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It’s Easy Being Green

“Green” homes are getting lots of buzz among builders. Since the term “green” is frequently used—some say misused—the builders themselves are working to develop a national standard that defines what building techniques and features constitute a “green home,” according to the National Association of Home Builders, a trade organization for builders. But in general, many builders who “build green” follow a variety of methods, ranging from special framing, caulking, and ventilation techniques to employing energy-efficient or recycled building materials and preparing a property’s lot with water-efficient designs or landscaping that use rainwater wisely.

You don’t have to purchase new “green” construction to take advantage of green home features. Many homeowners retrofit existing home systems so that their property is more energy efficient, has better indoor air quality, conserves natural resources (such as fuel), and uses less water. Here are some ways you can go green.

Replace appliances with energy-efficient models
Choosing a high-efficiency water heater can help conserve on water use and heating bills. It’s also possible to use energy-efficient toilets (which use less water per flush), dishwashers, and washing machines. Some homeowners with oil furnaces may be able to retrofit their furnaces for a nominal fee to burn more energy-efficient fuels—but be sure to ask your energy provider or furnace manufacturer about your options before experimenting. When shopping for new appliances, look for “Energy Star”-branded appliances, which will use the least energy possible and are approved by an independent agency supported by the government for development of energy efficient standards.

Consider shifting your home’s power source
Many energy providers are beginning to offer electricity that is generated by wind, hydro power, or other renewable sources. The United States Department of Energy offers a link so you can research buying energy for your home from renewable sources, with contact information and energy sources for various providers. The U.S. Department of Energy offers more information here:http://www.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/buying/buying_power.shtml

Consider “sealing” your home with energy-efficient products
Your windows, insulation, and roof can all become efficient, energy-lowering powerhouses if you opt for Energy Star-branded products. Energy Star offers a guide to “home sealing” care of the organization’s Web site at www.energystar.gov. You may be eligible for tax credits when you use these products, depending on where you live.

Buy energy-efficient appliances to lower your energy consumption
Home appliances including refrigerators, ovens, air conditioners, and HVAC systems for heating and cooling all consume a tremendous amount of energy, but if you’re upgrading or replacing any of these appliances consider using an Energy Star product. If you use office equipment at home, consider investigating fax, printer, and computer models that consume less energy. Also investigate using energy-efficient indoor light bulbs and, outside, solar-powered light bulbs to illuminate sidewalks or driveways. More information is available from Energy Star at the organization’s Web site at www.energystar.gov.