Homeowners and renters are always looking for ways to reduce their utility bills and keep their home comfortable no matter what the temperature is outside. Energy-efficient HVAC units, windows and appliances make an appearance, but one thing many people overlook is LEED certification. What is LEED certification and should you be making sure that your home is LEED-certified?

What is LEED Certification?

First, what is LEED certification?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This is a certification program for green buildings, put in place by the U.S. Green Building Council. This certification has two uses. First, it helps construction workers and homeowners determine how green their building is. Second, it encourages green building practices, to push current construction companies to adopt more sustainable ideals.

LEED certifications are broken up into five categories:

  • Building and Design
  • Interior Design and Construction
  • Building Operations and Maintenance
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Homes

Each of these categories awards points and the total number of points determines the level of LEED certification. There are four levels of LEED certification — silver, gold, platinum, and certified. Your home will be more energy-efficient regardless of what level it falls under, but platinum homes are the greenest and most sustainable options currently available. A rating of 45-50 points grants the home certification, with 60-74 points awarding a silver certification, 75-89 points granting gold and 90-136 awarding platinum certification.

The higher your LEED score, the greener your home will be and the smaller your utility bills will be overall. Now that you have an idea of what a LEED certification is, what can you do to create your own LEED-certified home?

Creating a LEED-Certified Home

It’s easier if you start building a LEED-certified home from the ground up, but it’s possible to convert an existing structure so it’s green and sustainable. If you’re working with an existing property, the home will be analyzed for a number of points, including but not limited to:

  • Interior air quality
  • Construction materials — specifically, they need to be both sustainable and recyclable.
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy consumption and efficiency
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Landscape sustainability

Little things can improve the LEED score of your home, like replacing your current toilets and faucets with low-flow alternatives, or reworking the landscaping of your home to include native plants that don’t require as much irrigation or maintenance. Native plants will thrive better, reduce your overall upkeep and make your home use less water. The native plants you choose will vary depending on where your home is located. As an added bonus, they’ll also provide a home for local birds and wildlife, so you may see some amazing animals making a home in your landscaping.

If you’re looking to build a new home, you can improve your LEED score from the foundation up by utilizing green and sustainable building materials instead of traditional materials like steel, concrete and wood. You can also start from scratch by installing plenty of insulation, double-pane energy-efficient windows, low-flow fixtures and energy-efficient light fixtures to keep your utility bills down from day one.

Is LEED Certification Worth It?

When it comes down to it, is it worth it to seek out a LEED certification for your home?

While it can be expensive, a LEED certification is easily one of the best things you can seek, both for your home and for the future of the environment. Making your home more sustainable and eco-friendly will reduce your utility bills, keep your home more comfortable regardless of the exterior temperature, and reduce your overall carbon footprint.

If you’re concerned about your environmental impact or want to lower your utility, a LEED certification for your home is absolutely worth the cost.

Emily is a sustainability writer who is the creator of Conservation Folks.