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Our series on "Saving Home Energy Begins at Home with Green Building"-- is a topic of high interest today and one statistics show most of the public really knows little about.

Today's article features an Expert Interview with Ted Clifton of Zero-Energy Plans and Clifton View Homes, award-winning builder and "unofficial" Green Building educator. See 2009 EVHA Gold Award and Ted's website,Zero-Energy Plans. Also, recent winner of the National Green Building Project of the Year award for Single Family - Concept/Research at the NAHB National Green Building Conference.National Green Building Conference

Saving Home Energy:

Becoming the norm are energy savings utilizing green building by some builders, "some, but not enough," according to Ted Clifton of Zero-Energy Plans.

Hopefully, some day in the future, today's energy saving options offered by builders will become standard in new homes. Currently, most builders leave many of these features as options, if offered at all, and it is the homebuyer who must make the challenging decisions on what features they would like to add to their home. Only education and knowledge can help the homebuyer know what his energy priority needs are since it varies for everyone.

We hope this article/interview will provide a green guide for you when you are buying or building your new retirement home.

Saving Home Energy: Zero-Energy Plans

According to Ted Clifton of Zero-Energy Plans, it is possible to have a zero-energy plan and it is desirable as a goal.

Zero Energy in its most simplified meaning is having enough power on site for our needs without using outside sources.

The sun is our energy source and produces enough energy to provide all of our needs.

A zero-energy home will pay for the extra construction and energy generation costs in ten to fifteen years so if you plan on staying in your home for retirement, this just makes sense as you will be saving thousands of dollars over time. For retirees knowing what your energy costs will be during retirement just makes good sense.

The sun is the energy source that provides all our needs. When we use the sun to power our home energy needs, we can reserve the finite fossil fuels as portable fuel for cars, trucks and airplanes.

Saving Home Energy: What Can I do Right Now for Energy Savings

We all have different home situations and needs. You may wish to just DO SOMETHING right away in your current home so that you can feel good about contributing to energy savings. The simplest thing you can do is buy yourself a caulking gun and plug all the holes in your home where air is leaking out of the building �envelope.� If you find a large hole, a can of spray foam can be used.

Energy Star Guide to Sealing and Insulating

You can put foam gaskets on all exterior wall outlets and switches, and you can purchase energy saving appliances and lightbulbs--use paint with no toxic emissions.

Saving Home Energy: Finding a Green Certified Builder

When you do decide to build your retirement home or buy in a retirement community, find a good green certified builder. ( The Certified Green Professional� is a designation offered by the National Association of Home Builders to persons who have taken at least three days of very intensive training on Green Building, including one day of Business Management training.)

Find a Local Certified Green Builder

Energy Savings Begin at Home With Green Building: In a new retirement home community, What Can I Ask for from My Builder:

Ted from Zero-Energy Plans, answering questions for SICBA website, Skagit Island Counties Builders Association Website, says,

�At the very least, a new home should be Energy Star� rated. Additional considerations would include Built Green� certification if you are in Washington State, Earth Advantage� if you are in Oregon, or certification with the National Green Building Standard (ICC-700).

Durability is also a major factor in green building programs. Pay close attention to what you get in your new home, not what you get off the price of your new home. A Built Green� home will be your best value.�

But what features do the builders offer:

--Ted, are enough builders offering enough energy saving products and options to make a difference? Some, but not enough.--

Energy Savings Begin at Home With Green Building: Different climates require different needs based on amount of rainfall, pest infestation issues, wind and seismic:

  • Window location may need to be adjusted as well as glass type and shading options
  • Basic energy efficient building shell is similar throughout all climates with small changes such as improvements in location of vapor barrier or vapor retarder and different choices in heating and cooling equipment.

Saving Home Energy: Remodeling an Older Home:

Most people do choose to remain in their long-time home for retirement but remodeling an older home must be done carefully:

*Depends on age of home, what choices to make:

Ted states, "It is always a good idea to air-seal a house, as long as you provide means for fresh air to enter the house when you need it."

It can be very difficult to properly seal a very old house, and air sealing is critical before any insulation should be installed in a wall that has not been insulated before.

Ted emphatically states, "Remodeling an older house is not a one-size-fits-all issue, and more harm can be done than good, if it is not done correctly."

Saving Home Energy: Ted Reveals a Startling Fact

Even if every new home constructed were built to the highest level of energy efficiency available today, it is still not enough. New homes only comprise about 1% of the total housing stock each year. If each new home used less than half of the energy of the code-built home, we would still be increasing our energy consumption, not reducing it. We seriously need to address the energy used by the existing housing stock, if we are to make a responsible difference.

Retirees, listen up:

Ted further explains,

"What if you had no energy bill�that would provide peace of mind that for retirees you will not be priced out of your home should energy prices continue to rise. Fixing the costs of your home before retirement is important. Reduced maintenance costs is important for retirees.

Recent Rise in Energy Savings Awareness:

We have reached a tipping point and all of us are now more aware of the importance of the need to conserve energy. The recent sharp rises in energy prices has spurred this awareness. With a properly constructed low or zero-energy home, our lifestyles would not notably change except for feeling more comfortable in our homes--not requiring to put on an extra sweater because of that chill draft. Ventilation features will be simple to operate and you will know when to open a window as opposed to using a filtered air system.

Saving Home Energy: What Options are Available from Builders Today

What options are available from builders today for energy savings? Has this changed a lot in recent years or do we just talk about it more?

Ted agrees we should talk about it more. Today�s energy-efficient home is completely different in many ways than any home we have ever seen before. Building science has evolved to the point where qualified builders can construct a building envelope far superior to anything we have been able to build in the past. Our homes are tighter, better insulated, and better protected from weather and moisture than ever before. The options available for heating and cooling include ground-source heat pumps, mini-split (ductless) heat pumps, and reverse chillers (air-to-water heat pumps), offering efficiencies never before available.

Saving Home Energy: Are the Features Offered by Builders Adequate

Are the features builders offer adequate and do we need to select all the options they offer:

Ted: Built Green� builders and other certified green builders typically offer as many choices as they are comfortable installing and supporting. It is up to the consumer to determine their own level of comfort, commitment to the environment, and financial ability. The relative value of most energy-efficient options are traded against the relative value of other builder's options, such as granite or composite counter tops. When responsible choices are made, everyone wins.

For example, if you choose a more energy-efficient heating system, the savings could help pay for the granite counter top. That could never work the other way around.


We are grateful to Ted Clifton of Zero Energy Plans for this article on "Saving Home Energy" and his contributions to the further education of the public on energy savings and green building.

Please check back for future articles on Saving Home Energy and Green Building from Ted Clifton of Zero-Energy Plans written exclusively for our website.

We will also feature in this series on "Saving Home Energy Begins at Home with Green Building" reviews of retirement communities with special energy savings programs and demonstrations. See video below from the Discovery Channel's Green Room:

Please verify all information on Saving Home Energy as information varies according to your needs and location. We are not responsible for advice or opinion. This website is information only.

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