Friday, May 09, 2008

10 Things I Learned About Green Homebuilding

Today is the last day to enter to win the first HGTV Green Home (see picture) and it reminded me of the privilege I recently had interviewing Brian Baker, the chief architect and VP of Studio26 Homes in Orefield, Pennsylvania. The resulting article was in a recent issue of Lehigh Valley Magazine. Here are my favorite 10 tips about increasing a home's energy efficiency:

10. To improve energy efficiency, metal heating ducts should be as short as possible (so the air travels quickly from the furnace to the room it's heating) and built into interior walls only, so the hot-air temp won't be affected by outdoor temps.

9. Install high and low HVAC ductwork. The heat will flow out of the floor-level ducts, and the A/C will come from the high ducts, saving energy all around.

8. A tankless or "point of service" hot water heater will pay for itself in probably the first year or less.

7. Energy Star-compliant asphalt shingles deflect 20% of the summer sun's rays.

6. If anyone in the family tends to leave lights on in the bathroom, you can get timers that'll automatically turn lights off.

5. If you don't like the fluorescence of the screw-in fluorescent bulbs (those curly ones) you can try "pin-based" fluorescents and LED lighting that cast a more incandescent glow. The screw-ins are supposed to last longer, but some people can't tolerate the glow of light.

4. In general, photovoltaic panels are still too expensive for the average homebuyer, but some states are subsidizing their cost. PA isn't there yet...

3. Plant deciduous trees to the south of your house to help shade it in summer. Plant conifers on the other three sides to reduce winter cold and the wintry effects of wind.

2. If you live in a flat-roofed building (or have flat-roofed outbuildings), turn it into a "green roof" filled with plant material. Not only will it save you on energy bills, it could even create its own microclimate. A huge plus if you're a city dweller. (PPL, eastern PA's biggest utility company, built a green roof on its corporate headquarters that received a LEED Gold rating--very hard to accomplish!)

1. My favorite tip: Buy an induction cooktop instead of a gas or electric one for the kitchen. It works as quick or quicker than gas without any of the gas-related concerns (leaks). I saw a demo where a pot of water was boiling in under a minute, and the burners don't activate until you place the specially made pots (can be bought at Target) on the burners.

To find out more, visit Studio26 Homes.

No comments: