The definition of green is different depending on who you ask.
A green home must address energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality, design, and material use. Energy efficiency alone, does not make a home green.
When asking someone what a green home means, the most common response is energy efficiency or solar. Energy efficiency is important, but one must not overlook the importance of water efficiency, especially in regions such as Arizona.
If we accept healthy living is a key component to green, then indoor air quality must not be improved. Eliminating toxic materials from the living environment will improve the health of the home. Simple measures such as replacing bleach and Windex with safer cleaning solutions, or eliminating air fresheners, are easy steps to improve indoor air quality.
If a home’s occupant must commute great distances to and from work, then the location of the house results in greater carbon emissions. A non-energy efficient home near one’s workplace, is more green than a very efficient home located far from the workplace or area amenities. The cost to operate a vehicle is approximately .55 cents a mile, and each mile driven creates carbon emissions.
How much does it cost to heat and cool a home? How much material was used to build the home? These two questions direct us to smaller and well designed spaces are more green than large homes or mini-mansions.
When building or remodeling a home, materials that are recycled, reclaimed, or reused are best. Materials that do not contain formaldehyde or harmful chemicals are best.
Some final thoughts. An energy efficient home is not a green home if it does not fit the above criteria. If an energy efficient home is missing the key elements of water efficiency, design, location, and air quality, then it is simply an energy efficient home.
If a home has solar, it does not necessarily make it green.
Reducing is much easier and costs less than renewing. Installing measures such as solar, should only be done after making improvements to the homes structural envelope.
Often times, an electrical bill can be cut in half by tightening ducts, shading exterior windows, HVAC maintenance, energy efficient lighting, and caulking openings.