Green building and remodeling practices are gaining momentum across the country and locally, so let's take a moment to learn what "green" means.
Sometimes called green construction or sustainable building, green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's lifecycle. There are many techniques and practices that come together in both new construction and remodeling/updating of existing homes to make them more "green."Increased efficiency of appliances and heating and cooling systems is a first step to look for. Since 44 percent of the average utility bill goes to heating/cooling a home, this is a key area where you can reduce your energy consumption, save money and make a house more green. The efficiency of central air-conditioning systems is rated by a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. These SEER ratings typically range from 13 to 23; the higher the rating the more efficient the unit and the less energy is consumed.
A recent technique being incorporated into building is "conditioned crawl spaces" versus standard vented crawl spaces. This process not only controls the temperature in the crawl space so the heating/cooling systems work more efficiently, it also reduces the amount of moisture in the crawl space which can lead to mildew and mold.
Reducing air infiltration to the living space of a home may sound rudimentary, but it is a major source of waste in both heating and cooling a home of which most homeowners are unaware. Professional energy auditors use blower door tests to help determine a home's air tightness. A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. The auditors may use a smoke pencil to detect air leaks,which then can be sealed with caulk or foam. This test can be performed on an existing home as well as new construction and is available right here in Chattanooga and Northwest Georgia.
If you are selecting new appliances and want to embrace green technology, you want to look for Energy Star products. This program was first introduced in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Today it allows a consumer to compare the efficiency of products and related savings over a period of time.
The targeted consumer for green building and remodeling practices spans the gamut of ages of home buyers. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors has added green/Energy Star features as a search category of homes which it has for sale. Contact a GCAR member to have a custom search created of green homes that meet your needs.
Mark Hite is president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors