I want to build a green home

My wife and I have lived in our town-home for over 3 years now.  I don't want to brag or anything, but I just got elected to the HOA board (it was a grueling race for 5 spots; there were 7 candidates so the odds were in my favor.  My main goal is to build a dog park for the HOA).  While I love the area we live in - minus the fact we don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's close to us - we want to upgrade in a few years so we actually have a back yard and more livable space.

The challenge in building a high performance energy efficient home is making sure you can add as many energy efficient features as possible without going over budget.  While we all know that energy efficiency pays in the long run, and possibly even offers better returns than the stock market, there are real ceilings when it comes to qualifying for loan amounts.  Also, different loan amounts require increasing levels of down payments (I think the FHA comes into this somewhere), and as my wife and I are both relatively young in our careers, we prefer to finance as much as possible (due to our lower savings level and to take advantage of incredibly low interest rates). It will be a balancing act to add as many energy features as possible while staying under budget.

Over the years we've had a few posts on green home building.  We featured an article Lorraine Horbaly wrote in her family's efforts to build a LEED home. While I think having a LEED certified home may make sense for some, I don't think we'll pursue LEED certification for our home.  I will make sure we incorporate any LEED points that we can.

I would love to have a zero net energy home, but again, the budget isn't going to allow this.  What I will try and do is make sure the roof is south facing so I can add solar pv in the future.  Residential turbines don't make sense in Georgia, and solar pv is almost always the better bang for your buck anyway.  There are very few spots in the U.S. where a residential wind turbine will out perform a solar PV system.  Speaking of zero energy and solar, I would love to build a Lumenhaus (similar to Passive House) some day.

Finally, I'll make sure to follow the excellent tips that USA Today's Wendy Koch outlined in her efforts to build a green home.   One of her tips is to buy a flat, sunny lot in a walkable neighborhood.  I'm currently checking out a lot that would allow us to walk to a state nature park where we can hike with the dog or I can ride my mountain bike.  Being close to outdoor activities is a must!

I'm also going to read about the ultimate green homes and review the lessons learned by a Popular Science writer in his quest to build a green home.

What else do I need to consider or what have you learned in your home building efforts?

enjoyed our post? let others know: 


"While we all know that energy efficiency pays in the long run" I'm in a weird space created my the PG&E tariff system here in California. I had a largish PV system installed six years ago. Since then I've made a number of energy efficiency improvements - and now my net electricity bill for the year is $0 (mostly because the excess sunny summer afternoon kWhs get sold to PG&E at about three times the price of the night time ones that I have to buy from them). But my net usage is quite a long way above zero. If I could get net usage below zero, they'd pay me for excess kWh - but I'd have to make some big changes for no monetary gain to get from where I am now to the zero-point. I am still moving slowly (LED bulbs are replacing CFL as the CFLs die) - but there is no *financial* return for this for me.
The answer is H.I.D.E.N. that stands for Holistic Integrated Design using Engineered Natural systems. We build net-zero, self-heated and cooled, sustainable homes for the same cost as a custom home in your area all the time. Your design, engineering and construction is not up to snuff if you are paying more for net zero. Brian
I encourage anyone thinking about building a green home to visit This website is a fantastic free resource for those people who are about to renovate or build.
I heard that lots out west just love to have green homes built on them
I recommend lots of insulation. You will save more money fitting 10 inches of polyurethane insulation in your ceilings, walls and floors as this will last forever. I also have treble and quadruple glazed windows, which means we can sit next to our floor to ceiling windows on the coldest nights and watch the snow fall in perfect comfort. People say fit large windows in the south facing walls - get the benefit of the sun. I also have large windows in the east and west walls, we get the early and late sun and have fantastic sunsets over the mountains.
I can help with a net zero utility home. We deliver net zero homes to your site. Keep in mind the budget will be impacted, however the home will have no utility expense, so the mortgage will be slightly higher, but won't hurt the wallet when amortized over 30 years etc...It exceeds any LEED standards, which is nothing to brag about since LEED is a joke, and the homes are not your usual modular run of the mill stlye, they are beautiful.
If the progress reports I'm getting from our research team are correct, net positive energy homes should be very possible starting next summer using our technology, which very efficiently converts ambient heat to electricity so it works day and night, cloudy or clear (think Heinlein's Sunpower screens he wrote about in the Forties). Of course, it is new tech and it might take longer than the guys in the lab claim, but it looks very promising. We have made lots of prototypes now and have a good understanding of how to move from prototyping into pilot production and then into full production (given the funding, obviously). We currently have a state government which has made a formal proposal to provide an R&D lab and to fund our operation if we agree to create a minimum number of new jobs.
Read this article, Green is just a sales label "its the energy stupid"
You should look into Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM) - "An Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) is a mortgage that credits a home's energy efficiency in the mortgage itself. EEMs give borrowers the opportunity to finance cost-effective, energy-saving measures as part of a single mortgage and stretch debt-to-income qualifying ratios on loans thereby allowing borrowers to qualify for a larger loan amount and a better, more energy-efficient home." In theory that should let you finance more, based on lower operating costs. I think it's a great idea; I'm sure the devil is in the details but I imagine it's worth looking into.
ckmapawatt's picture
Or better yet, read our post on the<a href="" rel="nofollow"> energy efficient mortgage</a>!


Post new comment

Subscribe to Comments for "I want to build a green home"