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  • Green trends and upgrades for your home

    As the warm months of summer rapidly approach, it's a good idea for many homeowners to consider how and when they will use their air conditioner.

    More homes in the U.S. are installing green features.That's because air conditioning units make up approximately 19 percent of all household electricity consumption, and each home with an air conditioner produces an average of two tons of carbon dioxide each year. That's a lot of carbon dioxide, because around 67 percent of all American homes have an air conditioner unit. Such climate control provided by air conditioning units totals more than $11 billion in U.S. utilities each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    That's why many Americans are now looking for green homes, and builders are taking note.

    According to "Green Multifamily & Single Family Homes: Growth in a Recovering Market," which surveys builders and remodelers from the National Association of Home Builders, industry respondents stated that more than six out of 10 firms building single family homes are concentrating on green properties, with 15 percent of all projects slated to be green homes. That number is only expected to grow. The report said that by 2018, 84 percent of all projects will be going green.

    "This new study demonstrates phenomenal growth in green building, with more builders engaging in sustainable building practices than ever before," said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the NAHB and a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Delaware. "While growth in green in the single family market is driven more by high quality and customer demand, the multifamily market is more driven by cost factors such as the availability of government or utility incentives, as well as enhancing their competitive position and corporate image."

    The importance of housing construction
    Few industries have the impact on the nation's economy as construction, which is why a change to green building should be followed closely.

    According to McGraw Hill Construction's Dodge Construction Market Forecast, single and multifamily housing projects accounted for 45 percent of the value of all construction projects started in the U.S. in 2014.

    The expectations from McGraw Hill for the sector are lofty. Residential construction should only expand on that figure as green constructions becomes increasingly popular. "Greater consumer interest in green homes has contributed to the ongoing growth, leading us to anticipate that by 2016, the green single family housing market alone will represent approximately 26 percent to 33 percent of the market, translating to an $80 billion to $101 billion opportunity based on current forecasts," said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insight and Alliances for McGraw Hill Construction.

    Green features to install in your home
    Going green isn't just in vogue because it's environmentally friendly. Green home upgrades are also popular because they can save you money on utilities.

    One relatively cheap way to improve your home's energy efficiency is by preventing air leakage in walls, windows and ceilings. Air leakage can make up to 40 percent of the energy lost by your home, according to the Ellwood City Ledger. Air leakages can be stopped through sealant, which many do-it-yourselfers have been able to accomplish without professional help.

    According to REALTOR Magazine, four of the most popular green upgrades that homeowners installed included high performance windows, high-efficiency HVAC systems, programmable thermostats and Energy Star appliances.

    Other sought-after features that improve energy efficiency are ceiling fans, moisture-control products such as bathroom fans, water conserving fixtures and high-performance insulation. NAHB Remodelers chairman Paul Sullivan said that green upgrades can fortify the long-term value of your residence.