| by Melissa Baldridge

I did some informal research recently about what green-building nerds want in homes and buildings. I posed a question on some LinkedIn group threads I contribute to – “If money were no object, what green features would YOU install?”  Like an editors’ choice award versus peoples’ choice answers.


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It was a real Santa's bag of answers with scores of green-building professionals chiming in. I boiled the answers down into three broad categories.  First, the features that are really pricey. (Remember, money is no object.)

Second, the nerdy.  Some of the features in this category may not be well-known to lay people, but green-building pros know what matters and what’s pure upsell.  (Tip to readers – pay attention here.)

And third, the obvious. A lot of the responses I got were at the level of 30-second big-box commercials – and these features and systems really work.

THE PRICEY – Santa’s bag of expensive toys

Coming in first in the higher-ticket category is bought-and-paid-for SOLAR ELECTRIC (PV, photovoltaic).  Big PV arrays can practically eliminate electric bills.  And coming a close second to that would be TESLA home-electric BATTERY STORAGE.

REAL ESTATE IMPACT – Just because a feature wound up in “pricey” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it.  For systems like solar electric and hot water, small wind and geothermal, there’s a tax credit available (currently due to expire at the end of 2016 – don’t wait.)  Find good “home-performance” people you trust, and ask about financial incentives.  Thoughthis website  isn’t always up-to-date, it’s always a great place to start a search.

Also in this category are HRVs and ERVs - heat and energy recovery ventilators.  Basically, they’re highly efficient systems to keep indoor air fresh and healthful.

Also notable in this category is INDUCTION COOKING.  Cooking on induction cooktops can be 15 percent more efficient than electric, and cooking pros are tailoring their craft to the technology.  If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for lay folk.

THE NERDY – Think before you write this area off – energy geeks know this stuff.

The top vote getter was ABOVE-CODE INSULATION in every area of a home – underneath slabs, enhanced insulation in walls, and in ceilings and attics.  An additional benefit is that above-building code insulation makes homes more comfortable, too – also a top reason owners opt to increase it.

REAL ESTATE IMPACT – “I’ll never get my money back” is a top reason why people don’t add green features to their homes.  It’s also wrong.  Low HERS scores (sunk by highly efficient features) can drive appraisal values up through capitalized energy savings.  That’s the gospel according to Fannie Mae.  It’s a complex topic, and one I’ve written about lots.  Check out my blogs on for more info.

Where homes and buildings are going is NET-ZERO DESIGN AND BUILD, and that means the building saves and/or generates as much energy as it uses. California has even mandated it for new-home construction by 2020, but green-building pros want it now. 

One feature mentioned a number of times is GREY-WATER systems. They capture water that hasn’t come into contact with food or human waste, and reuse it for things like toilet flushing and yard irrigation. It’s not possible to do it in some places like my home in Colorado, but if you can, it’s a great option.

THE OBVI – You’ve heard these things over and over.  And they work.

Coming in way at the top of the list is high-efficiency WINDOWS.  Window salesfolk canvass cities, knock doors and cold call like crazy. And it shows as many homes may not have even one energy-saving feature except new windows.  They make a BIG diff in terms of reduced heat gain and air leakage. 

LED lighting is next. It’s finally at parity with other types of lighting, and IMHO, there’s no excuse to use any other kind. Even better, the light is pretty.

And we’re at the beginning of accessible HOME-AUTOMATION SYSTEMS. I’ve written about these before, and I think we’ll see entire affordable platforms controlling all aspects of home

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BRINGING IT DOWN – One colleague asked for a small nuclear power plant because there are no greenhouse gas emissions.  Smart aleck guy.  OK, let’s go there – I still think he’d have a spent fuel rod issue.  But since money’s no object, go ahead, and let us know how that goes for you.

And one asked for a plaque telling the world how amazing he is for helping make better choices – “A big plaque on the wall explaining how cool I am for saving the planet.”

We all should get one of those.

If you would like a copy of my highly informal poll results, please email me – I’m happy to send it.  [email protected]

Topics: Appliances, Connected Homes / Smart Homes, Cost of Ownership, Energy Audits, Energy Recovery & Heat Recovery, Going Green, Healthy Homes, Insulation, Photovoltaic / Solar Panels, Remodeling, Solar Power, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Thermal Envelope

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