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Making green housing choices
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 • Posted May 19, 2009 10:00 PM

Would you like a green home? I'm not talking about a residence painted the shade of a lime. I mean green as in environmentally friendly.

These days, many people consider the environment when making purchases. Just look at the popularity of hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, locally grown produce, and a host of other products designed to use fewer resources and reduce pollution and waste. You can add housing to the list.

What pollutes more — a car or a house?

You don't think of houses being responsible for carbon emissions, but they are — a significant amount. The energy you use for heating, cooling, appliances and lighting most likely comes from a source that produces carbon emissions. Other factors, like water use and building materials used to construct or remodel a home, also can significantly affect the environment.

You might think the best way to "go green" in housing is to start from scratch. And it's true. If you're building a new, custom home, you can make decisions that will greatly increase energy and water efficiency. You can also select the most environmentally friendly building materials and construction methods. But if you're not building a new home, there's no need to throw up your hands. There's still plenty you can do to make a difference.

How low can you go?

When looking to purchase an existing house, it's possible to assess some aspects of its energy use. How old is the air-conditioning unit? Does the landscaping utilize native plants? You might even be able to get energy bills from the current owner to take a look at electricity and water usage (but keep in mind that your usage may vary considerably).

You also can hire a professional to more thoroughly determine just how energy-efficient — or not — a home is.

Whether purchasing a home or wanting to make the best of the house you have lived in for years, there are many steps you can take to improve energy efficiency. Here are a few examples:

    *Install rain barrels to collect roof runoff and use that water for irrigation. *Replace water-thirsty plants with landscaping that requires little additional irrigation. *Replace old windows with energy-efficient windows. *Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and other areas that may have gaps. *Seal air ducts.
  • Install additional installation.
  • *Replace appliances with newer models that have earned the EPA's Energy Star designation. *Replace heating and cooling units. *Replace the water heater with a more efficient model. *Change out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.

You probably know that efforts like these offer benefits beyond helping the environment. They also save you money. Yes, you pay more on the front end to make improvements such as those listed above, but every one of them reduces your expenses — often paying for themselves in short order. As energy costs continue to rise, the more you can do to cut back your consumption, the more it pays off.

Get informed

You can find information online about how to reduce your energy consumption and make wise environmental choices in housing. The EPA's Energy Star Web site, EnergyStar.gov, offers resources and tips about new homes, home improvements, and more. You can find advice, calculators, and other helpful tools on other sites as well.

Your Texas Realtor also can help you make informed, green decisions. Some agents have even taken courses specifically designed to teach Realtors to help clients reap the benefits of environmentally friendly practices. For more information, I invite you to visit TexasRealEstate.com.

For your real estate needs, please contact RE/MAX Genesis at 830-833-2000.

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