Green Gauge Helps Homeowners Become Energy Efficient
By Gina Malone
It’s easier than ever these days to live green in small ways. What may not be as simple for the average homeowner or renter, however, is finding ways to make homes more energy-efficient, less expensive and healthier. Where does one begin?
Green Gauge, a new program that kicked off in April, can help. Created by the Western North Carolina Green Building Council (WNCGBC), Green Gauge provides expert assessments on energy and water usage, indoor air quality, building materials and landscaping for North Carolina residents. “We want to help homeowners and renters who want to cut utility bills, improve comfort and reduce their carbon footprint,” says Sam Ruark-Eastes, WNCGBC’s executive director.
The program advises homeowners and renters in new or older homes and those considering selling or buying. “Homes built prior to 1995 are especially expensive to heat and cool,” Ruark-Eastes says, “due to air leaks, poor insulation and windows, and older heating and cooling systems.” Green Gauge’s energy assessments, he adds, are the “most robust” evaluations because they use Department of Energy standards. Recommended improvements may include air sealing, insulation, duct repair, LED bulbs and ENERGY STAR appliances.
Besides a wish to be greener, people often approach Green Gauge, says Ruark-Eastes, with a desire to be healthier. Some suspect lingering or recurring illnesses may be due to poor indoor air quality, often associated with mold issues.
“We look at how to mitigate and eliminate mold,” Ruark-Eastes says. Measures might include sealing crawl spaces or installing dehumidifiers and bath ventilation fans. “We also look at radon,” he added, “which is a significant problem in the mountains.” An Environmental Protection Agency map indicates that most western NC counties are in the moderate potential category for radon levels with a handful, including Buncombe, coming in at the highest potential categories in the state. This is due primarily to more granite in the landscape. If high levels are detected, Green Gauge assessors can recommend a radon mitigation system.
For those remodeling, Green Gauge suggests green products—recycled, salvaged and renewable materials like certified sustainable lumber and recycled-glass tiles and countertops.
Some residents may want more ecological landscaping. Green Gauge assessors provide advice on edible and native plants as well as drought-tolerant options.
Homeowners who have used Green Gauge call it a “simple process” that proved helpful in deciding on major purchases such as water heaters and HVAC systems. “Green Gauge’s assessment,” says Cari Barcas, community engagement director for WNCGBC, “gives the average homeowner straightforward recommendations on how to make their home greener and healthier in a way that is easy for them to understand and execute.”
But what about cost versus gain? “There is a misperception,” Barcas says, “that making green improvements to a home is only accessible to people with vast resources of time or money, and that’s just not the case. The work is actually likely to offer financial benefits such as reduced utility bills and even improved value when it comes time to sell the home…not to mention the countless other benefits you receive by making your home healthier for both your family and community.”
WNCGBC began in 2000 as a “casual gathering of five building professionals,” proceeding with volunteers until staff was hired in 2004. “Today,” says Ruark-Eastes, “the nonprofit organization educates building industry professionals and homeowners, serves with other local leaders on the Energy Innovation Task Force and delivers the Green Built NC standard for new homes and Appalachian Offsets, a carbon offset program for businesses and individuals that supports local schools and nonprofits with clean energy projects.”
The group’s major fundraiser, CiderFest NC, will be held Saturday, October 15, from 1–5 p.m. at the Salvage Station in Asheville. This fourth annual festival will feature hard cider, mead and apple wine along with artisanal foods, live music and community workshops. Learn more in our article on CideFest NC. For ticket information, visit ciderfestnc.com.
To find out more about having your home or apartment assessed by Green Gauge, call 828.254.1995 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about WNCGBC at wncgbc.org.