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Can You Afford a Green-Built House?
The future of green building depends, in large part, on green homes being affordable to build, furnish, and operate. Contrary to the myth that building an environmental home is a costly venture reserved only for the well-to-do, this option can be quite cost-competitive.
Even with some unfortunate cost overruns, my home cost $5 to $15 per square foot less than most other new spec homes in my area. And its operating costs are much lower. But that is not to say that every aspect of building and furnishing the house was cheaper. A few environmentally friendly (green) products, such as my super-efficient SunFrost refrigerator and compact fluorescent light bulbs, cost more, sometimes a lot more, than their less-efficient counterparts. However, may other green building products, such as recycled tile, carpeting, carpet pad, and insulation, cost the same or less that their counterparts.
Green builders I’ve talked to say that green building costs from 0 to 3 % more. But remember that investments in some green products and materials may end up providing additional comfort and saving money right away. Adding extra insulation, for example, keeps a house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This not only makes living space more comfortable, it dramatically lowers fuel bills, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a house.
Furthermore, because a well-insulated house requires less heat, you’ll be able to install a smaller and less expensive furnace, saving money right from the start. Smaller air-conditioning units are also needed, and in some cases measures to make a home more energy efficient make air conditioning unnecessary. Installing water-efficient toilets and showerheads reduces the demand for water, decreases electricity used for pumping water from wells, and could reduce the size of the leach field required for homes on septic systems. Because these options are no more expensive that standard fixtures, you end up saving money in the short and the long run.