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Builders and New York residents are proving to the country that going 'green' is sensible, environmentally helpful and cost-effective. A plan engineered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has significantly reduced the state's overall energy use and greenhouse gas emissions over the last six years simply by offering consumers the choice to purchase a New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Home that uses approximately 30 percent less energy than conventionally built new homes.

"The typical home adds more greenhouse gas pollution to the atmosphere each year than the average car," said Paul Tonko, President and CEO of NYSERDA. "The New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Homes Program is committed to providing customers with dependable, affordable power while lessening the impact of electric generation on the environment."

Since 2001, more than 10,800 New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Homes have been built in New York, saving nearly 14 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 603 billion BTUs of fossil fuel to date. The collective energy savings from these homes means that more than 44,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide is kept out of the atmosphere every year; the same as taking nearly 9,000 cars off the road for a year.

"Purchasing a New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Home was one of the best decisions we made with our new house. We take comfort in knowing that we live in a quality built and energy-efficient home," said Jim Stewart of Wilton.

With New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Homes making up nearly 14 percent of the state's new construction market, builders cite them as a symbol of quality building and say that offering energy efficient features to customers is a significant differentiator in the increasingly competitive home building industry. More than 430 builders statewide participate in the program.

"We've seen a shift in our customers' attitudes over the past three years," says Anne Rockwood, production manager for DeGraff Bloom Builders, who have been part of the program since 2002 and who will now build 100 percent of their homes to ENERGY STAR standards. "When gas prices started to skyrocket, people became much more interested in the program. In the past year or so, concerns about global warming have become a motivating factor as well."

New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Homes pass a stringent evaluation that involves a computer-based energy analysis, inspections of systems and the way they work together as a whole, and certification testing. This advanced whole-house performance testing helps ensure that the home is properly insulated, doors and windows are installed correctly, cracks and gaps in a home are sealed, and carbon monoxide gases from appliances and heating and cooling systems are vented properly.

The 'green' wave is catching on. Deltec Homes recently launched one of the largest solar panel installations in North Carolina, investing nearly half a million dollars toward sustainable renovations in their Asheville-based offices and manufacturing facility. In 2008, Deltec, like DeGraff Bloom Builders, will be using 100% renewable power to produce its homes.

"Deltec is committed to creating a sustainable business model through the use of renewable energy," said David Hall, President/CEO of Deltec Homes.

"Our intent is to make the shift toward low-impact, energy-efficient manufacturing in a way that conveys our values to our customers," added Deltec's Green Building Coordinator, Steve Linton.

Commercial builders looking for an energy-saving solution to set them apart from competitors are looking at induction lighting, a new wireless technology that produces light with an unprecedented rated life of 10 years, five times longer than common, high intensity discharge (HID) lighting that use electrodes. US Lighting Tech, a manufacturer of commercial lighting products, calls marketing induction lighting 'the most environmentally friendly lighting solution."

"Rising energy prices and climate change concerns are driving demand for more energy efficient technologies. We are revolutionizing the lighting industry by providing an eco-friendly solution for one of society's most fundamental needs," said Richard Ham, president of US Lighting Tech.

Induction lighting is ideal for hard-to-reach, hazardous places where reliability and functionality is key and maintenance is labor intensive. US Lighting Tech estimates that by replacing 10,000 70W High Pressure Sodium lights with 10,000 40W induction lights, a customer can save approximately $3.5M over 10 years in energy and maintenance costs. That translates into reductions totaling 20 million pounds of carbon emissions or taking 2,700 cars off the road annually.

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