You know the trend is when it received MSM's attention which bring it to the mainstream. Check this out. Washington Post has created a new section dedicated to 'Green' topics, which means that green is in. Green is no longer for enviro geeks only. It is 'officially' mainstream! Because sooner or later, it'll be costlier to maintain a non-green home than a green one.
In other words: Going green is good for your wallet.
Here is the first question before we even go that far: What is a green home anyway? The organization that certifies green buildings known as LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - has a very simple definition of a green home.
"A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources, creates less waste and is healthier for the people living inside compared to a standard home. It’s as simple as that!"
A standard home is simply on the other side of a green home.
A green home can take different shades: green, greener and greenest. It all depends how deep of a green shade you want to create. You want to just build or green remodeling your home to be more energy-efficient, or want to take it to the next level by using certified green products and produce your own 'renewable energy' from solar, geothermal and wind. I meant, the sky's the limit. The possibility is endless. It all depends on what your budget is. And what you want to achieve. Efficiency. Sustainability. Eco-friendly.
image: solar-powered grid connected home
If you want simply build or green retrofit your house to be more energy-efficient, i.e. you can be looking at using better insulation, energy-efficient appliances (like 100% Energy Star appliances), high performance windows.
To find out how to retrofit the house more energy-efficient, you can start with this web-based DIY energy audit tool to guide you through the process.
Or, you can also check it out here. And decide what you want to do next.
Say, you want take it to the next level. The use green building products is your next stop. For reference, here is a checklist (.pdf) of what green building products are and links where to get them re:sources.
Beyond that is the 3rd level, the more comprehensive approach. The third level achieved when you take holistic approach for the whole house which include the target of generating energy from renewable sources like sun, wind or down under (thick layer of soil).
In Washington DC region, if the energy produced is more than your house need, you can sell the power back to the utility co. This is a way to read your meter backwards via 'Net Metering.' Depending on where you live (DC, MD or VA), you pay a minimal amount just to connect to the grid. The power from the grid serves as backup for your just in case.
Once you decide how green you want to be. What comes next is very important in the green homes business. That is, the 'voluntary' certification for the home itself. Green homes typically is certified by independent third-party verifier. Stockwell Manor in McLean is a Energy Star qualified homes, Cromley Lofts is LEED condos. Carsten Crossings in California is LEED homes. These communities were either Energy Star certified homes, or LEED.
Think of certification like 'seal of approval' for the green homes.
There are so many certifications, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 certification programs that exists in many different parts of the country. Here is a few of the certifications, via Green Home Guide.
- LEED Homes
- Energy Star Qualified Homes
- Arlington County Green Home Choice Program
- NAHB (the Association of Home Builders) has National Green Building program
- EarthCraft House
- Florida Building Coalition
- Building America
Does it mean that without certification we won't be able to put a label that this house is green? Yes you got it right. Though, the certification itself is 'voluntary' but, you can be assured that this is almost a 100% sure thing. For labeling purposes, it is required to get the homes 'independently' certified. The thing is without certification, there won't be green homes. Who's to say that the home is in fact a 'green home?' How do we (customers) know it?
On the other hand, if your green home is geared towards energy efficiency, the labeling is a bit easier. All you need to do is to show how 'ridiculously' low (like $12 a month for connection fee) your home's utility bills and the type of clean energy from where you get the electricity from - be it solar/wind or geothermal - that might be all you need to back up your claim. You need no labeling.
Other than that, if you want to attach a 'green' label for your home - the 3rd party verification is needed - to tell the world that your house is indeed certified.
Perhaps I should explain how Net Metering works in DC-MD-VA. Other states here.
District of Columbia
"Credited to customer's next bill at utility's retail rate."
"Credited at retail rate and carried over to customer's next bill; granted to utility at end of 12-month period with no compensation for the customer."
"Credited to following month at utility's retail rate; either granted to utility annually or credited to following month."