems benefits the health of our planet, but also that there may be incentives associated with installing the system, such as tax benefits or lower mortgages. Geothermal systems are also better at controlling relative humidity in buildings compared with other systems. Geothermal systems are very popular among people who have used them. In fact, 95 percent of people who have installed these systems would recommend them to others.

Remember to properly control the green systems in your home for peak savings, comfort and convenience. Did you know that properly using a programmable thermostat
The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills; nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. The pre-programmed settings are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort.
Most everyone knows that you can save energy by turning off lights when they’re not needed. But sometimes we forget or don’t notice that we’ve left lights on. Lighting controls can be used to automatically turn lights on and off as needed, preventing energy waste. Some Tallahassee green builders use a systems approach to lighting including dimmers, motion sensors, occupancy sensors, photo sensors and timers. Even more elaborate systems integrate HVAC, lighting, irrigation, home theatre and other home systems into one centralized system.

The performance of insulation in all areas of the home in Icynene. A 100% water-blown, expanding foam, it provides superior R-values and a continuous moisture barrier. Not to be confused with the old foam insulation products of the past like urea formaldehyde that caused problems with off-gasing of potentially irritating fumes, Icynene is healthy, safe and green.
Other good products out there like blown recycled cellulose insulation are good to know about and look for. Newer weatherstripping techniques and the R-value of other siding and roofing materials are also important. All can potentially improve the indoor air quality, comfort, and utility cost of your next home.
Windows and doors work hand-in-hand with your home’s insulation to provide a proper thermal envelope. While both are important considerations, windows are of special concern as you have more square footage of them on your home’s exterior than you do door space. Typical walls in homes are insulated to a level of R-11 to R-19, yet a single pane of standard glass has an insulating value of about R-1. In other words, heat can leak out of, or into, a building about 11 to 19 times more easily through glass than through the wall. This is why your grandparents insisted on installing “storm” windows for the winter – to boost window-insulating value to R-2, or perhaps R-2.5 with a good seal and tightly trapped air between the panes.
In the Tallahassee, Florida area, green builders are using energy-efficient windows with specially developed E-glass, making them much more effective at keeping heat and cold where you want them. Argon gas and special coatings are also used. Most progressive window manufacturers offer several lines of energy efficient glass with “R” values in excess of R-4. New designs still in laboratory development promise R-values of 10 or more. There are also EnergyStar rated windows that can be used in the construction of that green building program.
Did you know that double-hung windows are among the least energy efficient but most often used in residential construction? Tallahassee green builders are experimenting with awning and casement styles that do a better job of sealing out air leaks. They are also consulting with architects to help orient windows with seasonal sun exposure in mind, taking advantage of passive solar benefits to further boast the home’s energy efficiency.

Today’s green home will insulate and “encapsulate” the crawl space, covering the crawl floor with durable poly and sealing it along the foundation walls, up the support piers, and around any floor penetrations. When proper insulation and/or conditioning air from the HVAC system are added to the mix, you have a healthy and energy efficient solution that keeps humidity low, denies mold the chance to grow, lowers utility bills, and can increase indoor air quality. Try this site on sealed crawls for more helpful info. The Dept. of Energy also maintains this site on the subject.

In additional to not losing your conditioned air to the outside and to lowering your utility bills, one of the other goals of green construction is to raise the indoor air quality of your home. The main point to stress when considering Indoor Air

Quality in today’s green homes centers around the number of times an hour you “turn” or recycle the home’s indoor air through the ventilation system. Ideally, you introduce outside air in the process. Controlling moisture while doing this is the key to controlling both mold and dust mites, neither of which do well below 50% relative humidity.
One of the best green construction practices of the day in relation to IAQ includes adding an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV) to the homes ventilation system to recover energy from conditioned air from the inside, saving on heating or cooling costs while you introduce unconditioned outside air. These devices also exchange moisture, keeping more inside in the winter when indoor humidity has a tendency to drop, and removing moisture during the summer.
HEPA filtering of conditioned air is even starting to make its way into some green home construction, offering the highest air filtration rates of any technology. The EnergyStar green building certification program now offers an IAQ package and many North Florida builders are on board.

 

While considering IAQ, let’s spend a moment on low-VOC materials inside the home. Recent EPA studies estimate indoor air quality to be 3 to 5 volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Paint manufacturers realized the need to develop paint that contains lower VOC yet maintain high levels of performance and durability ultimately causing less of an impact on air quality than higher VOC paints.
The use of low-VOC materials and techniques to reduce “off-gassing” or the release of harmful fumes from building products are becoming more common in the Tallahassee green housing market. Materials of concern are not limited to paints, but include carpets, caulks, sealants, and adhesives. Using the proper products from the start, allowing time for carpets to air-out before installation, and proper home ventilation are keys when considering indoor air quality.

Artificial lighting consumes almost 15% of a household’s new lighting technologies is central in today’s green construction and Tallahassee area builders are following the trend.
Chief among these are compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s). They are very energy efficient, last a long time, have come down a lot in price, and many carry an EnergyStar rating. Some new homes are incorporating lighting control systems with sensors or timers to automate and further reduce energy usage.
Another interesting and effective product popping up in Tallahassee homes are Solatubes. These light pipes that conduct sunlight from rooftop collectors offer one of the easiest and most affordable ways to bring daylight into windowless rooms that need more light. Don’t forget natural daylighting… Charlotte green builders are also consulting with architects to maximize year-round daylighting opportunities.

It is said that water could be the next oil… a scarce resource water conservation into your next Charlotte green home.
Some of the green certification programs in new homes address water usage and a few are popping here in the Tallahassee market. In new and existing construction, it makes since to look for low-flow shower heads… they can save up to $265 a year. Dishwashers that use less water or are EnergyStar rated, low-flow toilets, aerators in any water faucet, new front-load clothes washers, rain barrels… all of these can add up to significant water usage and utility cost reductions.

Other landscaping issues to consider are strategically placed trees for shade or windbreaks as well as traditional buffers. Smaller lawn areas in relation to total lot size can also lower maintenance costs and environmental impact.
There may even be green financing available for your home purchase or upgrades! Energy-efficient mortgages (EEM’s) are a beneficial, if not under-utilized, way for consumers to finance their green home purchases in the Tallahassee housing market. Energy-efficient financing programs require that the borrower have an energy rating on the home they intend to buy. A rating typically involves an inspection by a professional energy rater who is certified under a nationally or state accredited home energy rating system (HERS). Homes with Energy Star or other green certified building programs may also qualify buyers for the benefits of these financing programs.

If you have questions on these subjects or if green is an area of interest in your These homes re-sell quicker, for more money, and are more comfortable to live in.

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