A Green Gauge on Life
New Program Gives North Carolina Residents an Environmental Report Card on their Homes
by Kimberly Lawson
When it comes to going green, most people turn to recycling or carpooling to reduce their carbon footprint.
Another option is to remodel your home. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the commercial and residential building sector accounts for 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States per year, more than any other sector.
Thanks to a new program unveiled by the Western North Carolina Green Building Council, an Asheville nonprofit devoted to promoting green building practices across the state, you can now find out how efficient your home is and what steps you can take to improve its green factor.
Green Gauge, which launched earlier this summer, is intended to be an extension of the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score, a federal program that offers an assessment of a home’s energy efficiency.
"I don’t think a lot of people realize how much energy and resources are not used effectively on homes," says Abby Incze, Green Gauge’s marketing specialist. "Energy efficiency is a huge part of having a sustainable home, but there are many other factors to consider."
In addition to measuring energy output, Green Gauge assessors also look at water usage, indoor air quality and landscape ecology. After reviewing the home, which takes about two hours, the assessor issues a report that compiles all of his or her findings, and the home is scored on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being "very efficient." Additionally, the assessor offers recommendation for upgrades that will make the home more sustainable. For example, he or she may suggest the homeowner increase insulation in the home’s floors, walls or ceilings, seal leaky air ducts, install low-flow water fixtures or add landscaping with native or edible plants.
The service’s fee ranges from $260 to $350, depending on square footage of the residence. "It could end up saving you a lot of money in utility bills in the long run," Incze says.
Green Gauge is a much-needed service in a state whose lawmakers have repeatedly tried to restrict the expansion of renewables. Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly failed to renew a 35-percent state tax credit for homeowners and businesses interested in installing a new solar power system. Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, told Southeast Energy News in July, "The legislature in North Carolina is pretty tough these days. Distributed solar is having a tougher time making the economics work this year, primarily because of the lapse of the state’s [solar] tax credit."
On a larger scale, wind development has also seen its share of challengers. In May, two Republican state senators filed a bill that would severely hinder the expansion of wind energy projects, citing the need to protect military flight paths, bats, birds and landowners. The bill passed the Senate, but never made it out of the House Rules, Calendar and Operations committee before the legislative session adjourned last month.
Incze, Green Gauge’s marketing specialist, says there are lots of "little pockets in North Carolina where there are people interested in sustainability," but not enough. "Overall as a state, there’s a lot more to do, a lot more educating that needs to be done. I think a lot of people just don’t have the resources and knowledge to go about greening their homes or doing whatever it takes to be more efficient and environmentally friendly."
That’s where Green Gauge comes in.
To learn more about Green Gauge, visit WNCGBC.org/GreenGauge.Kimberly Lawson is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Augusta, Georgia. Visit her website at Kim-Lawson.com.