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Green Ideas for Your Next Home Renovation

Green renovations are becoming more popular as Americans feel the pinch of rising energy prices and become ever more concerned about global warming.

Part One of this two-part series covered the costs and benefits of green renovation. Now let's look at how you can make your next renovation project earth- and budget-friendly.

Ways to Go Green

There are as many ways to incorporate green concepts into your next home renovation project as there are shades of green.

Use green materials instead of standard supplies. For example, buy wood from sustainably managed forests or use wood alternatives like bamboo whenever possible. Also, choosing low- or zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints over standard paints may improve the air quality in your home.

Buy energy-efficient appliances. Replacing your refrigerator, dishwasher or washing machine with Energy Star certified appliances can cut your energy costs significantly.

Improve your insulation. Almost 31% of a home's overall energy consumption is related to space heating, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So adding extra insulation and updating your heating system offers potentially large savings.

Build to meet LEED specifications. That's "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design." If you build an addition or gut and rebuild your existing home, think about designing the new structure to earn a LEED-certified, silver, gold or platinum rating. Requirements for the ratings vary, but include using recycled walls, generating alternative energy through solar cells, installing a grey water system, installing a geo-thermal heat pump and designing spaces to maximize the use of natural lighting and minimize the energy required for heating.

How to Make It Happen

There are a number of ways you can make your house green without hiring a designer or architect. The Green Home Guide offers a checklist of some easy steps you can take without having to bulldoze your house and start over -- everything from replacing your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to plugging leaks in your home's insulation.

Building Green offers a searchable database of building products ranging from decking to windows and doors to roofing -- in short, green products you can use to replace less efficient items in virtually any home improvement project. The site also includes articles on an array of green-building products and projects.

Another source for green product information is the Green Home Guide, which lists several green-product directories.

If you'd rather call in the pros than do it yourself, find a green contractor on the U.S. Green Building Council's searchable directory. All the contractors listed have passed the LEED Professional Accreditation program.

As you proceed with your renovation, keep an eye on the USGBC's Regreen program. Scheduled to launch in the next few months, the site will include a list of best practices for green renovation to assist professionals and do-it-yourselfers.

Peter McDougall is a freelance writer who lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife and their dog.

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