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Homeowner Benefits: Green Built Home

Utility Benefits:

How can a Green Built Home lower your energy bills?
All certified homes must either comply with Wisconsin's Focus on Energy, Level 1, New Homes program standards Home standards or exceed Wisconsin residential energy codes by 15%. Either option offers homeowners considerable energy savings. In addition to many other features builders and home buyers may select for each home, all installed appliances must either be ENERGY STAR labeled or score in the top 50% of the Energy Guide.

How can a Green Built Home lower your water bills?
During warm summer months, a household can expend as much as 50% of its water budget on watering landscape plantings. The program recommends the use of site-appropriate native plants in a large portion of the landscape planting. Native plants are adapted to Wisconsin's climate and generally require less water and maintenance than some of the commonly used ornamental plants. Large native plantings are encouraged, though if any of the yard is to be planted with turf grasses, seed mixes such as the 'low-mow' and 'no-mow' varieties are recommended. The program also recommends the use of low-flow water fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens and water-efficient appliances, such as horizontal-axis clothes washers.

Improved Indoor Air Quality:

How can Green Built Homes maintain improved indoor air quality?
Poor indoor air quality can affect the health of a home's inhabitants, potentially aggravating existing health conditions such as asthma and allergies. Indoor air quality is influenced by a variety of factors including moisture, ventilation, off-gassing building materials and high volumes of airborne particles.
  • Moisture - Excessive moisture can lead to mold growth, which has been making many headlines lately. The best way to prevent excessive moisture is to ensure that a building's envelope is properly sealed and to provide adequate ventilation. Proper installation and maintenance is of utmost importance. It may also be necessary to regulate the humidity in a home with a humidifier or dehumidifier. The EPA recommends that the indoor humidity be maintained in the range of 30-50%.
  • Ventilation - Proper ventilation means a controlled, regular introduction of fresh air into a home and the exhausting of stale moist air from the home. Drafty windows and electrical sockets are not adequate modes of ventilation! When properly designed natural ventilation is not sufficient, mechanical ventilation is a must. There are a variety of potentially dangerous gasses commonly found in a home. Carbon monoxide can enter a home through the door to the garage, and measures should be taken to weather seal or otherwise close the garage off from the living space. Radon is a naturally-occurring carcinogenic gas that can enter a home through the foundation. Radon mitigation measures can be taken when foundation drainage is installed. Ventilation can prevent these health hazards from accumulating in your living space.
  • Building materials: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - These solvents are found in many building materials such as paints and finishes, adhesives and carpets. These building materials release VOCs into the air throughout their lifetime, though the most noticeable off-gassing occurs when the materials are new (VOCs are responsible for "new house" smell and "new car" smell.) Exposures to VOCs can result in anything from headaches and nausea to aggravation of medical conditions such as asthma and allergies. To avoid these problems, look for paints, adhesives and finishes that are low to non-toxic or at the very least labeled "low VOC." Also look for carpets that meet the Carpet and Rug Institute's Indoor Air Quality standards.
  • Formaldehyde - These compounds are commonly found in fiberglass insulation and pressed wood products used in cabinetry and trim. These building products can emit formaldehyde gas during their lifetime, though the strongest emission occurs when the products are new. Formaldehyde is carcinogenic and strong-smelling. Constant exposure can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and nausea. Elevated levels can trigger asthma attacks, and some people can develop sensitivity to the gas. Fortunately, many formaldehyde-free building products are entering the market. Some studies also suggest that sealing pressed-wood products with a polyurethane coating can reduce formaldehyde emissions.
  • Airborne particles - Dust, mold, lint, pet dander and other particles circulate through HVAC systems despite regular house-cleaning and vacuuming. These particles are small enough to inhale and can irritate the respiratory system and trigger allergies and asthma. There are several ways to reduce the number of airborne particles in a home. One way is to utilize hard surface floors wherever possible, as carpets and rugs trap these particles and are more difficult to clean completely. Furnace and duct mounted air cleaners can help trap airborne particles as well, and prevent them from being continuously re-circulated through vents and ducts. Radiant heat (such as hydronic or in-floor heat) eliminates ducts and their associated problems entirely. Central vacuum systems have stronger suction then standard vacuum cleaners, and typically trap all vacuumed particles in a canister mounted outside the living space.