Why does it matter? Isn't that stuff just for hippies with a lot of extra cash?
Hold on to your Birkenstocks, kids - you already know that Spring Creek Design embraces all things green, sustainable and repurposed. Last week’s blog Re-Invent, Re-Use, Re-model focused on how to incorporate sustainable materials into your renovation project. This week we have a list of things you can do in your existing home to help green it up! Some of these are simple, and some of them are pretty serious - but all of them will bring you closer to a sustainable, healthy home.
There’s a common misconception that using green materials is more expensive. The truth is that it’s really about making better, more informed decisions when you are replacing existing items or remodeling your home. Although purchasing sustainable materials or products may be a slightly higher initial investment, you often save money in the long run by reducing energy consumption. In many cases, sustainable products have a longer life span - reducing the cost and frequency of replacement or repair. Many product categories have simply become green by default - the power of the consumer marketplace coupled with new regulation has sparked a sea-change in some product categories (like paints and lighting) - bringing sustainable products to the market without a significant premium in price.
Improved comfort and indoor air quality are also great reasons for seeking out sustainable and green building products. Many conventional products (plywood, OSB, cabinets, carpets to name a few) are now known to off-gas - a process by which some of the chemical ingredients in the material become airborne over time. Some of these chemicals, like formaldehyde, can pose a serious threat to your long-term health. Some of our clients with chronic health issues, like allergies and asthma, report considerable improvement in their overall comfort level when making the switch to a more sustainable human habitat. Of course, this evidence is purely anecdotal, but extensive research is beginning to show a clear relationship between indoor air quality and your health.
Try these eight ways to green up your home.
1. Purchase energy efficient appliances, water heaters, and furnaces. When it’s time to update appliances make sure to select energy efficient appliances. Use the Energy Star Rating as a starting point, then do you homework to compare products.
2. Install low flow plumbing fixtures. Low flow toilets, faucets and showerheads will conserve water in your bathrooms and kitchen. A discussion of why water conservation matters in the rainy mid-Atlantic could fill another blog post. But at a minimum, you will save a few bucks when you get your water bill (or electricity bill, if you have a well).
3. Reimagine your insulation. We are discovering that R-value alone is of little value in determining how well your house functions in terms of heating and cooling performance. Meticulous air sealing, reduced thermal bridging and controlled ventilation are just as important. Consider your home's exterior (or "Thermal Envelope") as a system of many parts, of which the insulation is just one. You will be rewarded with lower energy bills, improved air quality, and better control of indoor comfort.
4. Install Energy Star Windows. New windows can have an incredible impact on lowering energy consumption. Energy Star rated windows are a good starting point, and often use insulated multi-pane glass, special designs to reduce thermal bridging and special coatings to reduce energy loss or heat gain.
5. Install a tankless water heater. Stop waiting for your water to get hot and even determine the exact temperature you would like. Tankless heaters are generally more efficient that conventional tank models, and offer the benefit of never running out of hot water - a big plus in a busy household with high water demands.
6. Select a high efficiency HVAC system. Regulate the temperature in your home and see your energy costs reduce by 10%-30%. Other ideas to assist with regulating temperature include web-connected programmable thermostats and ceiling fans. Todays HVAC systems are leaps ahead of the systems of even just 10 years ago. If you conduct a thorough Thermal Envelope upgrade (#3 above), you may even be able to downsize your HVAC equipment to a smaller, less expensive model.
7. Use Low or No VOC Paint. VOC, which stands for volatile organic compounds, can cause eye and skin irritations, and lung or kidney damage. Application is the same as conventional paint and is virtually odor free. Low/No VOC paints have come to dominate the marketplace - a welcome change from the past.
8. Use LED or CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs. These bulbs produce less heat, use less energy and last longer. Technology keeps getting better and the price keeps getting lower. LED fixtures and bulbs are now available in dimmable and non dimmable forms, across a wide spectrum of colors and color "temperatures".