Use winter downtime now for a green home in the spring

Green Living

As you hunker down inside this winter, use the downtime to think ahead to spring and summer renovation projects for your home. The research and preparation you do now can prepare you to go green in your home in 2012.

1. Get a free energy assessment.

Bringing in an expert to conduct an energy assessment or home energy audit is the first step, said Carl Seville, owner of Seville Consulting, a Decatur-based green home consulting firm. A comprehensive assessment also will test areas such as air leakage in the home.

Sealing and insulating your home’s windows, doors, floors, outer walls and ceiling can result in savings of up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. After the audit, you will have a list of things to do, which can help you plan changes and a budget.

2. Research rebates.

Check out programs such as Energy Star (www.energystar.gov) and Georgia Power’s Earth Cents Program (www.georgiapower.com/earthcents/) to learn about available rebates and tax credits and their requirements. Rebates may be available for hot water heaters, programmable thermostats, appliances and other items.

3. Interview contractors.

Some contractors may experience a slowdown during the coldest months of the year. Take advantage of their lighter schedule by setting up meetings with them and getting cost estimate for the types of projects you want to pursue. Look for contractors certified by or participating in green programs.

4. Recognize the benefits of green remodeling.

By making energy-efficient changes in your home, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry says you could benefit in these ways:

• Reduces operating costs in the home by increasing efficiency

• Conserves natural resources

• Increases the value of the home

• Improves indoor air quality and in turn, overall health

• Reduces waste

• Reduces emissions costs

• Increases productivity of occupants

• Improves quality of life

5. Shop for supplies.

January often is a good time to buy air conditioners, new flooring, furniture and TVs, as stores use the post-holiday period to clear inventory for new models. Look for those that are have the Energy Star label, which shows they have met energy-efficiency guidelines. You could earn more savings by finding discounted items, especially if they are eligible for rebates. Snagging a deal now may pay off later.