When you think of energy efficiency, you might picture a top-of-the-line dishwasher or refrigerator. But appliances are far from the whole story when it comes to going green. In fact, energy-saving solutions begin on the outside of your home.

It’s the building envelope – your home’s exterior “packaging” – that protects the overall structure from the elements and determines the indoor climate. Every aspect of the building envelope holds an opportunity for savings, and new materials, technologies and efficiency standards make it easy and affordable to green up your home’s exterior. Even better, most of these green upgrades qualify for valuable tax credits, local rebates and other offers that keep green in your wallet.

If you’re interested in giving your home an eco-friendly makeover from the outside in, three great places to start would be your roof, siding and front door. Each one of them has an important role to play in a green home.

Green Upgrades for Your Home's ExteriorA cooler roof
Green roofing contributes greatly to your home’s climate control. Complete, effective roofing solutions involve flashing and underlayments that preserve roofing integrity and prevent leaks, and roofing that protects against the elements and preserves indoor comfort. Clay tile and locally mined or reclaimed slate are durable, traditional green options, while the reflective properties of metal roofing can reduce the heat transmitted to the inside of your home and trim energy use by up to 40 percent. Rubber roof tile made from recycled tires has also entered the green roofing realm, providing easy installation, strength with lighter weight, and a profile resembling that of slate. Want to add another shade of green to your roof? Consider solar shingles. Whether integrated with other shingle materials or covering an entire roof, they contribute to both energy generation and savings for a home.

Siding for insulation, sustainability and durability
You can now wrap your home in a siding look that makes the most of its architectural highlights while offering durability far beyond that of the siding materials of the past. Fiber cement siding is a great-looking, easy-care choice for greening up your home, made from sustainable materials and able to deliver popular color and texture qualities. Other siding technologies are viable options, but take care when evaluating siding products based on their advertised insulation claims. Some types may have built-in insulation, but whatever your siding choice, it’s the sheathing installed underneath that contributes the most insulation value.

Grand entries that don’t welcome energy waste
Replacing a drafty entry door with an energy efficient model is one of the most affordable and impactful green improvements you can maGreen Upgrades for Your Home's Exteriorke. As with windows, the best way to welcome energy savings is to shop for products that are Energy Star-qualified and carry the NFRC certification telling you a door will help you trim energy costs while protecting the environment through energy efficiency. Also check into a door’s R-value – its measure of thermal resistance – for assurance that it’s well-insulated. A traditional six-panel wood door, for example, will have an R-value of around two, while a fiberglass door system may have an R-value of 10 or 12.

Speaking of fiberglass doors, they’re our favorite energy-saving home entries. Fiberglass captures the look of real wood without the tendency toward cracks and splits, and won’t dent, rust or corrode like steel. Besides having five times the insulation value of wood doors, fiberglass doors can withstand a range of temperatures and such weather extremes as strong winds, high humidity and frequent rain. This energy-saving upgrade doesn’t stop at the fiberglass door, either: manufacturers now offer complete entry systems including sidelights, transoms and trims for grand entry that’s both beautiful and efficient.

So remember, when it comes to a green home, it’s more than what’s inside that counts. Upgrading your home’s exterior with energy-efficient, durable and sustainable materials will help you maintain your desired indoor climate without using so much energy.

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