Green Living: Introduction

Posted: Feb. 19, 2011

Today, House & Home introduces a new series that will detail how to incorporate green features throughout the home for increased energy efficiency, improved health and safety, and overall comfort and cost savings.  This week’s article begins with an explanation of what green means.

From flooring to paint, there are lots of ways to green up your home — and lots of reasons, too. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier for the people who live in it.

Tori Spott, a real estate agent with Shorewest who has a Green Designation from the National Association of Realtors, said that most homeowners want to be environmentally friendly, but they’re often concerned about the expense of going green and whether they’ll see a return on the money and time invested.

“The truth is, there are many easy and affordable ways to make your home green,” Spott said. “Simply replacing your existing appliances with greener versions will reduce energy consumption, which in turn reduces your energy bill.”

Why go green?

Going green is no longer a trend — it’s become a common-sense way to live. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, green homes are healthier, more comfortable, more durable, more energy efficient and have much a smaller environmental footprint than conventional homes.

If you’re ready to take steps toward greening your home, here are some green products and practices to help you get started.

See the light – Replace traditional incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CFLs use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

Conserve water – Showering is one of the leading uses of water in the home, accounting for nearly 17% of residential indoor water use, or about 30 gallons per household per day. According to WaterSense, an EPA-sponsored partnership program, installing a low-flow showerhead can help households save more than 2,300 gallons of water per year, without sacrificing shower performance.

Breathe easier – Forgo standard wall paint, which typically contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. Instead, buy a zero- or low-VOC paint product, now offered by most major paint manufacturers.

Save energy – Install a programmable thermostat, an ideal tool for controlling the heating and cooling of your home. Simply by using pre-programmed settings (i.e. programming a cooler temperature during the day when the house is empty), a programmable thermostat can save about $180 every year in energy costs according to the EPA.

The green brand
When incorporating green building products into your home, be sure they have been certified as eco-friendly. Below are some terms from reputable and federally approved organizations that you should be aware of when shopping for green home goods.

Energy Star – A trusted, government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, Energy Star-labeled products meet energy efficiency specifications based on a set of key guiding principles, including the ability to achieve energy efficiency through broadly-available, non-proprietary technologies.

LEED for Homes – A voluntary rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes.

WaterSense – The WaterSense label makes it easy for consumers to recognize products and programs that save water without sacrificing performance or quality. Independent, third-party licensed certifying bodies certify that products meet EPA criteria for water efficiency and performance by following testing and certification protocols specific to each product category.

In the long run, a greener home isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also good for homeowners. Minor changes like installing ceiling fans and low-flow toilets or switching to low-VOC paint can add up to major cost saving and reduce potential health risks for families.

IAQ for LEED Buildings


IAQ Technologies' president Bob Krell appeared in a recently released video discussing Indoor Air Quality for LEED buildings.  See it at:

Low VOC Paints Enhance Indoor Environments


Low VOC Paint: A Smart Choice for any LEED or Green Building Project

Advice provided by: Sarah Gudeman, LEED AP, EIT, Morrissey Engineering, Inc.

There are many airborne contaminants it’s important to be aware of. However, in non-industrial environments, the most common airborne contaminants are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), particulates and CO2.

VOCs can be emitted from sources such as building materials, furnishings and cleaning products, as well as particulates that are a byproduct of cleaning, construction, paper dust, deteriorated insulation and combustion such as cooking. Carbon dioxide, while not dangerous as a toxic agent, can be an asphyxiant.

The presence of these contaminants may be mitigated by assessing the amount of exhaust and ventilation air delivered to specific spaces and using low-emitting materials where possible.

Many indoor paints and finishes release low-level emissions into the air for years after initial construction is completed. The sources of these emissions are volatile organic compounds which, until recently, were integral with the performance of the paint.


Per the LEED BD+C Reference Guide, “VOCs are carbon compounds that participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions (excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides and carbonates, and ammonium carbonate). The compounds vaporize at normal room temperatures.” But recently, new indoor environmental regulations, coupled with a progressive green building movement, have led to the development of low-VOC and even zero-VOC paints and finishes. These new paints have shown to be just as durable and cost-effective as their predecessors, but now are less harmful to building occupants and environmental health. Premium performance and decreased environmental impact is the goal for this new class of interior finishes.

How Low VOC Paints Work:

Low VOC paints use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents and contain no or low levels of other harmful ingredients. The amount of VOCs varies among different products, and should always be listed on the paint can or MSDS (material safety data sheets).

High quality interior finishes and paints with low-VOC content can help enhance the indoor air quality of the built environment. For projects pursuing green building certifications, low and zero-VOC paints are a significant advantage. According to the current LEED BD+C Reference Guide, the maximum allowable content for gloss, semi-gloss and flat paints is currently 250 g/L, as dictated by Green Seal Standard GC-03 (which sets limits for anti-corrosive and anti-rust paints). Compliance with this performance metric makes a project eligible for Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Credit 4.2: Low-Emitting Materials – Paints & Coatings, the intent of which is to reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants that are odorous, irritating and/or harmful to the comfort and well-being of installers and occupants. Since the intent of this credit can be met with specification alone, it is relatively easy and typically no-cost.

And with the prevalence of more environmentally-friendly paints for indoor use, their use makes sense for LEED and non-LEED projects alike.




New York's task force on mold has submitted its final report to the Governor and Legislature. It found that evidence does not exist supporting clear distinctions between a category of "toxic mold" species versus other "non-toxic" mold species or between "toxic mold" health effects and health effects associated with other molds. To view the complete report in PDF format, go to: