Green building isn't only a good idea, it's the right thing to do next time you replace, remodel or build. Although not all green building
ideas will immediately offset the execution costs, over the lifecycle of your home and as energy prices continue to rise, dividends come faster and faster.
Learn more about how you can make a difference today to fight global warming while creating a safer home for you and your family. Do you have a green building tip not listed below? Make a difference. Submit your ideas to Builders Websource® and multiply your voice to millions of visitors.
Energy Conservation - Plumbing
- Reduce water heater thermostat to 120°F.
- Install a timer on recirculation pumps.
- Keep recirculation times to a minimum -- just long enough in the morning and evening to warm up the water to the point of use and keep the water from stagnating in the loop.
- Avoid 75-gallon water heaters unless there's a clear demand requirement. Consider instead a high efficiency (90% or greater) direct vent 50-gallon heater in lieu of a 75-gallon model, such as AO Smith Vertex® or similar.
- If installing a tank-type water heater, insist on high efficiency models. Look at AO Smith's Conservationist® Gas-fired models with 0.63 Energy Factor ratings and a patented Green Choice™ combustion chamber that reduces
NOx emissions by 33%.
- Install tankless on-demand water heaters such as Takagi, Rinnai, or similar in lieu of tank-type heaters (may require new gas line or higher-pressure meter. Consult with your utility company).
- Insulate all hot water pipes with 3/4"-thick-wall polyethylene insulation (R-value >5). This has 50% more insulating value than thinner 1/2" insulation.
- Use closure clips on pipe insulation jackets to keep tight seal.
- If using tank-type water heater, look for ENERGY STAR® certified models.
- Install ultra-low flow faucet aerators (0.5 to 1.0 gpm).
- Install low-flow shower heads (<2.5 gpm - 22% of individual water use is showers).
- Shower with a partner to conserve hot water.
- Install a quick flip shut-off valve on the shower head; you can temporarily shut off the water while you lather up without changing the water temperature or pressure.
- Avoid too many baths -- but when you take one, don't overfill; fill it less than halfway and use a plastic dipper to rinse. Use eco-friendly bubble bath additive. The bubbles are great insulators and can help to provide
warmth without wasting water.
- Shave over the sink -- not in the shower. Just a five-minute shave can waste 10-15 gallons of water. If you want to soften up your beard, shave after your shower when your skin is already moist and supple.
- When replacing your washer, buy a front-loading model. This uses less energy and water; plus, eliminating the agitator allows for larger loads while minimizing fabric damage to your clothes.
- Wash your clothes in cold water; rinse in cold water too. Add a dash of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle; it acts as a natural fabric softener and helps to remove soap residue from the clothes.
- Remove and clean the lint vent screen in your dryer before every load. Get a vacuum attachment and periodically clean the lint from the exhaust vent.
- Install high efficiency low-flow toilets, such as those from American Standard, Kohler, and Toto.
- Install a Toilet Tummy™ in older toilets to reduce water consumption per flush. Each Toilet Tummy saves 1.2 gallons of water per flush. Use up to two on larger tanks. If you can't find this device, put a couple of large
stones in the toilet away from mechanical flappers.
- Check each toilet with a leak detection tablet. A small blue tablet will color the bowl water if there's a slow leak from the tank. This can save thousands of gallons annually.
Energy Conservation - Lighting & Electrical
- When using incandescent flood lights, install 45W or 75W halogens vs. 90W.
- Use bulbs rated for 130V but operate at 120V. Reduces power consumption about 14%, increases bulb life by nearly 3 times (light output will also be reduced about 25%).
- Install dimmers where possible. Observe dimmer wattage ratings!
- Replace bulbs with smaller wattage varieties where less light output is acceptable. Example: replace 75W incandescent with 60W.
- Use compact fluorescents in lamps and recessed lighting. Note: Not all CFL's are dimmable and even those that are may not provide acceptable low-level dimming or color resolution index (CRI).
- Use LED bulbs in applications requiring minimal lighting, such as under-counter lights and other local task lighting. LED's are long life -- but have less intensity vs. halogens or CFLs.
- Use GE Ecolux® fluorescent lighting where possible to limit residual mercury leaching into the environment after diposal. All GE Ecolux® products pass the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) test -- most
with wide margins. (Note: Low-mercury fluorescent lights typically do not last as long due to premature mercury depletion, however, they are still a better choice in most cases where accessibility to replacement isn't an
- Install motion sensors on select outdoor lighting -- they only go on when someone's present.
- On other outdoor and indoor security or landscape lighting, install programmable electronic timers that are "sunrise and sunset" aware -- that way lights aren't on when the sun's out regardless of the time of year. Look
at the Intermatic EJ500C. (Note: many wall timers are not suitable for use with fluorescent fixtures. Check manufacturer's directions for details).
- When heating, keep the temperature to 68°F or below
- When using air conditioning, keep temperature to 78cF or above.
- Use a programmable thermostat; keep HVAC system turned off or set to extreme limits during working hours when no one is home.
- Consider photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to offset consumption from the power grid. Initial installation cost can be pricey, but long-term benefits are clear. Check manufacturer's warranty on long-term
operating efficiency. BP Solar offers installation through the Home Depot.
Remodeling / New Construction
- Use heat reflective paint. Keeps inside warmer in the winter; cooler in the summer.
- Beef up insulation in walls, attics and floors.
- Install double-pane (triple pane in very cold climates) with Low-E glass.
- Look for new "self cleaning" glass.
- Eliminate aluminum or steel windows; replace with pultruded fiberglass. Fiberglass is strong, doesn't require painting (but it can be painted), and is generally preferable to vinyl.
- Install quality weatherstripping on all doors and windows.
- Caulk around window and door frames to stop air infiltration.
- Use non-expanding insulating foam spray between framing and window and door frames to stomp out air and pest infiltration. (Note, expanding foams may seem like a good idea, but these can put pressure on the frame, creating
a bow or causing it to go out of alignment.) Products such as DAPtex® Latex Window and Door foam, DAPtex® Plus Window and Door Foam Sealant, or Hilti® CF 812 Window and Door low-pressure filler foam. Always check with the
manufacturer before applying to your situation. (Avoid polyurethane foams, as these tend to expand significantly, which could impair the operation of your windows and doors.
- Build with ICFs (Insulating Concrete Forms). Not only do they stand up to harsh winds and hurricanes, they have tremendous thermal mass which can help keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Consider radiant floor heating vs. traditional forced-air heating. Radiant heating is efficient -- as heat rises, it doesn't warm the air, just the people and objects in the room. Plus, it's cozy on the feet and virtually
noise free. The efficiency of radiant heat allows you to set the thermostat from 2-4 degrees lower compared to forced-air for an equivalent level of "comfort." This results in 10-30% savings in overall energy compared to