Efficient and eco-conscious: Building an Earth-friendly home

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eco-friendly kitchen

The average new house built in the United States is nearly 3,000 square feet and uses roughly 900 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. And while the country’s average electricity consumption has remained relatively stagnant for the past decade (thanks to efficiency upgrades and technological advancements), many Americans are still searching for ways to reduce or even eliminate their ecological footprints – and their home energy bills.

RELATED: Tiny house, tinier carbon footprint

Building a new home with efficiency and eco-consciousness in mind doesn’t have to cost thousands of extra dollars; utilize these cost-effective green materials and efficiency tools to help reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

Start with sustainable materials

One of the first steps to constructing an Earth-friendly home is deciding what materials to use. While there are a number of green building materials on the market, one must consider how they are sourced and which are best for the area’s climate.

bamboo

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Bamboo and cork, for example, are both fast-growing resources that are lightweight and durable, which make them great, green options for home flooring. Cork can also be used for subflooring and thermal insulation, since it’s naturally fire-resistant and nearly impermeable to water and rot. Sheep’s wool, while a long-lasting and natural insulant, can be more expensive than its synthetic counterparts, such as polyurethane spray foam.

Builders who prefer to follow the Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) can utilize reclaimed or recycled wood and metals for everything from siding and flooring to cabinetry and roofing. The reclamation process not only decreases the embodied energy of the materials, it also keeps them out of carbon dioxide- and methane-releasing landfills.

recycled wood

Incorporate efficient appliances and features

Although better for the environment, eco-friendly building materials alone will not seriously impact your home’s efficiency. Incorporate ENERGY STAR labeled appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers and dryers, programmable thermostats and low-flow faucets and showerheads to help reduce your energy consumption and your energy bills.

White Laundry Room Interior, Gray Washing Machines

LED lightbulbs are also an essential in energy efficient homes; they last up to 50,000 hours and use 75 percent less heat than traditional CFL bulbs. The upfront cost of LEDs is higher than for incandescents, but their annual cost comes in at just $1 per bulb (a traditional lightbulbs annual cost is about $5).

Not looking to rebuild your house from scratch? Don’t worry, even upgrading just a few appliances can make an existing home more energy efficient and eco-friendly.

RELATED: Energy efficiency myths that are costing you money

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