From Dean Dowd on August 04, 2011 in Green Remodeling
How much do our buildings really contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? The answers may be surprising.
Over 50% of all GHGs in the U.S. come from our homes and businesses, and over 40% of the country’s energy consumption goes toward powering those structures. Contrast that with the 28% of energy consumption for cars and other transportation, and its clear that our homes are expending energy resources at an unacceptable rate.
So whats greener? Building a new house or renovating an old one? Both are worthy endeavors, but with many existing homes using twice as much energy as they should, home improvement edges out new construction.
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However, that’s not the only reason it’s greener to upgrade your existing home. New homes need new infrastructure, including roads, sewage lines, electrical lines and street lighting all entailing more expenditures of energy. In addition, new homes require the production of new materials, while materials from existing homes are generally recyclable.
Recoup more when you remodel green
Whats greener for your pocketbook? The answer may be both. Homes with a significant number of green features can sell for up to 30% more than traditional homes either for new or existing homes. In todays down-turned housing market, green technology gives you a substantial advantage.
For homeowners planning to stay in their homes, the return on investment period is getting shorter, with many recouping costs in as little as three years. In their book, Green$ense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, architect Eric Freed and Kevin Daum found that 45 out of the 50 retrofitting projects that they examined saved money in energy costs.
Which renovations bring the most savings?
Two technologies stand out. Award-winning green architect Barry Katzs book, Practical Green Remodeling, suggests that providing a tight building envelope through high insulation, combined with solar power technologies, can turn new and old homes into near-net-zero energy structures.
The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NSEA) agrees. A report from their recent Energy Conference found that proper insulation decreased energy costs over 50%, an important statistic, considering that 58 million houses in the U.S. have no insulation at all. The NSEA also reported that when an on-site power generation is included in retrofits, such as solar panels for heating, cooling and electricity, it’s possible to produce net-zero energy homes.
Solar advantages arent just limited to panels on the roof. Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) is technology currently in the market that incorporates solar capabilities into other materials, such as into glass for windows and skylights, or into materials for awnings and roof panels and solar shingles.
Combining these technologies with a number of green remodeling tax credits and incentives that are available on the federal, state and local level can compound the financial savings of greening a home, while saving valuable natural resources, ensuring that a house will be a home for generations to come.
Photos via Houzz