As the green building industry continues its rapid expansion, many people are taking a close look at the best way to minimize their own residential footprint. There's a huge amount at stake, since homes account for about 22 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, 21 percent of carbon-dioxide emissions and 9 percent of water use, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
On one hand, new green homes are often 30 to 50 percent more efficient than older ones. However, they are usually a bit more expensive, are in short supply, and often don't have the character and fine craftsmanship of aged structures. They also may not be located in the established neighborhoods that are becoming more attractive again in places like urban centers.
Older houses are often drafty and filled with inefficient appliances. It's usually very difficult to try and add modern insulation after the fact. On the other hand, a house that already exists doesn't require use of any new resources or expansion of sprawl, which is a major threat to wildlife habitat. Older homes are typically smaller and more densely packed.
Adding to the difficulty of people's decision is the fact that repair and replacement costs typically rise each decade of a home's life, according to a report published today in Investor's Business Daily. The median age of U.S. homes is 32 years, according to the U.S. Census.
According to a National Association of the Remodeling Industry survey, 46 percent of American homeowners claim they would be eager to incorporate green principles into their homes, especially if it would save them money. Experts estimate one can generally save 20 to 30 percent on energy costs with $4,000 to $8,000 worth of improvements.
Clearly, there are many factors to consider in homeownership, and there are no easy answers. Whatever a person's choice, it's great news that so many people are beginning to give serious thought to their environmental impact, and trying to find a solution that works for them.
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