Homes designed with green energy systems, products and materials help protect the environment and reduce energy consumption while improving indoor comfort, health and safety.
Lower energy usage means lower energy bills too, so it’s no surprise that green energy is expected to continue to be a leading housing trend in 2014. Whether it’s a home with a passive solar design that takes advantage of natural lighting or one equipped with a geothermal heating and cooling system, homebuyers are increasingly looking for eco-friendly features that offer them long-term savings.
Walls and Windows
Because heating and cooling accounts for as much as half of the energy consumption in the average American home, well-insulated homes that keep air infiltration at a minimum are highly energy efficient. A tight building seal that includes high performance windows keeps the conditioned air that a homeowner pays for inside. The position of the windows matters too. Green home builders often orient the structure to allow natural light to augment or replace indoor lighting fixtures.
Due to new technologies and stricter energy efficiency requirements, all types of heating and cooling systems manufactured today are significantly more efficient than their older counterparts. When it comes to green HVAC systems, however, it’s hard to beat geothermal heat pumps.
These underground systems tap into the heat stored beneath the surface of the earth to power heating and cooling systems and to augment water heating systems. They’re up to 70 percent more efficient that conventional heaters and up to 50 percent more efficient than traditional air conditioners
Energy Star Products
Modern appliances have always been high on a homebuyer’s wish list, but in 2014, shoppers will be focusing on energy efficiency as well as style and performance. The Energy Star program makes it easier for consumers to identify products designed to save them money through lower energy consumption. Other household products bearing the Energy Star label include qualified ceiling fans, lighting fixtures and windows.
Photovoltaic (PV) systems like solar panel arrays use the energy of the sun to provide electricity and to power hot water heaters. Advancements in technologies combined with government incentives have made PV systems more cost-effective. Some green builders have begun to integrate PV panels into roofs, and with installation costs continuing to fall, that trend is likely to continue in 2014.
Homebuyers are also paying more attention when it comes to the materials used in paint, countertops and flooring. Zero- or low-VOC paints emit less off-gassing than conventional paint products. Sustainable stone countertops are sourced from local quarries. Green hardwood products like paneling, cabinets and flooring come from sustainably grown forests.
Most of the energy used in American homes comes from burning fossil fuels, so any feature, fixture or system that lowers a home’s energy usage helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. A push for green energy solutions has resulted in numerous innovative technologies and products that consume less energy without sacrificing performance.
Homebuyers are becoming savvier about features that improve a home’s overall energy efficiency and save them money on operating costs, and that trend is likely to pick up steam in 2014.