Want a Green Home? Government Agencies Speak on the Benefits

Cutaway of ENERGY STAR home

Why should you go for a green home? Let the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA tell you more! (Credit: Illustration by U.S. EPA)

By Drew Knight

You’ve heard it all from us before: Through features like solar panels, advanced insulation, sustainable construction materials, efficient windows, xeriscaping and rain collection systems, green homes are better for the environment and they save you loads of money on energy bills.

We could go on and on about why green homes are the way to go and how you can build one, however, we thought you might want an outside opinion. Thus, we reached out to the big guys: the government.

In this Q&A, Laura Allen, deputy press secretary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Sam Rashkin, chief architect of the Building Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), talk about the basics of green homes.

Q: What makes a green home “green”? What’s your definition of a green home?

EPA: A green home generally refers to a home that was designed and constructed to reduce adverse impacts on human health and the environment. This involves building a home using sustainable materials and techniques, as well as building a home that can be operated using less natural resources than other homes. Energy efficiency is often mentioned as the starting point for any truly green home because there is a direct, immediate and long-term payback to the homeowner from investments in energy efficiency in the form of lower utility bills, and because energy used in homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels, which generates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Building upon a home’s energy efficiency, today’s renewable energy technologies and resources offer homeowners a logical next step to making their home green. By using renewable energy from sources such as solar or wind, a homeowner can further reduce their environmental footprint by switching away from conventional energy sources. ENERGY STAR-certified homes deliver energy efficiency savings of up to 30 percent compared to typical new homes. Homes that earn the ENERGY STAR label are independently verified to meet strict energy efficiency requirements set by the EPA, and ENERGY STAR’S Renewable Energy Ready Home specifications provide builders with guidance on how to outfit a home to accept these technologies down the road.

DOE: A green home is very difficult to define because there are a myriad of programs that all use rating systems based on “points” with various shades of “green.” So the DOE would prefer to leave it to the green advocates to provide a definition for this attribute. In contrast, the DOE is pursuing a type of green program called Zero Energy Ready Homes. In contrast to green, it’s based on complete systems instead of points and only has a single threshold of performance that ensures comprehensive building science and indoor air quality along with rigorous guidelines for energy efficiency. Based on this threshold, the DOE can effectively define a Zero Energy Ready Home as a high-performance home that is so energy efficient it can offset most of all annual energy consumption with renewable energy.

Q: What are some of the benefits of living in a green home? What effects does it have on the environment?

EPA: Some of the financial benefits of living in a green home usually include lower utility and water bills and can include less maintenance. Health benefits can include better indoor air. Other benefits include greater comfort, reduced noise and the peace of mind of knowing your home is helping protect human health and the environment. Green homes protect our environment by using sustainable building practices and materials, and from requiring less natural resources to operate. A home that has earned the ENERGY STAR label reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 3,700 lbs. per year compared to a typical home.

DOE: Again, DOE can speak to the benefits associated with every certified Zero Energy Ready Home because of the single threshold of performance. These homes, first and foremost, reduce your energy bills so low that a renewable energy system can offset most or all of the annual utility bill. They improve the durability of your home, helping it last for generations to come. They provide a comprehensive package of indoor air quality improvements that can help families experience reduced illness and allergies. They improve your comfort, making your home a delight to be in no matter the outdoor temperature and humidity. All of these attributes reduce the impact on the environment — less energy used from nonrenewable energy resources, less environmental damage.

Q: What can the average person do to make their home greener?

EPA: One thing average homeowners can do to make their homes greener is improving their home’s energy efficiency. This can be done through relatively simple actions such as sealing air leaks around windows and doors, changing your HVAC’s air filter when dirty, and installing ENERGY STAR-certified lighting and appliances. We also recommend getting an energy audit from a trained professional. ENERGY STAR’s free Home Advisor and My ENERGY STAR platform, which includes dozens of ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency, are available at www.energystar.gov.

Homeowners may also want to investigate whether installing an onsite renewable energy system makes sense. As costs of renewable technologies continue to drop, more and more homeowners can save money and reduce their dependence on conventional sources of energy by developing onsite renewable energy systems. In cases where homeowners do not have the ability to build their own onsite projects, they can switch to using green power by buying REC-based (renewable energy certificate) electricity products supplied by either their local utility company or from third-party REC marketers. To identify local green power suppliers and renewable electricity products, you can use the EPA Green Power Locator.

DOE: The average person in an existing home who wants to improve their home’s performance can look for a DOE Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program in their region. This program helps homeowners plan and implement whole-house upgrades with quality assurance and often incentives provided by local utility or regional government sponsors. If this program is not available, homeowners should always look to replacing old equipment, appliances, lighting and fans with new ENERGY STAR-certified products. When buying a new home, people can look for a builder to build a Zero Energy Ready Home using the Partner Locator.

Drew Knight is a Digital Content Associate for New Home Source.

Posted in Buying a New Home, Green Building Materials, Green Home Building, New Home Design | Leave a comment

App of the Month: Project Color by The Home Depot

Project Color App

The Home Depot Project Color app is an easy way to test out paint colors in your home.

By Judy Marchman

Picking a new paint color for a room can be such a daunting task. First, there’s deciding on a color family — blues, reds, yellows, greens, etc. — before you can choose a particular tone — warm or cool, light or dark or mid-tone. And then there’s the myriad of shades. Let’s say you go with blue. Do you choose Song Bird Blue or Marine Magic or Glass Sapphire or Peacock Blue or…?

Or maybe you want to keep it neutral and then quickly realize how many variations of white, beige and gray there are. It can get overwhelming pretty fast. That’s where our App of the Month can help.

Project Color by The Home Depot allows you to “see” what a color will look like in the room you want to paint, or on an exterior surface, floor or furniture piece. Instead of painting swatches on a wall to try and judge a color throughout the day, the app does it all for you.

Just take a picture of a room or choose “live view,” and then search from the thousands of paint and stain options. Find a color you want to try and tap a surface in the image to apply the color. Project Color automatically adjusts for any shadows, angles or lighting variances so you can see how the color would look in that particular space.

Project Color also allows you to match a favorite color from a photo on your mobile device, or a photo you’ve just taken. You click on a color in the image and the app provides the closest paint or stain colors available at The Home Depot.

You can save favorite paint colors in the app so you can remember them later. And, if you have some paint chips that you’ve picked up and want to see what they’d look like via the app, just use the “Find It” function to search for a particular color name or number.

So, no need to feel stressed about choosing paint colors anymore. Just open up Project Color and start experimenting!

Project Color can be downloaded for free through the iTunes or Google Play stores and is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices.


Judy Marchman is a freelance contributor to NewHomeSource with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. You can find her on Google+.

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Five Dog House Ideas to Pamper Your Pooch

By Drew Knight

In honor of National Dog Day, we thought we’d switch it up a bit.

New Home Source is all about helping you find the home of your dreams, but have you ever stopped to think about the homes your dog dreams of?

We have! And today we’re going to show you what the hot trends are in dog house design. As long as you know a little bit about small-scale construction, these dog house ideas should be a walk in the park.

Dog House

Photos via Max the Dog

1. Make it a HOME

If you’re getting ready to build yourself a new home, why not build your dog one too?

You could keep it simple and just use the scraps from your new home to build them a scaled-down replica, or you could go all out and build them their own doggy mansion complete with windows, terra cotta roofing, sconces and their own fenced-in lawn.

Your pup’s new home would be the talk of the neighborhood, and they could live the life they’ve always dreamed of.

Dog House with Loft

2. Give them a loft

Fido would be living the high life if you built him a dog house with its very own loft.

A relatively simple addition, all you’d need to do is add a stable floor on the roof and a stairway to the top.

Your pup could keep watch of the property while you’re away — like a good guard dog does — and feel like they’re on top of the world!

Dog House with Pool

3. Put in a puppy pool

Just because you may not be opting for a pool just yet, it doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t want one.

As long as you have a shovel and a computer to search for a puppy-sized pool insert, this is probably the simplest way to trick out your dog house.

Perfect for the summer months, a pool would have Sparky living a life of luxury. He’d be one cool pup!

Eiffel Tower-shaped dog house

4. Copy a favorite landmark

If you and your dog are world travelers, then maybe copying a favorite landmark is the option for you.

Think the Sydney Opera Dog House, Mount Pupmore, St. Peter’s Barksilica, the Eiffel Tower of Hounds … you get the picture.

This may take a bit of creativity and carpentry know-how, and if you don’t have any architecture expertise perhaps you could hire a custom designer.

Underground dog house

5. Go underground

If your dog’s a digger, maybe this is the house for them.

These dog houses from Miller Pet Products are designed to heat and cool naturally, so your furry friend stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s perfect for pups who spend a majority of their time outside.

They use no electricity, require no assembly, come with a lifetime warranty and they come from recycled materials. What’s not to love!

Drew Knight is a Digital Content Associate for New Home Source.

Posted in Buying a New Home, New Home Design, Opinion, Outdoor Living | Leave a comment

Tips to Enjoy Your Backyard This Summer

How to enjoy your backyard

Summer time is the perfect time to enjoy your backyard. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your backyard this season. (Photos via Modernize)

By Bryn Huntpalmer

It’s finally summer: the kids are home from school, the days are long and everyone is eager to get outside.

Skip the hassle of traveling and pricey amusement parks and make your own backyard the spot to be this summer. Here are tips to enjoy your backyard this summer:

Build an Outdoor Kitchen

All you need for an outdoor kitchen is a grill, mini-fridge, sink and a flat surface that provides space for food preparation and a convenient spot for outdoor dining. You can enjoy almost all of your meals outside, meaning you won’t have to heat your house up by using the oven or have wet, muddy tracks from kids coming in for lunch from outdoor play. Consider putting up an awning or tenting that will provide shade without trapping heat – you don’t want to cook your chef!

Create the Perfect Soundtrack for Summer Parties

Put together a few playlists that feature music that your family and guests will love. Wireless speakers are great for backyard parties as they allow you to distribute the sound evenly throughout the backyard.

Outdoor pest repelants

Keep the Bugs at Bay

Pests can be a real problem during the summer and not everyone wants to be doused in insect repellent. Consider incorporating plants that repel mosquitoes into your landscaping for a natural way to avoid the bug bites. Try making your own mason jar lanterns filled with citronella oil, making them a pretty light source as well as a way to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Stay Cool

Summer heat can get pretty unbearable, and while you should take precautions to avoid sunburns and heat stroke, staying hydrated and having access to shade can go a long way to helping you enjoy the day. Watermelons are 92 percent water and packed full of nutrients. Make watermelon popsicles to keep cool and avoid the temptations of sugary treats like ice cream that won’t do much to cool you off.

I love the idea of using a repurposed wheelbarrow filled with ice to keep your drinks cold. It will look like it belongs in your yard and is so much more fun than a standard cooler. Plus, since it is open, you can easily see when you need to restock refreshments.

Backyard Design

Finally, If You Don’t Have a Yard, Get Creative

Just because you don’t have a backyard doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the summer fun, too. Make the most of a small patio or balcony with comfortable seating, a surface to eat or play games and festive lighting.

Bryn Huntpalmer is an editor for Modernize, a website for home enthusiasts. In addition to working for Modernize, her work can be found on Lifehacker, Scary Mommy, About.com and on her personal blog Her Own Wings.

Posted in Buying a New Home, Gardening, Green Home Building, Home Decor/Furniture, Home Entertainment & Automation, Landscaping, New Home Design, Outdoor Living | Leave a comment

Perfect Golf Communities to Sharpen Your Pro-Level Skills

Golf communities

While you may not be able to book a tee time in the top three highest-rated golf courses in the nation, you could very well live in your own golf community.

By Drew Knight

It’s perhaps the only sport so well-liked that communities sprout up around the country centering on accessibility to the game. You guessed it, we’re talking about golf.

In honor of National Golf Month (that’s August), we’ve decided to help our loyal golf fanatics find the right golf community for them: one with access to the best courses in the United States, within driving distance of your home.

That’s right, we’ve checked in with Golf Digest to find the top three golf courses in the nation. From there we found new golf course homes listed on NewHomeSource.com with easy access to their own courses where you can sharpen your skills enough to take on the pros. So go ahead and take a swing. Fore!

No. 3: Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, Calif.

At No. 3 in Golf Digest’s “100 Greatest Golf Courses” list is the Cypress Point Club in The Golden State. Located directly on the Monterey Bay, Cypress Point Club stands strong with a par of 72 and 6,524 yards. This uniquely beautiful course is right on land’s end, so it would take a true pro not to chip one right into the ocean.

To sharpen your golfing skills before tackling this course, it would be wise to find a community course nearby where you could practice any time you want. Luckily for you, there are several. To start, check out San Jose, Oakland-Alameda or Modesto on NewHomeSource.com.

From builders like Landsea Homes, Signature Homes, Meritage Homes, DeNova Homes and Toll Brothers, you’ll find golf course homes for just about any budget — from the mid $200s to $1.5 million.

No. 2: Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, N.J.

Standing firm in the silver spot is the Pine Valley Golf Club. A former No. 1 title holder, Pine Valley is a 7,057-yard, par-70 course located about 20 miles from Philadelphia, Pa. Home of the Crump Cup, taking on this private course is no simple task.

To get up to par, might we suggest a few nearby areas with golf communities? Head over to NewHomeSource.com for access to golf homes in the Philadelphia and Ocean County areas.

Here you’ll find stunning homes and communities from the nation’s best builders like Orleans Homes, Pulte Homes, Sal Lapio Homes, Rouse Chamberlin Homes, Toll Brothers and Lennar. With dozens of golf homes to choose from within the $200s to $800s, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for.

No. 1: Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

And beating out more than 15,000 other courses to claim the top spot is the world-famous Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., home of The Masters since 1934. With a strict private club policy, this 7,435-yard, par-72 course is truly for the pros, and booking a tee time might not be an easy feat.

However, that’s no reason to give up on golf altogether. Check out NewHomeSource.com for numerous golf communities across the state, and those nearby, in areas like Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., and Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.

Here you’ll find homes from numerous builders like David Weekley Homes, Del Webb, Meritage Homes, John Wieland Homes, Benchmark Communities, Dan Ryan Builders and more. Perhaps the most affordable of the three, you might even find a golf home within the $100,000 mark (or above $500,000 if you so desire).

Now, lace up your golfing shoes and start swinging!

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Decorating on a Budget

decorating on a budget

Are you decorating on a budget? Sit down with your partner and make a list of must-haves when decorating your new household, so you both get what you want without breaking the bank.

By Nova Hasley

The best part of buying a new home is decorating it.

But, for those who devoted most of their budget to closing costs and moving and other expenses, there may be little left over to purchase that new sectional and dining set. But, you don’t have to forego decorating and new furniture completely — here are some ideas for decorating on a budget so your new home will be as stylish and comfy as you imagined it could be.

Make a List

What is more important to you? Having a nice sofa or coffee table? If you choose to do without one item that you may not be exactly crazy about, you can splurge on what you really want. “Shopping for your home is like buying fashion; it’s important to know which pieces to splurge on,” says Patricia Espinosa, co-founder of The Local Vault, a website to buy and sell pre-owned local décor.

Make a list of furniture and accessories you’d like to have and order it from “must-haves” to things that can wait. Purchase only those items that you can’t live without and hold off on the other items when you have more money to work with. Don’t waste your money on a couch that you kinda-sorta like — if you don’t have enough money for your dream couch, save until you do. Don’t settle — you’ll be happier in the long run.

Second Hand

Whether it’s your local garage sale or eBay, you can find the right décor at a reasonable price. “Buying quality pieces can be done on a budget, especially if you consider buying pre-owned home decor, where buyers can expect to save 50 percent to 85 percent off original retail prices,” says Espinosa.

It’s all about finding the right deal. Even if you’re willing to pay the price, don’t be afraid to haggle. Even when perusing items on eBay, the “Buy It Now” cost is still negotiable. See that blue “Make Offer” button? Take advantage of it by countering their offer. If you win, you will have more money to set aside for your décor budget.


Remember that vintage armoire you got second hand? Perhaps the nobs aren’t your style. This simple problem can easily be solved with the mix-and-match technique. You saved so much money on the armoire that you will be able to splurge on new handles that fit your style.

This technique can be done with a variety of second-hand valuables. “New pillows or pillow covers are an inexpensive way to change the look/style of a room,” says Amy Bly from Great Impressions Home Staging and Interiors, which serves homeowners in northern New Jersey. Don’t be afraid to mix and match the old with the new to fit your own style.

Re-use What You Already Own

Don’t forget about the items you already own. Pick and choose from what you have for a whole new look. “Mixing the decor in one room with half of the decor in another changes the whole look,” says interior decorator Felicia Clark.

Who knew that you had your dream home décor all along? “Try placing existing furniture in new locations or orientations. Consider floating a sofa if there’s room and if it’s not too close to the TV, rather than backing it up to a wall,” says Los Angeles-based interior designer Rachel Winokur. Floating furniture will make the room look bigger and create a more inviting space for you and your guests.

Posted in Buying a New Home, Home Decor/Furniture | 2 Comments

Pet-Friendly Décor That’s Stylish

pet-friendly decor

Making your home comfy for you and your furry friend doesn’t have to mean tacky animal décor. Here’s how to use pet-friendly décor in your new home to get you and your pet’s tail wagging.

By Nova Hasley

When you live with pets (or kids), it’s easy to forget about style in the name of making your home comfortable and safe for your furry friends.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way! Style and comfort aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have a home that’s fashionable and safe for your pet. Here’s how to use pet-friendly décor to make your home the tasteful and chic abode you’ve always imagined it could be.

Pet Corner

Your pet deserves a space to call their own. Pets are just like humans in that they like a special place to retreat to. Dogs have their beds and cats have their perches. Find out what best works for you and your pet and implement it into your design.

“Dogs have a natural instinct to snuggle up in their own den. Cats need their alone time, too. Emotionally, dogs and cats will suffer if they don’t have any space they can call their own,” says Joe Chanda, president of DenHaus, a luxury dog bedding and furniture supplier.

Dog Bed End Table

Photo Courtesy of DIY Network

A dog bed doesn’t have to stick out like a sore thumb. Choose a color or design that matches your overall décor. You could even incorporate their bed under a table so it is out of sight.

For cats, make sure you’re meeting their needs. “If your cat is scratching, there are some things you can do to deter them. First of all, invest in or build your cat their very own scratching post. You will need to help your cat and redirect them from scratching the furniture to the new post,” says Anna O’Toole, marketing coordinator of Love that Pet, an online pet supply store.

As many cat owners know: cats are a curious breed. They seek adventure and love the idea of being independent. Having shelves along the walls can be placed in a decorative way that your cat will enjoy.

cat shelves for play

Photo Courtesy of Cats Play

Pet Gate

decorative pet gate

Photo Courtesy of Dog Expertise

As much as we would like a loving pet to be with us all the time, we too need a place to retreat. Whether you have work to get done or are hosting a party, pet gates can be a good way to keep your pets where they should be.

Don’t think of a gate as something that will contrast your décor. Gates such as the one pictured above can not only blend into your décor, but be their own statement pieces.

“My No. 1 suggestion to clients is a tall metal pass-thru gate, one with a small door at the bottom for smaller pets or cats to use when wanted. This helps create a larger dog-free zone or pet free totally,” says Janet Huey, owner of Pet Stuff Resale, a refurbished pet supply business in Houston.


pet furniture

Photo Courtesy of Decoist

When shopping for furniture, think big. Whether you have a big dog or a small one, it’s good to make sure your valuables are out of reach of tails and teething mouths.

“To protect furniture while you are training your new pet not to chew and scratch, household items like bubble wrap, tin foil and plastic can be great barriers for furniture legs or anywhere else that chewing or scratching can occur,” says Petryk.

Unless you like to clean a lot, think about getting furniture with legs that are easy to clean under. Chairs and sofas with skirts can attract all the lovely fur your pet has to offer.


pet friendly fabric

Photo Courtesy of Design Indulgences

“Pick fabrics that are easily washable or can be stain treated,” say Kinney. Choose stain-resistant fabrics for your furniture for easy clean-up. Materials such as synthetic fabric, leather or ultra-suede are easy to deal with when it comes to owning a pet.

Also when picking out your furniture, gravitate toward colors that are similar to your animal. Shedding happens on a regular basis and when it does, it will be less noticeable with like colors.

Patterned fabrics and darker colors are also something to consider when it comes to pets and their stains. Avoid white and light colors (unless it’s a stain-resistant fabric), as stains are more noticeable.

“Pale-colored furnishings are a no-go in any room that pets are allowed in. Muddy paws, surprise ‘presents’ and unexplained stains will ruin your cream couch before you’ve even had a chance to sit on it,” says Blake Connoy, co-founder of Helpling, an online booking company for cleaning services.


Carpets soak up odors and can be a hassle to clean. Durable floors help you to skip all the cleaning woes. There are plenty of stylish options to choose from, including hardwood flooring, ceramic tile, painted concrete or stone.

These materials aren’t only easy to clean up, but can be cooling for your furry friends during the summer heat.

pet friendly rug

Photo Courtesy of English Lakes

Rugs could also be a good option for you and your pet. A stylish rug can tie your room together while being a nice change from the surrounding hard floors.

Don’t let owning a pet limit you from the stylish person you are. Have any other pet-friendly décor ideas? Comment below.

Nova Hasley is a content intern for New Home Source.

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