The costs of heating and cooling a home can be huge -- both in terms of your wallet and the environment. Living in a home that's as energy efficient as possible cuts your personal expenses and your carbon footprint. LEED guidelines can help you do this by making sure every part of your home -- the walls and ceilings, of course, but also pipes and ducts and seams -- is properly insulated. Following LEED guidelines also means you'll be using less energy to heat your water and using less water overall, thanks to the installation of low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets. And LEED specifications steer you toward placement of windows, doors, and shading elements like trees and awnings that maximize passive heating and cooling, driving your expenses (and energy use) down further [source: Natural Resources Defense Council].
Saving energy alone is one of the most important things we can do for the environment. If everyone's home were up to par with LEED standards, as a country we'd be emitting a whole lot less carbon into the atmosphere. But that's not the only way LEED benefits the planet. Homes built or renovated to LEED specifications use far fewer non-renewable resources (and fewer materials overall), send much smaller amounts of waste to landfills and are less of a drain on the local water supply [source: Natural Resources Defense Council]. What's more, a LEED-certified home is likely built in a location where it won't damage sensitive natural habitats -- and where its inhabitants can easily and safely access public transportation and community services on foot or bike, meaning they're spending less time in cars and cutting their carbon footprints even more.