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Energy-efficient home enhancements for comfort, savings and style

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(ARA) - Conserving energy at home can be as simple as swapping incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or unplugging the computer when it is not in use. However, a home built for energy efficiency can have an even more significant impact on your family's energy use.

Taking a look at your home from top to bottom and wall to wall can uncover ways to maximize energy efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 40 percent of global energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions come from the world's homes and buildings. Although energy efficient upgrades and home renovations can seem more costly upfront, the investment can help save money and energy in the long term.

Reduce air infiltration
Between framing and routing for wiring and plumbing, hundreds of seams, gaps, and holes exist in a typical home, which let air in and out. Forty percent of a home's energy is lost due to this air infiltration, according to the Department of Energy. In fact, these gaps in an average-size home could fill nearly 200,000 basketballs with air every 24 hours.

A cost-effective way to address the issue is with proper air sealing and insulation. For example, Owens Corning EnergyComplete Air Sealing System seals the gaps in the home's exterior walls before installing fiberglass insulation for thermal protection. The system can reduce air infiltration by up to 70 percent in new homes and can lead to a savings of up to 33 percent in heating and cooling bills for some homeowners.

When considering home insulation, also look for solutions that keep the environment in mind. "Every pound of glass fiber thermal insulation saves 12 times more energy each year than was originally used to produce it," says Frank O'Brien-Bernini, chief sustainability officer for Owens Corning. "In fact, our new EcoTouch insulation uses a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content and 50 percent total recycled content, as certified by Scientific Certification Systems."

Revisit the roof
Re-roof your home with ENERGY STAR-rated shingles that use granule technology to reflect the sun's rays and help keep roofs cooler, resulting in more comfortable and energy-efficient living spaces. In some areas, these shingles may also qualify for tax credits. Owens Corning Duration Cool Shingles help save energy without sacrificing beauty. Additionally, a roofing system that includes proper ventilation helps keep moisture and hot air away from the living space.

Eight out of 10 homes in the United States have asphalt shingle roofs, resulting in millions of tons of potential waste that could end up in landfills each year as homes are re-roofed. Recycling a home's old shingles is equivalent to recycling a year's worth of household waste. Visit Owens Corning Roofing & Asphalt's shingle recycling program to learn how to choose a contractor that will recycle your roof.

Close the window to air leakage
Eliminating drafts can save 5 to 30 percent of a home's annual energy costs, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Window frames are a common culprit for air seepage. Consider installing new, energy-efficient windows or sealing existing windows to address this issue.

Strong and durable fiberglass composite window frames are virtually maintenance-free over their long lifetimes, vastly reducing the need for repair or replacement.

A complete solution from the floor to the roof
Whether you are making minor changes or undertaking major renovations at home, enhancing your home with sustainable methods will not only contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of your family and community, but deliver long term savings.

"Homeowners should realize that they can enhance their home's function and style, while simultaneously saving money and the planet," O'Brien-Bernini says. "We share a common desire with our customers to provide sustainable, innovative and quality solutions that improve homeowner's lives and our environment."

Check out Newsweek magazine's annual Green Rankings for a list of companies committed to sustainability through the products they provide, as well as through their operations.