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Going Green Takes Time

Going Green Takes Time

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Matt Power | WeSeed

April 21, 2009

I can’t tell you how many times people start the conversation about green building with solar panels and wind turbines. That’s about as useful as discussing retirement plans on the first date. You skipped the courtship, the sex, the wedding, the antidepressants and the therapy and went right to the empty nest.

“Greening” your home (and your lifestyle) begins with some very basic ideas.

First, look at transportation. How far will you have to go to get to work, to school, to see your kid’s recital? Driving accounts for almost 30 percent of your energy “footprint,” so if you want to tread lightly, buy or build a home close to civilization.

Next on the list: orientation. If you live in a cold climate, face most of your windows to the South. If you live in the steamy south, window facing isn’t as critical, but roof overhangs are. They should extend far enough to block out the summer sun. If you’re in an old house with lousy overhangs, consider adding canvas awnings, which can be taken off or rolled up in cooler winter months.

Once you’ve exhausted the sitting possibilities, you’re down to building or remodeling the home you have. The best bang for your buck by far: Insulate the foundation and super-insulate the roof. You lose up to 30 percent of the heat through the foundation, another 30 percent through the roof. This may require a trip to your local Home Depot (HD) but it’ll pay off in the long run.

The foundation is just the start. As you move through the construction process from the ground up, seal around windows and doors, installing water-saving fixtures and Energy Star appliances—the list of low-hanging fruit goes on and on.

Once you’ve done all the stuff to make your house durable, comfortable and “green,” then go back to the drawing board. Now you’re ready to look at wind turbines and sexy solar panels like the ones First Solar (FSLR) and Evergreen Solar (ESLR) make.

Matt Power, senior editor of Green Builder magazine, Matt has written for Builder, Professional Builder, American Homestyle and many other magazines, and received some of the industry’s highest honors, including the Jesse H. Neal award, the Ned Godrey award from the Construction Writers Association, and regular recognition from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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