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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Green is the Word
How to improve your home’s green score

Green, green and more green. What does it mean? Folks, have you noticed that the word “green” shows up in more magazines, newspapers and television programs than ever before? It’s almost like a new color has been developed.

My first recollection of the color green was that it was one of my six Crayola crayon colors. I soon learned that you used the green crayon to color grass and trees, just like they are in the springtime. I still like green grass and green trees.

My next recollection of the word “green” was when adults would use it to describe a person. It usually meant that the person was young and inexperienced or, as they also said, “still wet behind the ears.”

As I grew up, there were other things green that evoke fond memories. My first automobile was an emerald green Chevrolet. My next car was dark green Oldsmobile with fender skirts. Wow. What memories.

I also have some bad green memories – like turnip greens, green beans and broccoli.

Anyway, now that I am dry behind the ears, I like all of those green veggies. At about 18 years of age, I learned that I wouldn’t have anything to eat, green or otherwise, if I didn’t get a job and bring home the green.

Well, through time, words often take on additional meanings. Since this column is always about energy efficiency, let’s talk about what it means to be green in 2009.

First of all, focusing on energy efficiency is being green. I am happy to say that every Doug Rye house built in the last 20 years would be considered green.

Let’s take a moment to talk about green construction and what that means. To qualify as green construction, I think the construction should be environmentally friendly and save folks money on their energy bills.

The first draft of this column took several pages because I got carried away by listing every item that is used in the construction of a house and giving it a green score. So instead of doing that, let’s just score a couple of items and we’ll use a scale of one to 10, with 10 being best.

Technically speaking, I should give every product at least one green point because everything is made from the earth. Some products, however, will score a lot of green points. A great example would be cellulose insulation, which is made from paper that was made from trees, a renewable resource, and then recycled into insulation. Cellulose insulation saves folks money every day for the entire life of a house. I can’t give it a perfect score of 10, however, because some energy was required to harvest the trees, make the paper and manufacture the insulation.

A geothermal heat pump also scores a lot of green points as it uses the earth’s British thermal units (Btu) for heating, cooling and water heating. These Btu were supplied by the sun, the ultimate renewable energy resource. In fact, I have started calling geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal heat pumps. Because most of the energy in houses nationwide is used for heating, cooling and heating water, geothermal systems score a nine, higher than other heating and cooling systems.

Well, instead of taking three more pages, I thought I’d give you a turn instead. Take a minute to review your house, its construction and your heating and cooling system. What type of green score does your house get? I hope it’s a good one, but if it isn’t, just keep reading this magazine and this column and we’ll keep giving you tips on how you can improve it.

See you next month, when the outdoors should be even greener with spring in full swing.

P.S. My granddaughter informed me that these days, you must have at least 24 color crayons.


More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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