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Green Building Tips

The physical structures of the District take their toll on the natural environment. These tips highlight steps that tread more lightly on our Earth through more energy-efficient technologies, the use of less or non-toxic materials, and other environmentally beneficial methods.

Reduce water use

  • Indoor: Use less water by adding aerators (available for a few dollars at your local home supply store) to your sink faucets and changing to low-flow showerheads.
  • Outdoor: Incorporate native plants in your landscape plan and minimize high-maintenance landscaping such as turf grass to conserve water, while still maintaining a beautiful lawn.

Savings:Reduce your water bill by as much as $100 per year!

Open the windows to reduce indoor air pollution

Indoor air is two to five times as polluted as the outdoors (per the EPA). In addition, indoor pollutants are 1000 times more likely to be inhaled than outdoor ones (Lawrence Berkley Labs report). Causes of pollution include the use of conventional household cleaners, ‘off-gassing’ from furniture, and pet dander. The easiest way to decrease indoor air pollution is to open some windows and bring in fresher, outdoor air.

Use low-VOC products

Improve your indoor air quality by switching to products that don’t give off “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs). Some common low-VOC or no-VOC products include:

  • Paint: A low-VOC paint is available from most major paint brands
  • Cleaning products: Low-VOC cleaning alternatives are available for sale, or you can make your own VOC-free cleaning products using simple household materials like baking soda, vinegar and borax.
  • Tune up your heating and cooling (HVAC) system
  • Have a checkup for your HVAC system every two years to make sure it is running efficiently. Be sure to clean the filter monthly during times of peak usage; a dirty filter can significantly reduce the efficiency of your HVAC.

Savings: Reduce your energy bill by $100 per year or more!

Use native plantings

Native plants have been growing and evolving in your area for thousands of years and, as a result, have adapted to the local soils and climate. As a result they are more likely to thrive with minimal care, unlike exotic plants. That can mean less need for water, fertilizer and pesticides. View additional information about green landscaping techniques.

Air out your cabinets

One common indoor air pollutant is the formaldehyde emissions found in cabinetry. It is released from the conversion varnishes after the chemical curing process. The emissions are stronger in the first 30 days of curing and continue to decrease over time. We suggest that cabinets should be unwrapped and housed in well ventilated storage area for about a month before installation. This will improve the indoor air quality for both installers and homeowners.

Need a new appliance? Purchase an ENERGY STAR one and save money

Last year alone, ENERGY STAR helped Americans save $12 billion in energy costs. Why don't you join the people who are already saving money? Using ENERGY STAR qualified products, from compact fluorescent light bulbs to energy efficient appliances, the average household can save about 30 percent in utility bills--that's about $450 per year. And if you are a DC Resident and want to purchase an ENERGY STAR air conditioner, refrigerator or washing machine, you can qualify for a money-back rebate. For more information, go to:  View additional information.

Use shades and blinds

On hot days, draw the curtains and/or shades to keep the sun out. Remember to close doors to the outside to keep in cooler air. This is a free way to cut down the amount of electricity you use to cool your home. Using ceiling or room fans also improves air circulation. During the heating season, open south-facing window coverings (e.g. drapes, blinds, etc.) during the day. Close all window coverings at night to keep the heat in.

Plug air leaks

This simple step can go a long way toward keeping your home at the temperature you desire, saving money on heating and air conditioning bills and more. Common leaks occur around windows, doors, and other wall penetrations. Plugging those leaks with weather stripping and caulk can be a simple task for anyone! Clay rope, which comes in brown or gray, is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce the intrusion of cold air around windows. It is easy to remove when warm weather comes and can be reused.

Program your thermostat

When you are at home, keep the thermostat at 78°F or higher in the summer and 62°F or lower in the winter. Programmable thermostats allow you to program the systems to reduce output when they are not needed (e.g., when no one is home during the day, or in the evening when everyone is sleeping).

Savings: Reduce your energy bill by $100 per year or more!

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