Eco-Conscious House Hunting

There are enough factors to consider when looking for a new home that it might seem overwhelming to add environmental impact to your checklist. However, from an environmental perspective, the type of home you live in is one of the most important decisions you can make as a consumer.

Making an environmentally conscious housing decision will not only help reduce our consumption of energy and natural resources, but will also lower your maintenance and energy bills. In addition, some mortgage lenders and financial service companies such as Fannie Mae have recognized the importance of a home's environmental impact and offer mortgage benefits to buyers of energy-efficient houses.

Keep these considerations in mind when house hunting:

– Home size. Buy a home that is no larger than you need. Heating unused rooms is a waste of energy, and unheated rooms may draw heat away from other areas of the home. The money you save on buying, heating, and lighting a smaller home can be invested in energy-efficient home improvements.

– Yard. To help maintain local biodiversity, choose a home with a smaller yard and a surrounding natural habitat that has been left largely intact. This is especially important when looking in newer housing developments.

– Location. If possible, live close to your office or town center. Automobiles are a primary source of environmental damage, and the farther you drive to get to work or run errands, the greater the damage. If you cannot live within walking or bicycling distance from work or shopping, consider moving where there is public transportation.

– Efficiency. Perform an energy audit on any prospective home to assess its energy efficiency and find ways to make it more efficient. You can do this yourself (see the links below) or hire a professional for a small fee.

If you've decided to build a new home instead of purchasing an existing one, you have the opportunity to incorporate energy-efficient features at the start. Consider incorporating the following items into your home's design (or installing them as upgrades on an existing home):

– Renewable energy (such as photovoltaic roof panels)

– Substantial insulation in walls and ceilings (including attics and crawlspaces)

– Efficient windows

– Natural lighting (south-facing windows, skylights, etc.)

– Occupancy sensors to control indoor lighting

– Efficient hot-water system (solar is best)

– Heat-recovery ventilation system

– Caulking and weather stripping on doors and windows

– Energy-efficient appliances (look for the Energy Star label)

These upgrades will pay for themselves over time and contribute to the cleanest possible environment you can provide for your family.

[Reprinted with permission from GreenTips, a publication of the Union of Concerned Scientists, September 2003.]

Originally posted in "On Eagles' Wings" February 5th 2006

This content originated at Canfei

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