5 Home Energy Saving Ideas from 'Greensburg' Builders

You don’t need a building permit to use green building ideas from the eco-reconstructed town of Greensburg.

Greensburg DVD

A massive twister that flattened the Kansas town of Greensburg is what prompted homeowners there to green their homes and businesses — using eco-smart materials like ICF (insulated concrete form) walls. But you don’t have to build new to green the way your home is built.

Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, the “Greensburg” TV series created for Discovery’s Planet Green network is one of five Planet Green programs now on Gaiam DVD. The series chronicles the town’s green resurrection — and shows you smart ways to green your home, whether you plan to build, renovate, redecorate, or just do some things to save on utilities. Green building experts who worked on the Greensburg project suggest these affordable smaller projects to make an existing home greener:

1. Get an energy audit

... to find areas where your home is less than energy efficient and get a list of fixes and retrofits that will reduce your utility bills. Some of those fixes are quite simple and inexpensive to make — and the bigger ones can net you a nice fat tax credit under the new economic stimulus package.

2. Change your furnace filter every two or three months.

A dirty one makes a furnace stay on longer to push the same amount of cold or warm air into rooms.

3. Caulk windows & doors.

Because so much of your home energy use goes to keeping rooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer, this simple project could slash your utility bills by 30 percent.

If your home is leaky, “You’re basically heating and cooling the outdoors,” says Greensburg architect Jeremy Knoll. Caulk and weather-strip around windows and doors every spring or fall, and seal wall cracks.

4. Add more insulation.

Roll out an extra layer of insulation in your attic, or have cellulosic (recycled paper) insulation blown into your walls. Or insulate with recycled denim, a hot new green-home trend.

Insulate appliances, too, “to make what you’ve got more efficient,” Knoll says. “But as soon as an appliance fails or is 10 to 15 years old, consider replacing it with a new Energy Star–rated appliance.”

5. Install a programmable thermostat.

“You can cut your utility bill by 10 to 15 percent and still have your house at the right temperature when you get home or wake up,” says actor-activist Ed Begley, Jr., who walks you through money-saving, energy-saving projects like this in his “Living with Ed” green-living reality show, also on Gaiam DVD. “A digital thermostat can pay for itself in a year or less if you use all its features.”

Get Ed’s tips on programming a thermostat here.


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