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Earth Day is April 22nd and it’s a good reminder for all of us to make greener choices to help save energy—which means more money in your pocket—reduce waste and have better homes with healthier products. Because that’s what it’s about—going green but being smart.

I’ve seen many so-called “green” products that end up creating all this extra waste because they don’t work. But I’ve also seen many great, durable products that protect our homes, so we don't waste materials, and increase comfort. One example is Schluter’s DITRA-HEAT floor-warming system. It protects the integrity of your tiles, so they don’t crack and need to be replaced; it protects your floor against moisture and mould, so it’s healthy; and it has heating cables, so your feet feel warm and toasty in the morning using minimal energy—all pluses. That’s green to me.

Better construction is green. When we improve the building envelope—that’s your windows, insulation, the roof, the foundation and exterior siding—we make our homes more weather-resistant and energy-efficient. When things last longer, and we don’t have to throw them away and replace them with new materials, we keep garbage out of landfills and we use minimal energy.

There are plenty of changes that most homeowners can do that can help make their home more green. For example, switching to LEDs and using solar-powered outdoor lights. If you’re replacing your roof get your old asphalt shingles recycled and go for metal, if you can afford it. A metal roof will last a minimum of 50 years; it’s fire-resistant, helps you save loads in heating costs, and it looks good too. (Some metal roof products look like regular asphalt shingles.)

You can also use your landscaping to help block out heat in the summer and the cold wind in the winter. You can install awnings—those exterior coverings on top of windows. They’re like a visor for your home. In some environments they can reduce heat gain by about 55-77 percent and save homeowners as much as 25 percent on energy bills!

Then there’s the big stuff that all homes are eventually moving towards; things like, using geothermal energy—that’s using the earth’s natural temperature to help heat our homes and domestic water; using greywater or rainwater to wash our cars and water our lawns; using solar energy to power our homes and solar lights to light them; and adding a green roof to help manage storm water and increase insulation.

But these bigger changes that involve structure, the mechanics of the home and incorporating new innovative systems are more difficult for homeowners to do today, either because it’s beyond their budget or it’s just difficult to modify their homes to accommodate those changes. That’s why for these bigger, greener changes we need it come from the top down—from the industry, whether it’s a builder, renovator, architect or contractor—to the homeowner.

That might mean more builders offering “green” home packages, where everything that makes the house more durable and energy-efficient is planned out and developed before the first shovel hits the dirt—from house alignment and proper layout to incorporating solar power energy and heat recovery systems.

Renovators can specialize in “green” renovations, where they take a house that might have been built 30 or 50 years ago and update it with all the latest systems so that it uses minimal energy.

This is where energy efficiency home inspections can also really make a difference, because they can help identify all the spots in your home that you’re losing energy, and money! These types of inspections include things like the blower door test or thermal imaging to find heat loss.

Most homeowners I talk to want a home that’s energy-efficient and healthy. If you told them that they could power their home with a reliable and clean source of energy for just a fraction of what it costs them now, they would be on board. But these changes have to make sense, financially, environmentally and construction wise. They also need to be accessible to the average homeowner if we want to really make a change, make it right and make it count. 

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