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Choose building products that are economical, low-impact and handsome

By Michael J. Solender
Correspondent

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  • The ‘green’ home

    • A green home is a dwelling that requires less energy, water and natural resources, creates less waste and is healthier for its residents compared to a standard home.

    • A home can be built green, or you can make it green later. A green makeover can happen all at once or it can be a gradual process. But what it all comes down to is a new way of thinking – and a new way of living.

    • The net cost of owning a green home is comparable to – or even cheaper than – owning a standard home. If upfront costs are higher, it is often because many architects, homebuilders, engineers, plumbers and other industry professionals just don’t have the knowledge and experience to cost-effectively plan, design and build a green home.

    • The U.S. Green Building Council can help you find a professional in your area.

    Green Home Guide, U.S. Green Building Council



It’s getting easier to create a home that’s not only handsome but also energy-efficient and Earth-friendly.

Building-supply makers and retailers are bringing to market a new generation of products that are designed to protect our health, save money and use natural resources more often and more wisely.

You might even be eligible for federal tax credits for up to 30 percent of your purchase prices. (The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 renewed this tax credit; it expires again on Dec. 31.)

If you’re considering upgrades at home, you might find dividends in these products and similar ones:

Interior paint

Retailers are responding to concerns about building materials that compromise indoor air quality and make homes less healthy in other ways. Sherwin-Williams’ new Harmony interior acrylic latex paint, for example, is designed to lower levels of some harmful substances, according to Steve Renew, vice president of product innovation.

“The Harmony line of paints is made to reduce the levels of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds,” Renew said.

The company contends the paint is durable enough to withstand frequent washings and has antimicrobial properties that can inhibit the growth of mildew on the paint.

The water-based paint is available in flat and eggshell for $48.99 per gallon. www.sherwin-williams.com/store-locator/.

Recyclable surfaces

Stylish and eco-friendly team up to create scratch- and mar-resistant IceStone countertops and household surfaces, which are made from mixes of recycled glass, cement and natural pigments. The surfaces come in a variety of colors, styles and textured patterns. While these products are most often used for kitchen countertops, they also are suitable for bathroom vanities, showers, tabletops and window sills. The countertops are 100 percent recyclable if ever discarded. Cost depends upon style but ranges from $80 to $120 per square foot installed. Available through a nationwide network of fabricators/distributors. http://icestoneusa.com/.

Low-impact insulation

Homeowners might feel good about EcoTouch Fiberglas Insulation because it is made mostly with plant-based compounds and recycled materials. The insulation also is formaldehyde-free, which helps protect indoor air quality. Its inorganic fibers resist rot and mildew. The insulation is also noncorrosive to steel, copper and aluminum. By making the strips easier to split, installers might find it less cumbersome to work with at irregular cavities and obstructions. Available at Home Depot, Lowes and other retailers. From $11.95 per roll (R-13) http://insulation.owenscorning.com/.

Solar power

Solar power usage in the nation jumped by 76 percent in 2012, and that came on top of double-digit increases in 2010, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. North Carolina ranked fifth nationally in solar megawatt use and soon is expected to take the number four spot based on installations.

When looking for solar installation help, get several referrals and bids, as there can be wide variations in pricing. The U.S. Department of Energy puts out a free, downloadable Homebuilder’s Guide to Going Solar, which provides helpful tips on finding installers. www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/44792.pdf

Grape Solar out of Oregon has established a network of more than 5,000 installers and can bring up to 5,060 watts of power into your home with one of its kits, which typically include solar panels, racking systems and inverters. Prices range from $3,600 to $22,000 and up, depending on the number and size of the panels. Available at BJ’s Warehouse, Costco, Home Depot and Lowes. www.grapesolar.com/.

A solar-powered attic fan can be a cost-effective way to ventilate one of the most neglected spaces in many homes. One or more roof- or interior-mounted fans can reduce wear and tear on the roof by drawing hot air and moisture out of your attic. Roof-mount models can be installed in about 30 minutes, according to the manufacturer.

Turn your existing attic fan into a solar-powered machine with the addition of solar panels and other components from a kit. A thermal switch turns the fan on and off as temperatures rise and fall. Price starts at $345. www.greendepot.com/greendepot/ and www.solatube.com/.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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