The "Green" House Effect

Tips for making your home more eco-friendly.

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This concept is referred to as the “thermal envelope,” or living space that needs to be sealed off to maximize efficiency. Smart builders are mindful of keeping each step in the process eco-friendly. That includes sealing the thermal envelope through proper window and door installation; finding the right HVAC system, which generally uses half of the energy needed to cool or heat a non-insulated home; insulation; and sealing hard pipe ducts, joints, and returns to maintain proper airflow to the thermal envelope.

“Probably the number-one issue in new construction is the installation of windows and doors. A great window that is installed incorrectly results in a rotting disaster. It has to be the right product, installed correctly to produce high performance,” says Ruch. If the idea of trapping air inside your living space raises questions of breathing in stale air, Ruch says, “I have found that [builders] who say, ‘a house has to breathe,’ use it as an excuse for not doing it correctly. My houses breathe, but I control the breathing.”

Aware that some are wary of the upfront investment of building a green home, Ruch used a 2012 VESTA home  as an example for how cost-effective smart building can be long-term. The home is 5,200 square feet and has an average utility bill of $125 per month.

If funds or other factors don’t permit building or buying a green home, several behavioral changes can be made to retrofit houses and make them more energy-efficient. MLGW has programs in place to teach the community how and why saving energy is beneficial, which might seem ironic since it would stand to reason that MLGW would benefit from its customers paying higher, not lower, utilities. In response, Glen Thomas, MLGW supervisor of public relations and communications, says, “Our customers are looking for ways to save energy and save money, and we are being responsive and proactive in helping them and the environment.”

 “They use ceiling fans year-round, reversing the direction in the winter to bring heat down to the living space,” says Smythe-Tune. “Counterclockwise is for the summer; clockwise is for the winter.”

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