An easy way to gain energy savings is by air-sealing your home. Weatherstrip drafty windows and caulk around pipes in your basement, for example. Likewise, make sure your home is properly insulated. “Here in Washington, D.C., before 1960, we didn’t have insulation in some houses,” says Chris Landis, co-principal at Landis Architects/Builders.“If there is insulation, in many cases, it’s fallen down, there are gaps around outlets.” Foam can be a good option: It won’t sag over time, resists mold and has a good R-value (its capacity to resist heat flow). But the type of foam matters, cautions Michael Anschel, owner of Otogawa-Anschel Design+Build in Minneapolis and associate at the green consulting and training company Verified Green. “Spray foam has a high global-warming potential factor due to the amount of carbon released during its manufacture. Open cell foams don’t have that issue,” he says. Also easy: switching out your old light bulbs for LEDs, which save about 84 percent of the energy used by a typical 60 watt incandescent; installing a dual-flush toilet and lowflow shower head; replacing windows with ones that are low-e (they reflect more heat) and have a thermal break; and investing in durable, eco-friendly siding that’s attractive, easy to maintain and long-lasting.
For example, Anschel says, Boral has a line of siding products and trim made of 70 percent recycled materials. “You can work with (the materials) like wood. It can’t rot and once you put it up, it will be there for a hundred years.” For interior paint, purchase those with low- or zero-volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Once your walls are painted and for a short time after, VOCs are released into the air and can be especially bad for those with compromised immune systems. Coatings Research Group Inc. (CRGI), a Berea, Ohio, nonprofit trade organization that also certifies products as Green Wise, puts paints and coatings through rigorous indoor air-quality testing based on California South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) requirements — the strictest in the country. VOC limits vary in different parts of the country. The U.S. government caps the amount of VOCs allowed in flat finishes to 250 grams per liter (g/l) and 380 g/l for glossy finishes. Two companies, Colorhouse and Dunn-Edwards Paints, meet Green Wise Gold standards, meaning they contain fewer than 5 grams of VOCs per liter, says Geoff White, the technical manager at CRGI. Keep in mind that paint companies list the VOCs for the paint only — not for any colorant added. CRGI requires that colorants contain less than
10 g/l VOC and would not contribute to a significant increase in VOC of tinted paint because of the small amount used. GET SMART Increasingly, more appliances and devices for the home are becoming smart, and that can save energy. Philips Lighting’s Hue — customizable, wireless LED lighting — connects to a programmable app. No more forgetting to turn off lights, wasting energy; have them set to turn on or off automatically. Functional, yes, but Hue can be fun, too, its creators say. “Hue can do 16 million colors and 50,000 shades of
white; whatever color and feel you’d like in your home is now possible with the touch of your fingers,” says Todd Manegold, connected home business leader at Philips Lighting North America. He adds that there are hundreds of apps
Nationally recognized builders are all doing projects using or offering green and smart options on new homes.
The Wemo Mini Smart Plug uses Wi-Fi to control lamps, heaters, fans and more, all by using a free app on your smartphone.