Follow these tips to a greener home.

You want your new energy-efficient home to reflect all of the latest advanced building techniques. That's why TopBuild Home Services works directly with your builder, to deliver energy-saving building methods and materials that have been approved by the Environments For Living® program and the Environments For Living Certified Green program.

Energy-saving tips

When it comes to the reasons for being energy conscious, saving money is probably at the top of most homeowners' lists. But by following tips like those suggested here, you can also make a real contribution to the environment. Saving energy in and around your home will help slow the depletion of earth's nonrenewable resources, such as oil and coal. It can also help reduce carbon emissions that result from the production of electricity used in your home. Here are some tips from TopBuild Home Services to help you reduce your environmental footprint, and your energy costs.

  • Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Keep windows and drapes closed on hot days to reduce radiant solar gain.
  • Check air conditioner filters; they should be cleaned or replaced according to manufacturer's specifications. Make sure outdoor HVAC compressor units are unobstructed by debris, plant or shrubs.
  • Set your thermostat no higher than 72 degrees in the winter and no lower than 75 in the summer months.
  • In the winter heating months, close window shades and curtains as soon as the sun goes down to reduce heat loss. Open shades and curtains during the day to allow the sun to provide added radiant energy.
  • Run appliances during non-peak hours when ever possible (typically 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.). In the summer months this will reduce your cooling load during the peak demand. Many utilities offer reduced rates during off peak hours.
  • Lighten the dryer load by using a drying rack for delicate or lightweight items. Items that can and should be air-dried include lightweight synthetics, wool, silk and wool/silk blend fabrics.
  • About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes — use less water and use cooler water. Unless you're dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half (
  • Unplug chargers for cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras, cordless tools and other personal gadgets when you're not actively charging them. Keep them unplugged until you need them again.
  • Activate the sleep features on computers and home office equipment which powers them down when they're not used after several minutes. Turn off or unplug equipment during longer periods of non-use.

Water-saving tips

With about two-thirds of the earth covered by water, the "every drop counts" argument may not seem to be too urgent. But here are the facts: less than one half of one percent of that water is currently available for human use.* And in the United States, 36 states are anticipating local, regional and statewide shortages by 2013.** Also keep in mind that water and energy use go hand in hand. It takes energy to get water to your home, for you to heat it and for your appliances to use it. Save water. Save energy. It all counts.

  • Take shorter showers. If your family members need a reminder, try setting a timer.
  • Only wash full loads of laundry. Make a family project out of reducing your laundry requirements.
  • Turn water off when brushing your teeth or shaving. Fill a cup with water when brushing your teeth and fill the sink bowl to rinse your razor instead of running the water.
  • Turn your faucets on at a fraction of the full volume for things like washing hands and rinsing dishes.
  • Use the dishwasher only for full loads for the most efficient water use.
  • If your dishwasher performs well, scrape but don't rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. If dishes do have to be rinsed first, try to rinse them immediately after preparing food or eating — before food has had a chance to harden.
  • Instead of running water while cleaning, fill a bucket with water and a general purpose cleaner and scrub down sinks and showers completely before rinsing. To rinse shower walls, fill a watering can with water and pour water along the top of the walls, letting the water wash away soap and grime.
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or by using the defrost setting on your microwave.
  • Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk; it can waste hundreds of gallons of water. Use a broom to clean away leaves and debris instead.

*U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Energy Management Program.
"Water Efficiency Basics." Retrieved September 21, 2007, from
**U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, WaterSense Program. "Why Water Efficiency?" Retrieved September 21, 2007 from

Indoor environmental quality tips

Energy and water use get a lot of attention, but the air quality of your indoor living spaces is just as essential to being green. Nearly everything you do in, around and to your home has affect. The following can be helpful as you think about your green living habits, from routine maintenance to the products you use for cleaning.

  • Whenever you produce high levels of moisture with activities like cooking or showering, always use your ventilation fans. Repair water leaks immediately.
  • Use oxygen- or hydrogen-based bleaches instead of chlorine bleach.
  • Change the filters on your furnace/air conditioner/ventilation system on a regular basis.
  • Check the manufacturer's specifications on your equipment.
  • When vacuuming, use either a central vacuum cleaner or a portable vacuum that has a high-efficiency filter.
  • Train your family to wipe their feet and shoes clean on a door mat if you have one, or make it a rule to take shoes off at the door.
  • Choose to burn candles made of soy. Traditional paraffin-based candles are made from petroleum and when burned, emit soot and smoke into the air.
  • Keep chemicals like paints, gasoline, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. in well-sealed containers in a detached garage or storage shed, if possible. If there is no detached storage space, take extra precautions to put them in sealed containers.

Eco-Savvy Tips

For those who want to make an even bigger commitment to living a green lifestyle, here are some additional fun and interesting suggestions.

First, remember the "three Rs" of environmental responsibility — reduce, recycle and reuse.

  • ReduceBuy products of quality that will last a long time. Avoid buying products that are made cheaply, to be used once and then disposed. Say "no thanks" to a bag if you don't really need one. Purchasing reusable cloth bags is one way to reduce the need for disposable bags. Your goal is to reduce the amount and toxicity of the trash you discard.
  • RecycleMost communities offer recycling programs and designated containers to separate recyclables from other trash. If your community recycles, take full advantage of it. Recycling goes beyond what you place in a recycling bin, however. It includes purchasing things with recycled content. Composting is a way of recycling, too. And, if your community doesn't provide a recycle program, start your own by setting aside two large trash cans dedicated to recyclable material, and contact municipal authorities for drop-off details.
  • ReuseDonate items you no longer want to charities, or sell them. Repair broken items or give them to someone who can. If you haven't gotten around to buying reusable cloth shopping bags, reuse your paper or plastic bags several times before recycling them.

Household hazardous waste disposal is another problem — they can be dangerous to people and to the environment. HHW items include some cleaners, pesticides, oils, batteries and anything marked "toxic" or carrying a warning label. Some communities have HHW collection programs in place, but often these items are disposed with normal trash. You can help by minimizing use, and giving any leftover products to someone else who can use them.

Another important thing is to put trash in its proper place — and especially not in storm drains. Trash and debris that end up in storm drains often end up in the environment, polluting local rivers and streams.

For those who would like to take the idea of green living to the next level, here are even more suggestions to consider:

  • Purchase green powerCheck with your utility company to see if they have an option for purchasing renewable energy, such as wind, solar or hydroelectric power.
  • Unleash the power of lemonsThey make a great all purpose cleaner. Add equal amounts lemon juice and water to a spray bottle and attack that kitchen or bathroom. Vinegar and baking soda also make effective, non-toxic cleaning products.
  • Buy locally grown foodPurchasing items grown or produced within 100 miles of where you live reduces the amount of fuel needed to ship food.
  • Let the travel mug travelTake your travel mug with you to fast food places, your favorite coffee shop — and to work — as an alternative to paper or foam cups.
  • Switch to paperless bank and bill statementsPay your bills online and check with the companies you do business with about electronic statements and notices.
  • Travel greenLook for hotels that practice the same kind of habits that you do. To find lodgings that meet the standards of Green Seal, an independent organization that certifies environmentally responsible products and services, go to: