It's all about the eaves
A roof should overhang walls by at least one foot. That keeps the sun off windows and exteriors, which helps the house stay cool in summer.It also protects siding from the weather, meaning you may be able to go twice as long between repaintings or re-sidings.
Reuse and remodel
The house you fix up will probably be much greener than anything you build in its place, no matter how cutting edge the new design or how much recycled material you use.
Sure, some old houses just can't be saved. But even a building with serious problems can give you plenty to work with.
You might, for example, be able to salvage the first floor and build around it. With a total teardown, all the stuff that went into building the old house, including the fossil fuels the original construction crew had to burn, goes to waste. (Construction material is one of the largest contributors to landfills.)And, of course, you'll consume a lot of energy and materials putting up a new structure. If you choose to remodel, consider expanding up rather than out. That's an easy way to control your home's carbon footprint.
Size does matter
Fight the urge to go big and high. Not only is a smaller, well-proportioned house easier to heat and to cool, but you'll need to buy less furniture to feel at home in it. And isn't consuming less the whole point? Some specifics to remember:
A kitchen for normal cooking
kitchen that's less than 20 feet long with countertops less than 4 feet apart is more convenient unless you are serving 5 course meal everyday.
Bedrooms are mainly for beds
Beds should be located at the correct spot in bedrooms.Usually people dont sit much in bedroom as chairs in bedrooms have a way of just collecting the laundry or stuff.
More rooms can be better than one giant space
Instead of a high-ceilinged great room that combines a kitchen, dining room and living room, use the same square footage for a combination of rooms with standard ceilings. Divide them with french doors that you can open out when you want family togetherness.
Let's just say you probably won't be installing a wind turbine in your backyard anytime soon. Even if the homeowners association didn't come after you with torches and pitchforks, the truth is most places aren't breezy enough.
But in many areas it is possible to sign up with an electricity provider that gets its juice from renewable sources, often including wind. Your monthly bill may be about $10 higher, but you'll be doing your bit for the planet.
Go to the Department of Energy's Green Power Network to find your local provider.
A solar water-heating system can reduce the fossil fuel you'll need for showering and washing clothes. Before installing one, determine whether you have a sunny enough location to recoup the up-front costs, which can range from $3,000 to $8,000.
Get a zone defense
Thermostats have become as smart as your iPod.
You can program them to respond to your use patterns, cutting your energy bills by nearly 10%, according to data from Energy Star, a government program that sets efficiency standards.
If you want to get fancy, you can divide your house into multiple climate zones so that you heat or cool only the rooms that need it.In summer you can focus the air conditioning on bedrooms and spaces that get the most sun.
Insulate, insulate, insulate...
Upgrading the insulation in your home - including caulking and weather-stripping around windows and doors - can cut your heating bills by as much as 20%. (To learn how to do a home energy audit and find leaks, see energystar.gov.)
But you should also pay attention to design features that make insulation harder or easier.
Cathedral ceilings and flat roofs need extra attention
In homes with those features, your ceiling may sit directly under the roof, putting the room that much closer to the elements. You'll need to make sure these ceilings are especially well insulated and carefully vented.
Recessed lights can leak
After all, they basically require you to punch a lot of holes in your ceiling. If you install them under attics or roofs, make sure to use fixtures that are IC rated, which means you can safely pack insulation above and around them. These can cost $10 to $20 extra.
If the site where you intend to build your home is sloped, consider putting a portion of the structure underground. You'll get some natural protection against extremes of both heat and cold.
Ventilate and circulate
The key to keeping cool in the summer without cranking the air conditioning is to force warm air out of your house as quickly as possible and to have air constantly moving over your skin.
Vents in your attic space - combined with insulation in the ceiling below - keep the cool air downstairs from being warmed by the pocket of hot air above.
A whole-house attic fan, which pulls hot air from the rest of the house into a well-ventilated attic, can let you turn on the AC less often. (Just make sure you put an insulating cover over the unit in the winter.)When building, place windows and doorways to maximize cross-ventilation so that breezes flow easily through rooms.
Be wise about windows
You can benefit from the most old-fashioned kind of solar power simply by putting windows in the right places.
In the northern part of the country, a house with most of its windows facing south will collect more light - and therefore more heat - in the winter. (You'll also be able to keep the lightbulbs off until late in the day.)
If you live in warmer climes, it's smart to have most of your windows facing north so your home doesn't bake all year.
In general you want fewer and smaller windows. That's because every window costs: Even the best of them will rot and leak over time. And even deluxe triple-glazed, argon-gas-filled windows will let out more of your home's heat than a wall would.By the way, the super-insulated variety probably won't save enough to pay back the steep premium - maybe twice the price - over the up-to-code double-glazed kind.
Adding up the bill
If you're building from scratch, good design can get you a long way toward green. But for the most sustainable home, you'll also want to shell out some extra bucks for the right materials and appliances.
Those costs can add up fast. Remember that while green appliances will lower your energy bills and upkeep year after year, there's less direct payback from using recycled or salvaged woods and other materials.