Going green starts at home


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. Well, did you know that can add housing to the list of ways to be environmentally friendly?

Which 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. But 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 in an existing home.

Save money and the environment

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

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 for compact fluorescents.

You probably know that efforts like these offer benefits beyond helping the environment. Well, 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 and they often pay 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.

Educate yourself

You can find information online about how to reduce your energy consumption and make wise environmental choices in housing. The EPA’s Energy Star website,, offers resources and tips for new homes, home improvements and more. Also, consult your local government or utility company to see if they provide incentives for energy-efficient upgrades.

Work with an expert

Another great information source is a Texas Realtor with a GREEN designation. This professional designation from the National Association of Realtors means she has gone the extra mile to educate herself about environmentally-friendly building and sustainable business practices to serve you better.

For more information on real estate, ask your Texas Realtor or visit