People everywhere are seeking to save energy in as many ways as possible, to reduce waste, and to contribute to a healthier environment for us all. If you’re just beginning to think about a new home, consider building or purchasing a green home. Green homes offer a variety of benefits. They are healthier for you and your family, more durable over time, good for the environment, and they’re far more cost-effective over the life of the home.

Green homes are not necessarily more expensive than conventional homes, and they do not necessarily require costly alternative energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines. Paying close attention to air sealing, using the right amount of insulation, and insuring good ventilation are superlative ways to gain energy efficiency without the additional costs of advanced technologies.

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Jeff Wilson, HGTV host and author of The Greened House Effect says, “Building green not only means savings on energy, it also means your home will be a more comfortable, healthier place to live. In this day and age, it’s often no more expensive to build green than to build a standard home. On average, only 20% of the cost of a home comes in the building phase, while the other 80% of a home’s cost comes later in energy use and maintenance – that means building green is an investment that will save significant amounts of money over time.”

Financial benefits are maximized when the home is green outside as well as inside. Green homes should be positioned by builders to take the fullest advantage of heat and light from the sun. Drought-tolerant landscaping is imperative; xeriscape landscaping is the most desirable. And the savings don’t end there. Insurance companies sometimes charge lower premiums for green homes. The government offers several tax breaks and rebates to those owning or buying green homes. Green homes mean savings all the way around.

Denise Supplee is the Director of Operations and Co-founder of SparkRental.com. She says, “More and more buyers are being enticed and intrigued by homes that possess environmentally-friendly features such as solar energy, smart irrigation systems and the like. With the ability of now having a smart home, a green home is made much easier to have. For instance, when a home is fitted with smart thermostats that can be set according to who is home and even adjusted via a smart phone, life is not only easier, but money and the environment are saved.”

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Ms. Supplee also suggests, “Days of drought where watering your lawn brought the scorned faces of your neighbors is solved with smart irrigation systems that are not expensive and save water usage and money to boot!” As for energy, she asks, “Who does not want to get off the electric company grid? Solar energy is on the rise and often a tempting lure for a potential buyer to save money and keep it green, so to speak. I believe this is going to be more and more popular as more and more millennials purchase homes. Home-buyers, sooner than later will start adding environmentally sound solutions to their criteria list for their home desires.”

BEYOND THE SAVINGS, WHAT ARE THE OTHER BENEFITS OF A GREEN HOME?

Green homes also mean healthier living and healthier families. Many people who have suffered respiratory difficulties discover that breathing is much easier when they start “living green.” By utilizing natural ventilation and toxin-free building materials – including paints, sealants, and adhesives made without harmful compounds – green homes eliminate most mold and mildew problems.

Green homes also use fewer natural resources and more recycled materials, so they create less waste and pollution. This makes green homes healthier not only for the residents, but for all of us. Homeowners are not the only beneficiaries of green living. Neighbors, communities, and the world at large will reap the benefits, so there really isn’t any reason at all not to consider going green.

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If you’re looking for a poetic description, “a green home is built with a much larger home in mind – planet Earth,” says Ryan Fitzgerald, the owner of Raleigh Realty in Raleigh, North Carolina. Until the 1970s, homes were constructed “with the traditional standard building code in mind, leaving little leftover budget to consider energy efficiency,” according to Nick Falkoff, the owner of Auburndale Builders in Newton, Massachusetts.

The first green homes were built in response to the skyrocketing energy prices of the 1970s. But the 21st century’s apprehensions about climate change – along with an accelerating transition to organic building products and a general demand for homes that devour less energy – have boosted the green home trend. More and more buyers are seeking or building energy-efficient homes that reduce their costs – as well as their home’s impact on the environment.

WHAT MAKES A HOME GREEN?

According to Wikipedia, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is one of the most popular green building certification programs in the world. It was developed in the 1990s by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council, and it spells out a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and communities. A building that meets the requirements listed here can probably be LEED-certified as a green building:

-Location: Green homes take advantage of the immediate local setting and the surrounding environment as well as the geographical and climate conditions. For instance, when it’s possible, a home should be set on its lot in a way that takes maximum advantage of solar heat and light.

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-Building materials: To the maximum extent possible, the building materials for a green home should be locally sourced, non-toxic, biodegradable, repurposed, and renewable.

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-Water consumption: Green homes use efficient plumbing fixtures and/or a system to capture rainwater. Planting native trees, flowers, and shrubs removes any need for excessive watering, since these plants will thrive in their natural climates. Xeriscaping uses the least water; information on xeriscaping is available online or through most states’ agriculture departments.

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-Energy use: A green home uses efficient appliances. Ventilation and insulation should significantly reduce the need to use energy for artificial heating and cooling.

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HOW CAN I MAKE MY OWN HOME GREEN?

The less energy a home uses, the greener it is. If you are thinking about building, talk with a Florida homebuilder who has experience building green homes. Historically, homebuilders in Florida have been pioneers in environmentally-friendly home design and construction. If you want to make your current home green, the most comprehensive way is to install clean, renewable energy devices – solar panels or wind turbines, for example.

If that’s too costly, there are less expensive ways to go green. Energy-efficient appliances, such as low-flow toilets and shower heads, programmable electronic thermostats, and compact florescent lights quickly pay for themselves by reducing utility bills. A high-efficiency, 1.3-gallon-per-flush model toilet can save you over $100 a year, and a showerhead shutoff button, which can reduce your water bills by 16 percent, can be purchased for under $10 and installed in five minutes.

A black asphalt roof can reach 150 degrees or more on a summer day in Florida, making the rooms below hotter and the air conditioners work harder. “Cool” roofs save energy by reflecting rather than absorbing light and heat. A cool roof can be 50 to 60 degrees cooler and will substantially reduce energy costs. You can replace black shingles or asphalt with lighter-colored versions or simply slap a cool roof coating onto the existing roof.

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You’ll also want to consider high-performance or triple-paned glass windows or high-quality, titanium-based window film. If you have window film installed, have it done professionally. Swap out any remaining incandescent light bulbs for LED lights that consume a fraction of the energy. And of course, you want to be vigilant about sealing air leaks at doors and windows to prevent energy loss and to lower the bills.

When you make your home green, consider the future. If you are building a home, discuss your green ideas with a Florida homebuilder. If you are staying in the same home for the foreseeable future, energy-efficient appliances will eventually pay for themselves after contributing to your energy savings for several years. On the other hand, if you are putting your home on the market, greening a home immediately increases its resale value. Either way, making a home green is both economically and environmentally positive, so there’s no reason not