ProudGreenHome's top stories of 2011

| by Teena Hammond
ProudGreenHome's top stories of 2011

As 2011 comes to an end, it's the perfect time to look back at the most compelling stories from the past year. Popular topics included saving money on electricity, the HGTV Green Home Giveaway at Serenbe, and news about a passive house in Cleveland.

Take a peek at what readers found most intriguing this year, in no particular order:

Passive house — The Cleveland Museum of Natural History built a passive house as an exhibit on the museum's grounds. The house was built to the world's most rigorous standard of energy performance, and had applied for certification from the Passive House Institute U.S. It doesn't need a furnace to keep occupants warm, even in cold winter climates. 

The home will use approximately 90 percent less energy than a traditional home. It features R-50 super thick insulation, air-tight construction, energy-efficient appliances and lighting, an energy recovery ventilation system, reclaimed wood floors and stormwater management features outside. It was designed to take advantage of passive heat sources, including solar energy coming through the windows and body heat from occupants, as well as appliances and lighting.

Smaller, greener homes trend —In the land of the super-size value meal and gigantic SUVs, new homes in America are getting smaller and greener, according to industry insiders. Look back a few years. The median home size in America was near 2,300 square feet at the peak of the market in 2007, with many McMansions topping 10,000 square feet. Today, the median home size has dropped to about 2,100 square feet and more than one-third of Americans say their ideal home size is actually less than 2,000 square feet, according to a survey by real-estate site Trulia. Architects and homebuilders welcome the trend toward smaller homes built with sustainable techniques and designed with energy-efficiency and green living in mind.

Why your electric bill is so high — From light bulbs to hair dryers to central air, nearly everything in a home uses energy, and nearly everything costs money. To save money, all that needs to be done is a simple cutback. Whether it be minor, or an all-out purge, it may help to reduce bills and conserve a little energy, and this story shared 10 unexpected reasons why your electric bill is so high

2012 HGTV Green Home Giveaway — Readers were enthralled by this article on the next HGTV Green Home Giveaway, which wil be in the idyllic setting of Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., a rural, eco-friendly community located near Atlanta. Serenbe is a 1,000-acre development featuring homes as well as unique shops and award-winning restaurants. Serenbe merges sustainability principles with the design philosophies of walking neighborhoods. Viewers can enter for a chance to win the approximately 2,300-square-foot home in Serenbe when the HGTV Green Home Giveaway opens for entries in 2012. Designed by Kemp Hall Studio and built by FrontPorch Builders, the home is a modern family farmhouse with a design inspired by southeastern culture and regional architecture.

Green roof 101: Tips on installing a living roof — Instead of a plain shingled roof, many homeowners are opting for a green roof covered with living plants for the environmental and aesthetic benefits. Green roofs are a fast-growing trend and their popularity is based on a vast range of benefits, from their beauty, to stormwater management, reducing the urban heat island effect, improving air quality, energy efficiency, noise reduction, increasing biodiversity, and even offering an opportunity for urban agriculture for those who choose to grow food on a green roof.

Carrier Corp. launches energy-efficient heat pump —Showing that the desire for lower energy costs continue, one of the most popular stories for the year was when Carrier Corp. announced that it had created the highest heating-efficiency, air-source heat pump on the market. The advanced heat pump incorporated new technology known as Carrier Greenspeed intelligence and went on sale over the summer this year.

7 Green home trends for 2011 — This story, highlighting the top 7 green home trends expected in 2011, was a popular read throughout the year. Green home certification, smaller homes, increased greenwashing and home energy costs were among the trends that did surface.

Minimalist hotel made of recycled concrete tubingTubohotel, an innovative new hotel in Tepoztlan, Mexico, has rooms made out of recycled concrete tubing, giving guests a creative place to lay their head at night. The guest rooms are  made out of individual concrete tubes that are brought in by crane.

Product spotlight: Comparing tankless water heaters —There's no end to the hot water with a tankless water heater — even if every sink and shower in the house is running at the same time. With a tankless water heater, water is only heated when needed, and this can result in big savings of up to 30 percent on water heating bills. Traditional water heaters work by storing hot water — usually from 20 to 80 gallons, depending on the size of the unit — for later use. The water within a traditional gas, propane or electric water heater is continuously warmed to a pre-set temperature, so energy is used throughout the day to keep the water hot.

Smog-eating tile arrives in California — Smog-eating tile almost sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. But it's real, and it's in Southern California, with KB Home installing smog-eating tile on houses in several communities.

Read more about trends in Going Green at Home.

Topics: Appliances, Going Green, Landscaping, Water Heaters

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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