Green design is a science, not an art. Some principles apply across the board, but many measures will depend on your home's age, construction techniques used, building codes, local climate (temperature and humidity) and the land on which your home sits. If you're going to get serious about green, you'll want to do a lot of research and eventually some testing. To help you along, we've provided this list of recommended resources.
American Lung Association Health House (www.healthhouse.org)
Since 1993, this program has educated homeowners about indoor air quality and its impact on health, particularly asthma and allergies. The website provides an indoor air quality checklist, tip sheets on issues ranging from lead to radon, home maintenance guides and other information about creating a healthy home.
Earth Advantage (www.earthadvantage.com)
Begun as a utility-based energy-saving program, Earth Advantage now also addresses sustainability and home performance for Oregon and Washington states. The site includes an interactive quiz to see how green your home is, information on mortgages that reward green homeowners, and a design resource center that provides green recommendations, how-to info and products for each room of your new or existing home.
EarthCraft House (www.earthcrafthouse.org)
Looking to build or remodel a home in the Southeast? Born in Atlanta for new single-family homes, the EarthCraft House green building program has spread to multifamily existing homes, and throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. EarthCraft offers education, training and guidelines for builders, but homeowners can benefit from the knowledge, as well as a list of EarthCraft House builders, remodelers and communities.
Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor (www.rehabadvisor.com)
Based on the information you plug into it — age of home, location and type of project — this interactive tool recommends specific energy-efficient, healthy, durable and sustainable improvements, such as adding insulation or using low-flow faucets. Information on costs and savings is included. The tool is based on information from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recommendations are based on averages and computer models, but it's a good starting point.
Energy Star (www.energystar.gov)
To earn Energy Star qualification, homes and products must meet strict criteria for energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. The website offers lists of Energy Star-qualified products such as dishwashers, refrigerators, clothes washers, lighting fixtures and ceiling fans; information on tax credits, special offers or rebates; home improvement tips; and a database of builders, developers and home energy raters who can help you build an Energy Star home.