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
- 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
- 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.