I recently read a statistic from the National Association of Home Builders that between 40 to 50% of homes to be built in 2010 are expected to be green. With the word “green” being thrown around a lot these days, I decided to talk to Keith Rodgers of Rome Construction in South Carolina. Rodgers has been in construction for over 23 years and has helped lead the charge towards sustainable home building in the South since 2004 when he built the first Earth Craft (green building standard) home in South Carolina.
“Everybody’s using the green buzz word, but having a “green” home is not just about having bamboo floors or carpet made from recycled fibers,” Rodgers said. “If you want to have the most impact on helping the environment, you have to look at the building science behind your home first.”
Using Earth Craft building standards, Rodgers has become an expert on building homes in a manner that maximizes energy efficiency. The process is fairly inexpensive and it can reduce your energy bill up to 50% a month, which computes to huge savings over time.
According to Rodgers, insulation the biggest single contributor to maximize a home’s energy efficiency. To allow for as much insulation as possible, Rodgers’ team uses advanced framing techniques, a foil bubble wrap on the underside of the roof, and they even foam every crack before installing insulation as well as seal every crawl space in the house. It may seem excessive, but all of this extra padding ensures the home retains twice as much heat during winter.
In addition to insulation, Rodgers’ team uses Low-emittance (Low-E) window glass which allows light in, but not heat. They also install digital programmable cooling systems with return and supply vents in all bedrooms, rather than one on each floor. With digital systems, homeowners can program the air to come on thirty minutes before returning home so they don’t waste gas all day long.
Lastly, details like compact fluorescent lights, “Energy Star” rated appliances, sustainable flooring, cabinetry made from old forest growth, and non-oil based paints come standard in Rodgers’ energy efficient custom homes.
Aesthetically, there is no difference in an eco-friendly house built by Rodgers’ team and one that’s not energy efficient. “It’s not going to look like something made from straw,” he said. “The only difference is the eco-friendly house saves over 80% on energy costs compared to the guy next door.”
Having a greener home doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch. There’s a lot of ways to reduce your existing home’s carbon footprint right now. Here are Keith Rodgers’ top three recommendations to make your home more energy efficient:
Change your hot water system to a tankless hot water system. Traditional water heaters use stored water tanks that constantly need to be heated. Tankless systems heat water on demand, therefore saving hours of heating time. You also get a tax credit for doing this.
Change your thermostat to a digital programmable system. That way, you won’t waste energy all day while you are at work or away from home.
Add insulation wherever possible, especially in your attic. Rodgers says most heat loss and gain is through the attic of a home, just like in humans where heat loss comes and goes first through your head. Adding insulation is also the most cost effective step you can take to make your home more energy efficient.
If you want to learn more about green building and green building standards and education, check out the following sites:
- US Green Building Council
- Earth Craft: a regionally recognized green building resource and rating system.
- LEED: a nationally recognized home building rating and education system.
- Star Appliances: this site also shows tax credits you can get by greening your home.
by Shelby Stanger