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The commonly accepted description of "going green", addresses tailoring one's lifestyle for the
protection and benefit of the environment. Those who decide to "go green" make changes in their
day-to-day activities, knowing that the ramifications of those changes (or not making those changes) could affect their savings account, pollution, global warming, loss of animal habitation, and other environmental issues. Depending on one's views and economic position, "going green" can mean different things. Going green does mean making changes, but it does not mean one must wash clothes once-a-month, or carpool to work to conserve. Going green can be as simple as raising the AC by just 2-4 degrees or implementing a solar panel for a specific function (i.e., exterior lights) only. Taking small steps, and comparing notes with your neighbors about planned changes, can lead to greater cost-savings than one would have imagined possible.
"A Better Way" to conserve - Temperature Controls:
During those hot summer months, thermostats, if improperly set, will do more than lower your house temperatures. They will also lower your overall available funds, once those gas and electric bills are paid. Raising the temperature on your AC in the summer, or lowering the temperature of the thermostat by a few degrees in the winter, may seem insignificant when viewing overall energy consumption, but just a few degrees of adjustment over a year can result in major environmental and monetary gain. A rule-of-thumb for the summer, is to raise the occupancy temperature (the temperature in the home when occupants are active) by 2-4 degrees. It has been observed that a setting of 74-76 degrees F works well for most. Don't forget that when a house is vacant (or a room is not being used), there is really no need to adjust the temperature for occupancy temperature. As noted above, summer temperature settings are raised rather than lowered, as was noted for thermostats settings during the winter months. During the cold winter months, thermostat settings should hover around to 68-70 degrees. Depending on the efficiency of one's equipment and the insulation, a household can save up to 3% on their bill for every degree one lowers or raises the temperature.
"A Better Way" to conserve - Solar Panels:
When one gets passed the initial expenditure(s), single source energy is a great way for homeowners to "go green". While installing a solar system to completely power an entire residence can be expensive, implementing a solar system to power only the exterior lights in a home would be reasonable. Single source energy options include; powering the garage electrical circuits, external lighting (porch lights), or sprinkler timers with a solar panel. Other single source energy options include; a small wind-turbine system implemented to power a house (via energizing a battery-set) for less used appliances like washing machines/dryers.
"A Better Way" to conserve - Tankless Water Heaters:
New homeowners in larger homes often are amazed at the time it takes for hot water to appear at
the bathroom faucet. The logical explanation that water must initially flow a long distance through cold pipes, does not add comfort when one is in a hurry to get to work. Tankless water heaters offer an affordable option to traditional water heater tanks. A tankless water heater is a compact water
heater that is placed at the location where the water is demanded. This location can be under the
kitchen or bathroom sink. Gas or electric tankless water heaters only heat water when the faucet or showerhead is turned on. This means savings to the homeowner, who is not paying to heat water twenty-four hours of the day. Tankless water heaters are inexpensive, and result in energy savings. At a "global" level, the outcome is less fuel/energy wastes, leading to a positive environmental impact.
"A Better Way" to conserve - Construction Materials:
It can be argued that the most well known of the energy-efficient construction components is the
double-pane window, which has been used for many decades. Though the double-pane window was one of the first of the category now known as "green", the current list of green materials is too large to list here. This section will highlight just a few that would be used in most home projects.
A California based company has introduced a new class of cement that not only has created jobs in California, but is also an environmental improvement over the old, time-proven Portland cement. Yearly, Portland cement creates (the process of manufacturing Portland cement) nearly three billion tons of carbon dioxide. This new product, via its manufacturing processes can actually "capture" half a ton of carbon dioxide for each ton of cement produced. As a by-product, fresh water is created through this home-grown process. Another upshot of this process is that labor for this sort of manufacturing is low tech, which makes it inexpensive, making it difficult for overseas competitors to undercut domestic manufacturers. Drywall is another decades-old material that has finally been targeted. EcoRock is made from 80 percent recycled materials, including waste from steel and cement plants, and requires just one-fifth the energy to produce as conventional gypsum drywall. This is another product that could be manufactured domestically. California is now one of the national leaders in introducing green material related to the construction industry. The construction industry may soon see resurgence in activity related to these readily available, home grown products.
"A Better Way" to conserve - Financial Benefits of "Going Green":
Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM):
In 1995, the FHA enacted a nation-wide program called "Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)".
EEMs are loans earmarked for energy-saving home upgrades. Sometimes called "green mortgage" loans, these packages cover a variety of areas from HVAC systems to new energy-efficient windows. EEMs help homebuyers or homeowners save money on utility bills by enabling them to finance the cost of adding energy-efficient features to new or existing housing as part of their FHA insured home purchase, or by refinancing. EEMs are granted at the same time that one seeks a primary mortgage or attempts to refinance. An EEM is a loan that is rolled into a primary mortgage, resulting in only one bill payment per month.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE):
Though this program has recently been frozen in California, there is enough public support that it is
likely that the program will resurface in the very near future. Under PACE programs, local governments make loans to homeowners who then use the funds to install solar panels, and other energy efficiency features. The homeowners then repay the loans through special property tax assessments over a period of 10 years or more. PACE is similar to an EEM in that you get money for energy-efficient upgrades to your home. Instead of rolling the loan into a mortgage, the loan is paid back by increasing your property taxes at a set rate over a term of 10 to 20 years. Please consult your financial adviser, as this program is currently under review.
HUD 203K Programs:
FHA 203K renovation loans have existed for years, but they have recently been revitalized in helping people "go green". The HUD 203K Program allows one to buy a home requiring renovation or modernization with just one mortgage loan. Typically, if one is buying a home that needs major work to make it habitable, that person needs to obtain financing to purchase the home, additional financing for renovations, and then a permanent mortgage when the work is done. With a 203K, a person can simply get one loan that pays for everything. The total value of the loan is based on the projected value of the property with the renovation/modernization already completed, including the cost of the work and related fees. Specifically related to "going green", 203K loans will finance new free-standing energy-efficient appliances for one's home, such as EPA recommended ENERGY STAR appliances. One can finance new low flow toilets as well as tankless water heaters (see above for details). Low flow toilets use less than half the water than older models and tankless waters provide limitless hot water without all the wasted energy of a constantly working water heater. These items all can help one decide on how viable it is to "go green". If one is planning to make major changes for thier home, savings account, and the environment, it is worth it to look into these financing options. Please consult your financial adviser if any of the above are being considering, given that financial institutions are currently eyeing all loans stringently.