Build Solar Panels on Your Home – Solar Panels, Savings You Can Count

There has been a lot of people wanting to know how to build solar panels recently. As we've all seen in the past couple of years, the price of energy is skyrocketing, especially with oil prices reaching record levels almost every week. This economic pressure has begun to show itself as interest in building solar panels has also increased. To tell you the truth, learning how to build solar panels is not difficult at all.

There are two types of solar panels that are commonly used in residential areas, the solar hot water heating panel and the photovoltaic, electricity producing panel.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the photovoltaic type of panel. Solar hot water panels can greatly reduce the amount of energy your household needs by taking care of your water heating needs. Although they are outside the scope of this piece, it goes without saying that if your household uses less electricity, the smaller (and cheaper) your photovoltaic array will need to be.

The easiest way to experience how to build solar panels is to buy a kit which will have all of the materials you need and tools to assemble the panel (s). The usual set-up for photovoltaic includes solar cells, tabs to connect them, solder and flux to adhere the tabs and a soldering iron to melt the solder and hold it all together.

First, choose a site for the panel with a good exposure to as much of the sun's arc in the sky as you can without any interference from branches or wires and away from or above trees and buildings in your yard. If you can not use your rooftop, consider placing the panels on a mount, either a pole or a frame that will lift the panels about six feet or so off the ground. At this height, they will be less likely to be damaged by children, pets or other accidents like a small rock thrown from a lawn mower.

Build the solar panel by connecting a number of solar cells to one another (the amount varies by the size of your panel) in series by using the solder, flux and tabs. The amount of electricity you wish to generate will dictate the size and number of panels you need to put together.

There are many reasons to consider building solar panels and not just because its cheaper than buying them pre-made. There are loads of 'feel-good reasons' as well:

  • You can involve the whole family.
  • Take pride of knowing you are part of the solution to global warming.
  • Know that you can build solar panels for others.
  • Reduce your electricity bill every month.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint.
  • You reduce the need for building new fossil fuel burning power plants.
  • And, because you can build a larger array by doing the panel building yourself, you can create more energy than you use and get paid by your utility company (in some states).

Place the panel (s) in position and hook the whole thing up to your battery system, if your using one. Your batteries will collect any excess energy that you are not using for future, whether it is later in the day or even weeks from now.

Why is a battery system optional? There are many programs available where you tie directly into the grid and sell any excess power back to the utility as it is generated. This varies by locality. The positive aspect to this type of system is eliminating the need, expense and hassle of a bank of batteries but the negative is that you have no store of energy should the power go out.

Check with your local energy provider and state energy department because you should be able to sell all your excess energy back to the utility company. Some states have excellent rebates and programs set up just for this. This varies by locality.

With a large enough array (which you do not have to do all at once) and smart, energy efficient choices around the house, you could be running your solar panels at a profit every day.

A friend of mine on Long Island, NY, discovered that the new solar panels on his roof will recoup their costs in less than 18 months, not the three to seven years it was projected. When you think how cloudy the northeast US is, that's a great deal.

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The Benefits of Building Green

There are many benefits to building green and it seems the real estate industry is catching on. Not only does building green provide a healthy place to live along with protecting the planet, but it also saves you money.

One program that offers green building certification is the LEED for Homes rating system. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a certification that you can receive when building a green home. The LEED for Homes Green Building Rating System is a measurable tool that is evaluated by a third party in regards to sustainability and performance. The four different levels of green that you can achieve include: certified, gold, silver, and platinum levels.

One of the benefits of building green is that it reduces the building's environmental footprint on the planet. US homes account for 21% of carbon dioxide emissions, 22% of energy use and 74% of potable water consumption and therefore are a huge contributor of emissions that damage the earth. Building green can help reduce the causes of climate change by reducing our emissions, energy use and water use. In the LEED program some of the criteria include building with solar orientation in mind to capture as much sunlight as possible in addition to using durable products to reduce the need for replacement. The program also awards points for placing a home near community transit as well as using landscaping that lessens irrigation demand.

There are many health benefits to building green. The LEED program gives points for building with non-toxic materials such as zero or low VOC paint and soy-based insulations. By building with these materials, the owners reduce the chance of having health issues as a result of living among toxic building materials. The LEED program awards points for other measures to avoid health problems such as flushing the property prior to occupation, prohibiting exhaust fans in the garage so to not vent harmful fumes into the house and building with radon-resistant construction.

Another benefit to building green is that it can save you money. Compared to traditionally built homes, green homes use an average of: 40% less energy and 50% less water. They are also built with non-toxic building materials that lower exposure to mold and mildew which could lower health care costs. Another monetary factor to consider is your homes re-sale value. If a buyer can save money on water, energy and health bills by buying a green home versus a standard home, the buyer may be willing to pay more to purchase the green home.

The list could go on in regards to the many reasons to build green, but what seems to be clear is that the green train is coming and the real estate industry appears to be on board.

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In Bellevue the Sidewalks Are Paved With – Rubber?

The city of Bellevue has undertaken a project designed to give their streets a little more bounce. Taking cues from cities like Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma, Bellevue city hall launched a pilot project this year that will test the durability of rubber sidewalls in the downtown core.

Starting with a small stretch of sidewalk on NE 10th, just west of 102nd Ave NE, the experimental footpath will help the city evaluate the long term costs and durability of rubber sidewalks as opposed to concrete ones. If the project proves successful, city officials plan to use the rubber pavers in another 700 sidewalk locations throughout the city.

One of the main advantages of the rubber sidewalks is their ability to bend. Although everyone loves a shady, tree lined street – when those gnarly old roots start singing up the pavement, children trip, wheelchairs get stuck, people sue. When this happens, it's a bit of a showdown: sidewalk vs. tree. Last year, 12 trees lost the battle and had to be cut down. Even when the tree can be spared, if the roots are cut to save the sidewalk the tree can still die. Either way, all the time and money spent on maintenance is costly.

The alternative is to pave the sidewalks with something that can co-exist with the trees, something like rubber that will not crack under pressure. For pedestrians, the rubber is a slightly softer surface to walk on that can put a bit of a spring in the step. Better traction and improved accessibility for people in wheelchairs are other ground-level advantages. But despite the most appealing advantage for Bellevue staff and citizens is the fact that the recycled tiles are good for the environment, preserving the trees and turning what would have become landfill into something everyone can be happy about. The rubber sidewalk tiles are made out of recycled tires with about 5 tires compressed into every two inch thick paver.

The rubber sidewalk initiative is just one of many environmentally friendly projects undertaken by the local government in the past year. In an effort to reduce their municipal carbon footprint, Bellevue has also adopted land use patterns that reduce sprawl, sent ways to reserve the city's tree canopy, turned one of their beloved golf courses into a wildlife sanctuary recognized by the Audubon Society and started purchasing hybrid vehicles for the city fleet.

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Advancements in Green Home Buildings – Lessons From Europe

The Green Movement, popular with the Hippies in the early 60s was the precursor for the present interest in building Green homes. The movement caught on in Europe and the United States with some variations along the way. The political authority of the green movement gained significantly with the constitution of the German Green Party in 1970s. Many more Green political parties came into being notably in Europe and then an institutional approach to the green movement was in place in Europe. These Green parties often formed all in Europe giving the impetus to the green agenda. A prime example is the green legislation tax passed in the late 1990s by the German government.

Now, nothing of that sort has happened in America. In this country, the Green movement has continued its march without any federal support. During the early years, building green homes was significantly more expensive than normal homes. The American building industry follows the pragmatic capitalist line, advised to maximize profits unlike the European builders who had the pressure of the governments and influential NGOs to persevere building green.

One of the popular movements in Europe that has persisted over 30 years is termed Building Biology, and opines that traditional brick and mortar buildings with its ingredients of steel, concrete, plastic foams are unhealthy; it also recommends that naturally occurring local building materials are a better choice. Consequently, over the years, Europeans have been building walls with the help of loam. For insulation, recycled newspaper is a prudent choice. Used bathing water which was still late considered as waste by Americans, can be sensibly utilized for landscaping. The US LEED initiative which aims at bringing green building into the mainstream is still not a federal law. One may look at the French initiative, to implement its local building green norms in the European Union, as a positive influence on the State.

For ages, Americans have built their homes with wood, a cheap and plentiful commodity. The swift expansion of the US construction industry raised import of wood and consequentially the loss of substantial tropical rainforest areas. The real estate developers did not see it fit to consider the incalculable harm that was being done to the global environment. The Europeans on the other had very early on understood the likely adverse impact on the environment and adopted forest plantation in their own countries as also using bamboo and other quick growing woods instead of tropical rainforest woods. Wonder why Europe has maintained an ample lead over the United States in building green.

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Why You Stand to Gain by Building Green

Constructing Green houses is not easy, and certainly not low priced. A green house typically costs 0.5% to 6.5% higher than a standard dwelling. Thus, from a pure pragmatic point of view, it sometimes feels foolish to incur additional costs. Such a view is misleading, as most people do not take into account the likely potential of building a Green house. Governments across the world are progressively becoming more and more sensitive to environmental issues. The Green Movement is slowly but surely transforming from informal pressure groups into positive governmental action by inclusion of legislations in many parts of the world. One can see that effect in the US where states have already started offering tax rebates to individuals who are opting for green houses.

The green house building phenomena is gaining credibility including a premium in the real estate market. As oil inches to $ 150 per barrel and is slated to go up to $ 200 per barrel, operating costs worldwide will go up exponentially. The first effects of this surge in crude oil price will hit the users of electricity generated by Naphtha fired plants. Electricity bills for air conditioning will cross the red mark. The knock on effect on every segment of the construction business will only increase the costs. With such a scenario of the future, building a green house would seem to be a wise decision. The reasons are very clear for all to witness. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory precedes that 40 percent of a building's utility bill for heating, cooling and ventilation can be reduced by incorporating green features in the design stage. Such a prediction will make building green homes an attractive proposition in the future. A simple extrapolation would conclude that such green features would enhance the saleability and price of the real estate. Future scarcity of land for housing is making the builders include green features in their ongoing projects. Thus common swimming pools, common rainwater harvesting plants, and common gardens, all green features are becoming a norm.

A day will dawn when customers and home buyers will insure on buying a house with all green features incorporated. This may be forced upon the customers to avoid being penalized by stricter government environmental laws. We already see the effect of Euro IV standard on the automobile industry. The same analogy may well become a reality 20 years from now for building houses. Therefore, building a Green House is a safe and a wise proposition.

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World Variations in Green Home Building

Every day, it sees like citizens and governments all over the world are becoming increasingly aware of the need to conserve. And while America is focusing more on the environment than it used to (with its newly popular green home building initiatives in particular), the US is still behind the times when it comes to conservation. Europe in particular has been leading the way in green home building and especially in energy conservation for many years.

Energy Conservation in Europe

Europe is at the forefront of the green movement, including green home design … and with good reason. Because on the contributor, gasoline, natural gases, and energy costs significantly more than it does in America, and it has been that way for many years. Because of this, both individual Europeans and European governments are much more energy conscious than Americans. This is seen in European culture in a lot of ways.

A big thing that separates Europe from the US in energy conservation is a massive network of railroads and other forms of public transport. In addition to mass transit in essentially every major European city, the contention also boasts a well utilized long distance passenger rail service. And even though there are plenty of individually owned vehicles in European countries, most cities in Europe boast a higher percentage of mass transit users (and bicycle riders) than the United States.

European energy consciousness is also visible in the way Europeans build their homes. In Europe (especially in larger cities), they use green home building in a very practical, widespread, and simplistic way. Most people residing in a large European city live in a much smaller space than the average US home. In addition, most European houses, apartments, and businesses use simple green home building ideas to keep their spaces cool in summer instead of the air conditioning so common in the US These include roll down screens, patio shading, double windows, and more.Green Home Building in America

To sum it up: in Europe, the people have been conscious of the need to switch off the lights when they are not using them for decades … because they needed to save money. In the US, people are just getting used to not seeing energy as something that will always be inexpensive and easily available, and are slowly developing a better instinct for conservation. This changing mindset is evidenced by the increasing popularity of green home building.

The green home building concepts being used in America revolve around simple ideas, such as less square footage, improved insulation, and smarter positioning to the sun, as well as the use of alternative energy sources like solar paneling. Green home building also incorporates more complex concepts, such as the use of sustainable materials and less harmful products, to protect the environment and conserve energy in the long run. America is a little behind, but with luck will start catching up to the standard set by Europe.

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It’s Not Easy Being a Green Home

Green building and green homes are terms that get bandied about pretty liberal these days. Quite often, what passes for green makes strides in one area while backtracking in another. If we're really keen on going green these days, we'll need to look beyond labels to find out if what we're buying will definitely benefit the environment. Read on for a run-down of the four largest magnets for the “green home” label and some of the noxious realities that lurk within:

Recycled Materials

Recycled building products may be considered green because they conserve resources, raw materials and turn post consumer or industrial waste into a valuable and useable resource. These benefits can be nullified however if producing the recycled product requires an undue amount of energy consumption, creates pollution or if the final product leeches toxins into the environment. Rubber tiles for instance put old tires to good use giving them green kudos but when used in an enclosed environment they'll leak unhealthy chemicals into the air that are decidedly not green.

Conservation of Natural Resources

Building products that use less material than their predecessors, are rapidly renewable or have a high durability factor to make the green list because they conserve natural resources. But like recycled products, products that conserve resources may also have qualities or histories that are notoriously not green. For example MDF board can be made from almost any quality wood including sawmill off-cuts and uses almost 100% of the wood in the final product. The result is that an MDF board makes more complete use of natural resources than a natural wood board. But if it has been pressed with urea formaldehyde, as it typically is, it will off-gas and working with it can make you sick. MDF also has a shorter lifespan and less water resistance than natural wood products which means it will need to be replaced sooner and require the use of even more resources.

Clean Air

Natural materials that do not pollute the environment or leech toxins are legendary for getting green points and keeping it clean. Wood, stone, slate, marble and plant products, for example, do not require long chains of chemical processing or release cancerous fumes into the living environment. Natural, minimally processed materials are simply healthy to live with and therefore green. These benefits are eliminated, however, if harvesting, extracting or transporting the materials creates pollution, requires a huge amount of resources or depletes a resource faster than it can be renewed.

Energy Efficiency

Products that affect energy consumption and water use on a day to day basis stand to effect the largest environmental impact of all materials that go into a home. Those who wish to be truly green will make sure that operating their home requires minimum amounts of energy and water. Properly insulated walls, windows and doors minimize the amount of energy required to heat and cool a building and therefore have a favorable impact on the environment and are fairly fairly easy to attain. But how will you generate heat and power? Unfortunately, most of us will have to opt for some sort of fossil fuel or electric power limiting our “green” energy options to those that focus on using as few resources as possible rather than renewable resources like solar power and wind power that do not need to be mined or transported and create no pollution.

Clearly, it's not easy being green. Although making strides toward reducing our impact on the environment by building and buying green homes is clearly one of the best places to start, it's important to educate ourselves if we want to do it right. Green is not just something we buy, it's a careful balance between conservation, low pollution and sustainability.

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Tips For Building Green With Modular Buildings – A Guide For the Average Person

As most people know, the latest trend in construction is 'GREEN' or environmentally friendly buildings. As energy prices continue to soar and global warming targets more attention, the GREEN construction trend is likely to escalate. The goal of this paper is to provide a brief overview of the benefits of GREEN construction and illustrate how Off-Site Construction & modular buildings complement GREEN construction.

Over the last several years, various GREEN projects have been designed and constructed, therefore customers and contractors are familiar with the concept. Many users are initially interested in obtaining the US Green Building Council's LEED Certification (usgbc.org/LEED), however there are numerous other tangible benefits which can be obtained by using GREEN construction:

  • Reduction in energy / utility consumption
  • Superior interior environment through noise reduction and improved air quality
  • Use of reclaimed / environmentally conscious materials for sustainable construction
  • Reduced / easier maintenance

Reduced Energy and Utility Consumption

Energy / utility consumption can be reduced directly and indirectly through improved energy efficiency. Direct reduction techniques include:

  • Rainwater harvesting for use on landscaping
  • Day lighting (large windows, tubular skylights) to decrease the need for artificial lighting
  • Photovoltaic panels for supplemental electricity generation
  • High R value insulation at the building envelope to decrease HVAC loads
  • Operable windows to allow natural ventilation on temperature days
  • Cool roof systems to reduce heat transfer and reduce HVAC loads
  • Door / window HVAC interlocks which shut off HVAC system when doors / windows open for extended periods of time
  • Deciduous shade trees to prevent heat gain during summer months
  • Dual pane windows with low E coating to reduce infrared radiation transfer and HVAC load
  • Cool operating fluorescent bulbs to reduce HVAC loads

Indirect energy consumption focuses on using energy / utilities more effectively and reducing waste. Improvements in efficiency include:

  • Energy management systems (motion sensors, timers, programmable thermostats, integrated home systems)
  • High efficiency appliances (Energy Star rated) & HVAC systems
  • Dishwashers and clothes washers which consume less water per load
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • Lighter colors to reflect more light inside building
  • Hanging pendent light fixtures combined with high reflectance ceiling covering

Each aspect has numerous components and can be utilized in conjunction with one another. It is important to keep in mind the prerequisites must be met if LEED certification is the goal. The time required to recover the initial cost depends on size and location of the structure and individual consumption patterns, as well as materials incorporated.

Superior Interior Environment
In addition to reducing energy costs, GREEN construction should also provide a superior interior environment. Materials such as carpet, cabinetry adhesives, paint and other wall coverings with no or low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) will release less gas and improve the indoor air quality. HVAC systems with noise dampening ducting and isolation systems will reduce the interior noise. Daylighting can also improve the interior quality by boosting the occupant's mood with natural light.

Use of Sustainable Resources
The use of recycled / reused materials helps to ensure the sustainability of resources. If virgin raw materials are used for every new building project, these materials will eventually be exhausted. As raw materials become scarce, the prices will rise and / or the materials will no longer be available. This trend has already begun as some raw material such as clear heart Redwood is no longer available and must be obtained recycle from existing projects. Recycling / reusing helps ensure that materials will be available for future projects.

Reduced Building Maintenance
The final aspect of GREEN construction is reduced / easier maintenance. Reducing maintenance activities such as painting saves the materials needed but also the waste and environmental impact of the painting such as VOC gas release and water used in cleanup. New, longer thinking materials are now available which need less frequent maintenance. Such materials include cement based exterior siding which does not require painting and recycled composite decking which resembles wood. Other products facilitate repair and replacement such as carpet tiles which allow individual sections to be replaced without having to replace the entire floor surface. Carpet tiles also reduce waste during the installation process.

Off-Site Construction is GREEN
In parallel to this greater acceptance of GREEN is the growth in the Off-Site Construction process and improved perception of modular buildings. Modular buildings and Off-Site construction are similar but Off-Site Construction commonly refer specifically to permanent buildings versa modular buildings which can be either permanent or relocatable. Green features are available in all modular buildings but are considerably more common in Off-Site Construction due to the permanent nature. In recent years, Off-Site Construction has advanced and numerous innovations are now available. Such innovations include more efficient production facilities, superior transport systems, creative architectural designs and new engineering technologies providing greater flexibility.

Off-Site Construction merges well with the concept of GREEN construction for a variety of reasons. The centralized construction location allows for much greater reuse and recycling of material as a set collection schedule and policies can be established. Material waste due to weather damage is decreed as the construction process occurs in weather protected facilities. Waste water is easier to control and collect as production facilities are paved and sloped to a collection area. Traffic and air pollution is reduced as workers drive shorter distances to the factory versa traveling to various job sites. As materials for multiple jobs can be purchased in bulk quantities and delivered to a central location, the cost of materials and number of deliverables can be minimized. Off-Site Construction uses the same materials and designs as site built construction allowing for easy incorporation of GREEN materials and designs.

Progressive builders and architects view Off-Site Construction to be an integral part of the GREEN construction movement and the interest in GREEN Off-Site Construction has grown tremendously as GREEN is integrated into more diverse buildings.

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How to Take Advantage of Eco-Friendly Real Estate Opportunities

There are many terms that are often used to describe real estate with environmentally friendly architecture. “Green,” “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” buildings reduce energy and water use and may improve the quality of life for those who live or work inside it. Architects design green buildings using various design techniques, including natural ventilation, geothermal cooling systems, low-flow toilets, solar chimneys, and reclaimed wood.

The green building industry (a field that most had not heard of only a decade ago) was worth about $ 12 billion in 2007, according to the US Green Building Council. Although sustainable construction is one of the fastest-growing areas of commercial building, a small number of new buildings are green. Buildings that do meet these standards can save money on energy costs, which is a benefit that may become more attractive as energy costs continue to rise.

What Is a Green Building?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the design given by the US Green Building Council based on how well architects and designers can reduce a building's environmental impact and energy use. LEED projects may receive one of four levels of certification. The certificates include Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, depending on how many credits the buildings receive.

There are many ways that architects and organizations can make buildings green without having to involve costly projects. Using recycled materials, for example, is a way to generate multiple points. Changing the way a building faces, so that windows and open spaces can better use natural light, does not have to cost any extra money. It also can reduce energy bills and increase the number of points the building receives. Having natural ventilation shafts for circulation and roof overhangs to shade windows also are simple design methods to reduce the need for air conditioning.

Using Green to Put Green in Your Wallet

There are many benefits from using green designs. Benefits range from lower energy costs to improved indoor environmental quality, which can lead to greater employee comfort and productivity. These benefits make going green more attractive, despite any initial costs for the projects

Green properties can also have a boon for real estate investors, as the green buildings can bring higher rents and building values. According to McGraw-Hill's SmartMarket Report in 2006, buildings renovated to meet green standards often increase value by 7.5 percent and occupancy rates by 3 percent. Green buildings may cost between 2 and 3 percent more to build, but they use between 25 and 30 percent less energy than “conventional” buildings.

An example can be found in Exelon Corporation, one of the largest electric utility companies in the United States. This company in downtown Chicago was recently certified at the Platinum level. Exelon has reduced its electricity consumption by more than 43 percent and its water consumption by 30 percent.

Green Investment Opportunities

There are three main ways to have green investment opportunities. Two ways are indirect, and are through pooled investment vehicles, mutual funds, and REITs. The third method is through direct investment through buying a company's stock. There are currently few pooled funds that focus only on green real estate. Most funds only have a portion of assets invested in green properties. Individual stocks may have more opportunities for investors, but then investors also have commensurate risk and have the challenge of having to weed stocks from the bad.

One significant challenge for individual and institutional investors as that LEED and the Energy Star program only certify individual properties and not the companies investing in those properties. That action begs the question of whether social and environmental issues should be evaluated at the property level.

Additionally, the methods for assessing social and environmental characteristics of real estate investments are not generally defined or accepted. This means that a store like Wal-Mart or Home Depot may be attacked for eliminating local merchants, but can also be defending as being a benefit for low-income consumers who want quality products at a price they can afford.

The REIT Way

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are investment funds that own a portfolio of property investments just how mutual funds aggregate securities. REITs with offerings of new or renovated green buildings may be the easiest way for individual investors to invest in green real estate. With one REIT purchase, the investor can access the portfolio of properties in the EIT. This spreads risk across many properties, and much more efficiently than if an investor with a small amount of assets were to do the same thing.

Mutual Funds

There are some mutual funds that are composed of green real estate stocks. They may also have stocks for companies that manufacture products used to construct green building. These mutual funds, like REITs, spread the risk of investment across a broad portfolio of securities. Mutual funds and REITs have professional managers for their holdings, which means individual investors do not have to take that responsibility.

Individual Stocks

Those who are looking for green investments, and are willing to buy individual stocks, may have a broader range to choose from. Investors can choose from various companies that have various involvements in green real estate. Individual stocks have more risk and volatility than pooled investments like mutual funds or REITs.

The Bottom Line

Green properties, although they may initially be more expensive, will likely become more popular like reward credit cards as the trend of energy conservation increases and energy itself becomes more expensive. This growing market and the acceptance of green buildings means that this area will be rich for profitable investment opportunities.

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Prefabricated Homes – Green and Growing

Prefabricated homes are on the rise and home Buyers are taking notice. A prefabricated home is built in a factory, disassembled and shipped to the property where it is identified. More “prefabs” are being purchased as people see that this type of home is a far cry from some of the shoddily constructed buildings of the past. Advantages of the prefabs are their quick construction and installation, the option for “green” materials and construction and the customizability of many models on the market today. Now that they are coming into vogue, prefabs are definitely an option for the property buyer, as more and more lenders are starting to include the purchase and placement of a prefab homes in their mortgage options.

The prefab has gotten a bad rap from shoddy building practices in the past, due to mass-produced, low-quality buildings of the past. Also, prefabs have been erroneously associated with mobile homes, which have their own stigma. It has taken interest in economic, customizable and “green” buildings to overcome the perception that homes manufactured in a factory are inherently ugly and poorly constructed.

A prefabricated home is, as the name indicates, built before it is placed on the property where it is to stand. Some of the advantages that people cite are that the factory process results in less waste, less chance of environmental damage, less overhead from stolen tools and equipment (that might be left during the building process of a traditional home), and less chance that structural faults will be overlooked. Once built, most prefabs do not look different from “stick-built” or traditionally constructed houses. High quality prefabs also age and appreciate in value just to stick-built homes, making them a viable choice for the property owner who wants to have a home constructed according to their specifications.

Recently, a number of award-winning environmentally sound designs and structures have awakened the public's interest in manufactured homes. There are now a number of reputable companies producing these buildings for a market increasingly aware of their “footprint” in the world. Many prefab homes are being sold as “green” due to their efficient method of construction, their adherrence to “green” codes and their space saving design. Some prefabs use a large amount of recycled material for the structure and interior features, such as recycled glass tiles for bathrooms and countertops made from recycled plastic resin. Solar power and other alternative forms of “green” energy have also been utilized in some prefabs for exceptional savings on heat, light and power.

Most manufacturers can customize standard designs or build custom homes to meet clients' needs. This can mean extra costs, but it results in a home designed to your needs. It also means that you can solve some problems, for instance, building a home for a property that is on a slope. You can add or take away rooms and features, leaving you with the space you need, designed for what you need it for.

Prefabs need property to stand on that is zoned for the type of building you are planning to put on it. Also, most companies do not provide foundation laying; you will have to organize that yourself. However, once the foundation is laid to the specifications of the building and the prefab is completed, the prefab can be set up in a matter of days instead of months. This helps prevent weather damage that can be sealed up inside the building and end up causing further damage that is only found years later.

These structures are not for everyone, of course. There are some situations where a home built on the property is best. Also, today's prefabricated homes are not all to everyone's taste in their design and function. In many cases, the prefabricated home can cost just as much or more as a home built onsite. Also, you need to take into consideration that plumbing and electricity setup may require an extra outlay of cash.

Prefabs are worth checking out if you are considering a reasonably property that needs a home on it. Consult with your real estate professional for more information about your area's zoning requirements and the permits you may need for the section of such a structure.

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Green Real Estate Features

As the health of our environment and our own personal wellness become issues of greater importance, the demand for eco-friendly homes continues to rise. Home builders and developers have responded to this rising demand, and are building “green” properties in greater numbers. According to McGraw-Hill Construction, a home must contain at least 3 of the following 5 elements to be considered green: energy efficiency, indoor air quality, resource efficiency, water conservation and site management (site management would refer to a home's exterior use of water resources and electricity).

Buyers can enjoy a multitude of benefits associated with the ownership of eco-friendly properties, not the least of which is significant annual savings on energy bills. Most of all, owners of green properties delight in knowing that they're effectively doing their part to contribute to a healthier environment.

Preserve Precious Resources

In order to conserve electricity, green properties utilize the power of solar energy. Installation of solar panels can provide most or all of the electricity that a home may need. While this solution is relatively expensive, homeowners can easily recover the cost of their initial investment over time by way of savings on their energy bills. Solar water heaters, which are reliably inexpensive to purchase and install, are a great way to heat your home's water without the need for electricity or natural gas. Green property may also include radiant roof barriers and upgraded insulation, which can also greatly reduce your home's consumption of energy. Low-E windows and exterior sunscreens are very effective in lowering the amount of exterior heat that your home absorbs. This heat would otherwise make its way inside, and would cost the homeowner more to keep it cool. If you can keep the heat out, you will use less electricity!

Discover Other Simple Solutions

Other, less expensive ways to “go green” include purchasing high-efficiency HVAC systems and Energy Star appliances. Install digital thermostats with timers to further maximize your HVAC system's energy efficiency. Outside, choose to plant trees and shrubs that require less water. Installing low-flow toilets inside the house is also a great way to conserve water. Buyers will find all of these features and more when they look into purchasing eco-friendly homes. Purchase a green property today, and do your part to contribute to a healthier environment for generations to come.

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Green Real Estate Upgrades and Renovations – How to Save Money on Heating and Cooling

The following interview was conducted with Marlayna Penechka, a building subcontractor based in Asheville, North Carolina who practices green building and sustainable thinking. Penechka has worked on both residential and commercial real estate projects in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. She outlines some basic upgrades to facilitate more efficient and less expensive heating and cooling. The upgrades are a smart investment for the average consumer since the money spent is quickly recouped.

Turn Off the Hot Water! On-Demand Hot Water Heaters
(Estimated Cost: $ 250-800 Labor: $ 400-1400)

The resources used to heat water is expensive, often the second highest residential energy use in homes. Did you know most hot water heaters in homes are designed to keep water hot constantly? One good way to save electricity or gas is to simply turn off the hot water, and turn it on only when needed. Consult an electrician to install a timer or switch. Have them turn the water heater down from a manufacture's scaling 140 to 115 degrees. Another overlooked method to cutting costally water utility bills is to simply buy a 'blanket' for your water heater.

In Europe, modern Asia and Israel, On-Demand, or Tankless, Hot Water Heaters are more common than the hot water tanks in US homes. These cost effective, efficient devices turn hot water off without it's in use. Phenechka says, “There's an off mode on this system.” There is no pilot light either, which saves valuable energy. her preference, saving even more energy. ”

The Best On-Demand or Tankless Hot Water Heater uses liquid propane or gas as a source of energy. If main power is shut down for some reason there will still be hot water. “The size of an On-Demand Hot Water Heater is about the same as a backpack and weighs approximately 30-40 pounds,” Penechka adds. In some cases, installing a gas line to fuel the On-Demand Hot Water Heater may incur an extra expense, although liquid propane may be a better option. The majority of US states offer a tax credit for these devices.

Heat Pump Heating and Cooling Systems
(Estimated Cost for the system and installation $ 3,000-8,500)

Heat Pumps are a great way to conserve money on heating and cooling. “Some heat pumps come with heat and air conditioning and are well worth the initial investment. During milder winter days, the heat pump draws in warm air through the home's ducts; in the summer, it pulls in cool air and dehumidifies it at the same time, “says Penechka. A heat pump is far more efficient then many other heating and cooling systems and saves some homeowners as much as $ 100 per month or more. Make sure you purchase a programmable thermostat with the system and check and seal any leaks all your original air ducts and returns to optimize your investment!

Attic Exhaust Fan
(Estimated Cost: $ 80- $ 250)

Installing (or repairing) an exhaust, or gable, fan in the attic can make a huge difference in airflow, humidity, and temperature in a home. Solar exhaust fans, with their own tiny solar panel are now available at many of the big box stores! Hot air especially gets trapped in the attic, and without an exhaust fan, it is hard for this air to move and the home's temperature places high. Attic fans are easily installed, and most have sensors for temperature and humidity so the fan automatically turns on. A gable fan ensures that even if there is air conditioning in the home it is not overused.

There is also a whole house fan system made to work in conjunction with an attic fan. The whole house fan system is an alternative to air conditioning especially in cooler, dry climates. It harnesses and pulls in the cool air that exists outside to the interior of a home through open windows at night.

Ceiling Fans
(Cost: $ 50- $ 100 each)

Ceiling fans also eliminate much of the need for air conditioning and sometimes act as a complete alternative to AC. “Ceiling fans have a wind chill factor of three and up,” states Penechka “a ceiling fan in each room can have a huge impact on the comfort inside.” When a home is being heated in the winter, a ceiling fan will help spread the heated air more evenly through the house. Ceiling fans are a great way to upgrade a home, and many attractive fans, some with lighting fixtures, are available to choose from. Do not forget to use energy efficient bulbs in the ceiling fan for increased energy savings.


Green Upgrades and Renovations for Commercial Real Estate

Many of the green strategies mentioned not only have value for residential homeowners but also for commercial real estate such as retail stores, office buildings, apartment buildings, factory plants, restaurants and shopping malls. Heating and cooling costs are a major issue for commercial real estate developers and investors. If you want to save money on monthly bills consider hiring a green building and renovation specialist to upgrade the heating and cooling system of your commercial property. Commercial fan systems and on demand hot water heaters can hold great long term value for commercial real estate owners and are a healthy business investment.

These simple, green living recommendations will make your home or building more energy efficient and save you money over the long term. Whether you have hundred or thousands to spend on environmentally conscious, real estate upgrades and renovations there are affordable green solutions to keep your heating and cooling costs down. In a time of rising energy costs, it makes sense to go green. These kinds of heating and cooling upgrades and renovations will increase the value of your commercial or residential property and make it more attractive to future buyers.

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Recycled Metal Along With the Rollforming Process – Going Green With Building Materials

Going green with regards to building materials may take on new meanings depending on where you are building. However, a definition that is fairly universal for a green building states that a green building is erected using methods that increase efficiency within the building and that focuses on conservation of the materials used in both the construction and maintenance of the building. There are a wide variety of products from which to choose with regard to both increasing efficiency and preserving resources.

These range from using products that improve the efficiency of the insulation and are made from renewable or recycled products. This may include cotton insulation or building using straw or packed earth, therefore increasing the insulation factors. There are some foam products that increase the efficiency markedly that are preformed and use less concrete than traditional concrete block structures. These are becoming more and more accepted in both hot and cold climates, including salt water environments. They are practically indestructible once the construction is finished. Along with the prefabricated building material, metal is becoming a product that is used instead of wood. One of the reasons for this is that metal can be recycled so adding it to the renewable category of building materials.

In most cases it does not matter how often the metal is used, it can still be recycled. Unlike wood which has little or no reusability other than as firewood, most metals can be melted and reused. Once the metal has been recycled, a rollforming process can be used to fabricate products used in the building process. Everything from roofs to beams can be made from steel and used in the construction of both residential and commercial buildings. With the use of hydraulic shears and roll form dies the recyclable metal can be punched, cut and reformed into a variety of strong building materials that are as much or more versatile than wood.

As metal forming machinery becomes more sophisticated, so do building materials. Metal is an amazing creative tool in the hands of architects and builders. Without the added cost of creativity, the use of steel offers advantages in framing and cladding roofs and walls. Steel allows houses to be easy and cost effective to insulate. They also are fast and easy to erect, savings money in the cost of construction. Steel also adds the advantage of being capable of withstanding earthquakes better than some of the other construction materials.

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Sustainable, Ecological Or Energy Efficient Homes – What Are They All About?

We are currently going through a period of change in many levels. There is a change in the world climate with intension phenomena which were not expected to happen so soon. Our homes are wasting so much energy that they make the problem worse. At the same time there is a change in the world economy increasing the cost of buying and maintaining a property. Sustainable homes may benefit home owners as well as the environment.

In order to understand better what we mean with the term 'sustainable' we will refer to the Code for Sustainable Homes as defined in Wikipedia. The Code was officially launched on December 13, 2006, and was introduced as a voluntary standard in England in 2007. The Code complements the system of Energy Performance Certificate for new homes introduced in April 2008 under the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

The code works by awarding new homes a star rating from 1 to 6, based on their performance against 9 sustainability criteria which are combined to assess the overall environmental impact. One star is entry level above building regulations, and six stars are the highest, reflecting exemplary developments in terms of sustainability.

The sustainability criteria by which new homes are measured are:

o Energy and CO2 Emissions – Operational Energy and resulting emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere
o Water – The consumption of potable water from the public supply systems or other ground water resources
o Materials – The environmental impact of construction materials for key construction elements
o Surface Water Run-off – The change in surface water run-off patterns as a result of the development
o Waste – Waste generated as a result of the construction process and facilities encouraging recycling of domestic waste in the home
o Pollution – Pollution resulting from the operation of the dwelling
o Health and Well-Being – The effects that the dwelling's design and indoor environment has on its occupants
o Management – Steps that have been taken to allow good management of the environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the home
o Ecology – The impact of the dwelling on the local ecosystem, bio-diversity and land use

So the above sound great about the environment but what about the benefit of the home owner or residents? Research has shown that 75% of the temperature of a property is lost through its walls and roof. This means that maintaining the temperature we want costs us a lot of money either by using heating mechanisms or air conditioning. Especially in countries like Greece where heating oil is used widly for most properties, which at the moment has reached an all time high price due to the oil crisis. At the same time, any artificial type of temperature maintenance has an impact on our human organism. Extensive usage of air conditioning tends to dry off the air or recycle some types of germs. Heating can increase humidity and create breathing problems to an extent.

Having a sustainable home or bio climatic or energy efficient home makes a difference. For example, a study is conducted before constructing the property so that the insulation of the house is done with specialized material; according to the micro climate of the area the house is going to be located. It may cost a little bit more to buy a sustainable home but over time the energy savings will repay the owner. Some analysts have defined this time frame to 10 years. At the end of the day this type of property is better for the world that we will leave to our children, while at the same time it benefits all of us as home owners in terms of savings and quality of life.

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“Green” Housing Takes an Unlikely Turn

The pursuit of 'green' buildings that will preserve the environment may possibly veer off in an unpredictable direction that will change the face of America's housing. Contradictory although it may sound, concrete is raising its ugly head as an attractive and 'green' alternative for residential housing.

Although concrete has been used in European homes for over fifty years, it has not been in any way popular in USA If the thought of gray concrete homes in small town America is abhorrent to you – think again.

One of the European countries that make the largest proportion of concrete houses is France. Yes, that includes those cute little homes in the villages of Provence that people drive for miles to see! Underneath the sunny yellow paint on the exterior 'stone' finish and the brilliant blue shutters framing the tiny windows – is blah gray concrete.

What's more, inside the cool cottages where the interior walls are painted cream and edged with dark woodwork for relief is also blah gray concrete! So what's the problem?

Change is always resized by the majority, but concrete is gaining ground in developments around USA. This is because concrete has re-inserted itself into the environmentally acceptable AAC. It is also known as E-Crete, but AAC – short for Autoclaved Aerated Concrete – can produce a home that is fireproof and whose construction is 80% air!

Buildings made from AAC will not rust, decompose, warp or rot and this makes them very low maintenance. Concrete does not offer the type of environment that encourages little critters such as termites; it also can not be chewed through mice etc., which are two more points in its favor.

Concrete walls do not give off toxic gasses and neither will home owners experience 'cold spots' in their rooms. This can be attributed to the unique design of the blocks which means that an AAC home comes with its own insulation against both the summer heat and the winter cold.

AAC offers better acoustics than a normal wooden home, in that it reduces the traveling of mechanical noises, decreases the penetrating ability of outside noises and does away with the echoing sound of an empty room. Or, in a nutshell, it is a quieter life inside!

For those who are interested in the environmental ethics of it all – AAC is made from adding a naturally occurring expansion agent to natural cement and sand which produces air bubbles inside – rather like making concrete bread! It means all the trees can stay in the forest.

The Autoclaved Aerated Concrete Products Association (AACPA) boasts that a minimum amount of energy is needed to produce this organic product and the process of manufacturing produces no pollutants, by-products or toxic waste.

Hey! Move over log cabins and watch out America – it sounds too good to be ignored!

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