Green Remodeling - Unlocking Your Home's Potential
Ten Tips For A Green Home
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There are lots of good reasons to create an Earth friendly home. Not only is such a home good for the planet and consequently the sustainability of the planet for us, a green home also directly benefits your health. It's no wonder that The National Association of Homebuilders reports 50% of home buyers interested in green homes are interested because of their concern for the health of the environment, as well as personal health.
In spite of the benefits, some homeowners hold off, concerned that green products will cost more. With the higher demand for green products used in home improvement, not all green improvements cost more than their counterparts; in fact, many cost less! Plus, there are federal tax credits available for many of these projects.
1. Green Kitchen Improvements
Since the kitchen usually accounts for 20-40% of the home energy bill, converting to Energy Star appliances is a good place to start. Also consider:
- New or refaced cabinets that use forest-friendly materials
- Earth friendly floors made with ceramic tile or cork
- Energy-efficient bulbs and natural lighting
- Countertops made of green materials
- Water conserving appliances
- Waste & recycling station
- Request other Earth friendly kitchen remodeling estimates
2. Eco friendly Roofing
If your roof isn't white or an almost equally light color, your cooling system is putting in a lot of overtime. Consider reflective paint or replacing roofing shingles with light colored ones or even better - a metal roof.
3. Illuminate with Natural Light
Conserve energy used by lights and your heating system by flooding rooms with natural light, where the sun can help warm your home in winter. Be sure your windows are insulated well to protect against heat loss and mold.
4. Energy Saving Window Strategies
To put the chill on summer heat, shade windows on east and west walls with awnings and trees. Also place awnings above south-facing windows to shade from summer's sun (while it's high in the southern sky), and yet still admit warming rays during winter months. When adding new windows, instead of positioning directly across from one another where air is drawn straight across the room, set them off diagonally to encourage ventilation throughout the room. Whether adding or replacing windows, save energy with Low-E multiple panes.
5. Earth Conscious Flooring Choices
Earth friendly flooring materials are either readily renewable or made from recycled products. Instead of traditional vinyl, that emits carcinogenic chloride gas, or hardwood cut from forests which are slow to renew, consider these durable, Earth friendly floors:
- Cork – Very comfortable to walk on, cushions sound, and can be harvested every nine years from the same tree. Cork is time proven: it has been used since the 1920's.
- Bamboo – Since bamboo is a grass it is highly renewable. When heated, bamboo is caramelized, producing very beautiful hardwood-like flooring.
- Linoleum – Unlike vinyl, which is often mistakenly called linoleum, natural linoleum doesn't emit carcinogens; it does however emit more VOCs than vinyl. Consisting of linseed oil, rosins, wood flour and pigments, it has more than double the life of vinyl.
- Concrete – Absorbs heat, making it nice in the winter, comes in various colors, but standing too long on unpadded concrete can put undue stress on the joints and feet.
- Recycled Glass or Ceramic Tile – Beautiful and very eco friendly, you can choose from translucent, iridescent and opaque glass and traditional eco friendly tiles.
- Stone Tile – Very durable and quite beautiful, but keep in mind stone tile is only Earth friendly if the stone is taken from a well managed quarry or is recycled.
- Reclaimed Wood – Provided chemical strippers and sealants are not used, this is tops in eco friendliness. Choose from beautiful woods like Australian chestnut and heart pine.
If using carpet, look for materials with fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the carpet fiber, backing and adhesives used in installation. The Green Label Plus program certifies environmentally friendly carpeting products.
6. Exchange Stale for Fresh Air
To conserve energy, homes are built tighter. And then we seal every gap we can find. The downside is natural ventilation is reduced. The solution? Install a central ventilation system and ask your central air professional about adding a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration system to the ductwork.
7. High-Efficiency Earth-Friendly Heating
During the winter, the heating system is typically the biggest consumer of energy in a house. And if the furnace is over 20 years old, the heating bills get even worse. Ask a home heating professional about an energy-efficient system. Central air systems have the aforementioned advantage of ventilating stale air.
8. Reduce HVAC Energy Usage
A ceiling fan can save up to 40% on summer cooling costs and up to 10 percent during the winter heating season. A ceiling fan will drop the temperature in a room from 85 to 78 degrees. During winter, use the reverse setting to push down and circulate hot air that naturally rises to the ceiling. If this is a DIY project, be sure to turn off all power to the house before wiring. Another type of fan that is very useful for saving on cooling bills is the whole house attic fan. The models available today are more powerful than those of yesteryear.
9. Go Green with Green Beans, Soy That Is
Most traditional insulation, as well as most traditional adhesives, paints and sealers, emit VOCs, and they do so for years. Soy based materials do not emit gases or chemicals. They are being used in everything from the elevator grease at the Statue of Liberty to carpet backings and adhesives in private homes. Soy foam insulation is one of the newest green home improvement materials; it is mold resistant and insulates as well or better than traditional batting insulation. Unlike traditional insulation, soy based insulation doesn't use formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
10. The Great Outdoors
To create a truly Earth friendly yard, go native. This doesn't mean letting everything go wild—it simply means using native plants. While most of suburban America has kept crew cut lawns over the past few decades, a lawn is often a waste of energy and water. Well kept lawns also have a bad chemical usage habit, adding toxins to the soil.
In contrast, because native plants are well adapted to their areas, landscaping with them does not require chemicals or mowing nor does it require watering except during establishment or extreme droughts. An added benefit—reduced weeding! While weeding is important when establishing the new landscape, once plants have grown to the point they can compete with weeds, all it takes is some mulch and ground covering. Ask your landscaping professional to be sure to plant shade trees and other plants strategically to cut down on home cooling energy usage.
Plan Your Green Strategy
To help you figure out the best strategy for making your home more Earth friendly, ask your home improvement specialist about green home improvement projects. To make your improvements even more wallet friendly, remember to check on federal and state tax credits and other incentives.