Green building, where new homes are built using materials that conserve energy and environmental resources, is one of the fastest-growing segments of the home building industry today. But for the owners of the millions of existing homes in the United States, remodeling is the only way to incorporate green.

Here are ways to increase a home’s efficiency, decrease costs and take advantage of the other benefits that green offers:

1. Install maximum insulation


Forty percent of the energy consumed in a typical house goes to cooling. Adding insulation will help save energy costs, increase comfort by better controlling temperature, and improve indoor air quality by eliminating gaps through which dirt, dust and other impurities can enter.

2. Install high-efficiency windows

Ordinary window glass transmits ultra-violet heat rays from the sun, which can increase your air conditioning bill dramatically. Energy Star windows can help control this effect. These windows may have two or more panes of glass and metallic oxide layers to reduce radiative heat flow.


3. Seal exterior penetrations

You can reduce cold air loss by inspecting your home from the inside and outside and plugging cracks or openings. Use caulking to seal small cracks on non-moving surfaces and install weather stripping on windows, doors and other movable parts of the home.

4. Buy Energy Star-rated appliances


Qualified refrigerators, dishwashers and vent fans use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models, more than making up for the slightly higher cost of these products.

5. Install low-flow water plumbing

By using low-flow plumbing fixtures such as toilets, faucet aerators and shower-heads, you can save up to 25 percent of that water compared to conventional fixtures while providing the same utility.

Karen Nakamura is CEO of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.