Green building programs. Getting involved in a local or national green building program can give a homebuilder a considerable advantage in a competitive market. Building homes that achieve a third-party certification helps to verify the quality and performance of the home to the potential customer. And the U.S. Department of Energy offers the Builders Challenge program, which, like green building programs, supports participating builders with training and marketing opportunities and allow for a designation that identifies a builder as progressive.
In addition to these government programs, private initiatives such as the National Association of Homebuilders’ Green Building Program and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes Program offer resources and benefits to builders and buyers.
Alternative HVAC systems. Traditional gas or electric furnaces, especially units that are Energy Star-rated, perform well, but new technologies have been introduced that offer higher levels of comfort and efficiency. Air-sourced heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps have become more common in the market, and most utility programs now offer loans or cash rebates for installing them.
Likewise, evaporative coolers that are Energy Star-rated can be ideal in warmer climates and, with proper windows, can match the comfort level of less efficient electric units. Biomass stoves may also be appropriate for heating homes or water in remote areas where natural gas is unavailable. Biomass stoves use wood pellets, corn or other organic materials as fuel, are highly efficient and consume renewable resources. Finally, on-demand water heaters, especially in the master bath, can add significant comfort while cutting down on water and energy waste. For remodelers installing soaking tubs, highlighting the benefits of a small on-demand water heater is an easy sell because the units capitalize on short runs, endless hot water and energy efficiency.
Advanced lighting strategies. Builders and remodelers can encourage customers to take advantage of natural lighting to decrease energy use and enhance the aesthetics of a home by installing skylights. Traditional and newer "tubular" skylights can be strategically installed in dark halls, closets and entryways to reduce the overall energy demand of the house while also bringing natural light into the living space.
The Energy Star program recognizes that skylights can keep homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, which lowers energy bills and enhances overall comfort in the home. Along with natural lighting, replacing traditional incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs in all new-home construction is an easy sell. But beyond CFLs, LED lighting uses even less energy and can last for up to 50,000 hours. LED lights can be installed in any traditional light socket and, like CFLs, give off less heat than traditional bulbs, which can greatly reduce the cooling load in warmer climates.
Heat loss from an uninsulated basement can be a third of the heating cost.
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