Once the dust has cleared and your new space has taken shape, it's time to start thinking about the finishing touches-paint, furniture and accent pieces.

36 KNOWAtlanta Spring 2013 to live in their home for another five years or more should spend time analyzing the costs of updating HVAC systems and windows. Chris Laumer-Giddens, co-owner of LG- Squared, Inc., an Atlanta-based architectural and HVAC design consulting firm, notes that there are many ways to go about making your home more energy-efficient. After all, he says, "Green is an opinion," and can mean everything from saving the environment to saving money. One way is through a product-focused approach such as replacing inefficient windows, switching to LED light bulbs or replacing HVAC equipment with newer ductwork. Another is by adding renewable technology, like solar panels or wind turbines, in order to reduce dependence on public utilities. The third trend, according to Laumer-Giddens, which is especially important for new homes, is the home energy retrofit. "That involves looking at infiltration, air sealing the home, insulating the home, then upgrading the HVAC," he explains. For homeowners who are dedicated to making their homes more energy-efficient, Laumer-Giddens recommends engaging an expert. Room & Board A certified energy auditor (also known as a HERS Rater) or a building analyst is better equipped than an architect or builder to help clients sort through the mountains of information available. "We have had homeowners come to us and tell us about everything they've read, and they say, 'I want this kind of window, this kind of insulation,' all the bells and whistles," he says. "But when they see the bid for that, they realize they can't do any of it." Like people, each house is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Laumer-Giddens also cautions homeowners to weigh the costs of improvements against the actual cost savings they represent. "For example, replacing windows results in a 5 to 10 percent energy savings, but the cost [of replacing them] is much higher," he says. Rather than taking a product-based approach, he recommends looking at your home as a system and hiring someone to pinpoint the steps you should follow in order to achieve your cost-saving goals.

Finishing Touches

Once the dust has cleared and your new space has taken shape, it's time to start think-

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