Expert Interview Series: Gary Wollenhaupt about Greener Homes

Greener homes
Have you thought about making “green” improvements to your home to make it more energy efficient? Or maybe energy efficiency sounds great, but you’re concerned that the up -front investment will be too expensive.

That doesn’t have to be the case. Recently, MoonworksHome spoke with Gary Wollenhaupt, Editorial Director at, to fill you in on the truth about high performance homes.

When you consult with prospective clients about making their homes more energy-efficient, what are some of their most common concerns?

Most homeowners are concerned about having a comfortable, livable home that meets their family’s needs. More people are becoming aware that a home can be a lot less costly to live in without spending much (if any) more money for a well-designed and well-built home that uses less energy and water – and can produce as much energy as it uses through solar power.

How do you address their concerns?

We educate and inspire people to learn about the major systems in a home and some of the new technology and design approaches that can save hundreds of dollars per year in utility costs. We recommend working with an architect or builder who is well-versed in green and high-performance homebuilding, and who is involved in some industry organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, the National Association of Home Builders, and local groups that are focused on building better homes.

What misinformation is out there about “going green” or becoming more energy efficient?

There are a couple of major areas of misinformation. The first is that a green home has to be a weird home built out of dirt or old tires or that looks like a spaceship. Nothing could be further from the truth. A high performance home can look like a Cape Cod, southwest Adobe-style ranch, or whatever you want it to look like.

The second is that it has to be expensive. A good builder will help make the tradeoffs that can come as part of a green home design. Say you spend more on insulation, but you can have a smaller HVAC system. And the bills over the lifetime of the home will be much less. Some builders say they can build a green home at no more cost than a basic code built home. Others say the cost can be 5% to 10% more. Some of that depends on the choices you make to spend more in certain areas that are important to you.

What would be your greatest piece of advice for someone who is considering making these types of improvements?

Existing homes, as well as new homes, can benefit from going green. Work with a home energy consultant to define the areas where you could be improved most cost effectively. Often, a few thousand dollars spent on things like attic insulation and air sealing around doors and windows can make huge differences in the comfort and performance of a home. You can spend more on things like a new furnace or new windows. Every home is a little different, but there are some pretty basic things you can easily do to make a huge improvement.

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