Think green before spending your green

May 27, 2018

Many consumers are mindful of the environment when making purchases — look at the popularity of hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, locally grown produce and other products designed to use fewer resources and reduce pollution and waste. Housing is on that list.

You don’t think of houses being responsible for carbon emissions, but they are — to a significant degree. 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, also can 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. 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.

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

You can hire a professional to better determine just how energy efficient or inefficient a home may be.

Whether purchasing a home or wanting to make the best of the house you already own, there are many steps you can take to improve energy efficiency. Here are some examples:

• 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 with compact fluorescents.

You probably know that efforts like these offer benefits beyond helping the environment. They also save money. Yes, you pay more on the front end to make improvements such as those listed above, but each one of them reduces your expenses — often paying for itself in short order. As energy costs continue to rise, the more you can do to cut consumption, the more it pays off.

You can find information online about how to lower your energy consumption and make wise environmental choices in housing.

The EPA’s Energy Star website, EnergyStar.gov, offers resources and tips about new homes, home improvements and more.

You can find advice, calculators and other helpful tools on other sites as well.

Your Realtor can help you make informed, green decisions.

Some agents have taken courses specifically designed to help their clients reap the benefits of environmentally friendly practices.

For more information about Texas real estate, visit HAR.com.

Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, with JPMorgan Chase, is 2018 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors/HAR.com.