Everyone is talking about “Green Homes” and “Green Living”, but how can we get there without spending all of our “Green Dollars”? There are different degrees of going “Green” and the amount of effort and money will dramatically increase as you try to reach 100% effectiveness while minimizing your carbon footprint.
Finding a compromise of what you can afford and what is available in green technology shouldn’t be too difficult. In many cases, you can add-on greener features as your budget allows. It is recommended to start with a home designated as “Right Choice” and/or “Energy Star”. There are other programs in the nation, but Right Choice is offered in the metro Atlanta area and is one we are familiar with. These homes start out head and shoulders above the other houses being constructed that are not in this program and subject to the rigorous inspections. These Right Choice homes are designed and built to meet the U.S. Department of Energy standards for energy efficiency. Typically, these homes can be found for about the same price as less efficient homes with similar square footage if you just shop around. Much has been written about the Right Choice program, so I won’t repeat it here. The quick summary is that Right Choice homes are guaranteed to be energy efficient and comfortable without wasting energy or valuable resources and can save as much as 25% on your energy bills.
Two Willows Preserve in North Gwinnett County is one such community that has embraced the Right Choice program and introduced other complementary features to help with the green concept. An example of some of the greener design ideas at Two Willows Preserve is all homes have roof trusses designed for the weight of Solar Panels and conduit has been installed for future solar energy transfer. Another design idea is that each home is engineered to maximize the useable living space without wasting materials in an extremely efficient building footprint. The third floor bonus area is a great example of this technique. By re-thinking the design, Premier Home Builders, Inc. was able to generate an additional 400-600 square feet of useable space that is typically wasted in other new construction sites.
Other small decisions that aid in the greener yield are the dual heating and air system upgrades. Energy Star front and back doors help save a little more energy every day. The builder also opted to install energy performing windows conforming to the National Fenestration Rating Council www.nfrc.org
with a U-factor of 0.35 and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.33. These exceed industry standards and will provide saving throughout the life of the home. You can always change your existing doors and windows to meet these energy standards, but why not start off with them and not have to double spend for the savings. By dealing with a conscienancence builder, many of these concerns will never arise at a later date. If it is done right the first time, you save both time and money.
Each home within Two Willows Preserve has programmable light switches in several zones of the house which allow you to first operate these with a remote control and to program various energy saving settings as well. Each home has a storage area in the garage to aid in recycling, planning and scheduling for re-use items. Each home comes with energy wise programmable thermostats with the option of upgrading to the “smart” thermostat to integrating with the other optional smart home features.
These are just a few of the ways that you can make your life Greener without spending too much of your hard earned “green”. If you are in the market for a new home, shop wisely and start ahead of the game by seeking new homes that are energy miserly through known programs like Energy Star and Right Choice. You can reduce the negative impact to the environment and have a better home just by being aware of the options that are available. Visit Two Willows Preserve to see the energy saving smart homes for yourself.
Lynn A. Bowman
Broker, Service First Realty, Inc