Most of us can see the benefits of living the Green life. We understand it benefits our homes, our health, our Earth and most important our families. We need to take our Green thoughts and turn them into Action.
Large Projects For Your Home
It is the larger projects that can be intimidating to homeowners. Some changes can be very expensive and it's not always clear if the homeowner is making a smart investment,at least financially. For larger projects you'll have to consider what you can afford, what if any profit will you derive and what reasons are you making these changes?
For the avid environmentalist these major home changes go beyond financial investment and are representative of lifestyle goals. When you determine what your goals are for your home and lifestyle is will be much easier to decide what renovations are appropriate for your wallet and life.
One of the most well known but less understood home renovations is the investment in:
Photovoltaics or PV systems convert sunlight directly into electricity that can provide a good portion of your home's electrical needs. They supplement your existing utility service.
A PV System costs approximately $32,000-40,000 before incentives. Through the New York Energy $mart Program and potential Federal and New York state tax credits, the initial cost of these systems can be reduced by up to $25,000 if the PV system is on a New York ENERGY STAR Labeled Home.
PV systems are gentle on the environment and create a long term plan for living in a green home.
For more information please visit: www.PowerNaturally.org
Heating and Cooling
Making sure your home is properly insulated, ventilated and maintained is of one of the most important facets of maintaining a healthy home. The healthy home is not just about protecting the environment but also protecting the home interior.
A few changes are basic.
Defend Against Drafts:
Check for leaks under doorways, in door frames and air conditioners. Seal any and all leaks around window frames and door frames with caulk or weather-stripping.
When it's not cooling season, stop drafts from the air conditioner with covers that slip over the outside of the unit. If you can't reach the outside, mount the cover on the inside.
Be Sure Your Home Is Properly Insulated:
Check attics and crawl spaces for proper insulation. If insulation is damaged, or if there's none, install new-technology insulating material with a high "R" value. The R Value is a measure of insulation effectiveness. The higher the number, the better the insulating performance.
Turn off your air conditioner when no one is home. If you like coming home to a cool interior than install a programmable thermostat that can turn on the air conditioner half an hour before you get back. Programmable thermostats used in the summer or winter can save money and energy. Home Depot estimates that an ENERGY STAR thermostat will save the average homeowner 33% in utilities and they are inexpensive and can be easily purchased at most hardware and home centers.
Just like summer it's important to make sure your home is property insulated. Keep windows shut, seal drafts around window frames and door frames. Many older single-pane windows allow for big drafts even when the windows are closed. If this is a problem in your house you can always seal around the window frame with a clear plastic barrier that most hardware stores sell.
The best option is to keep your thermostat at its economy setting. During the day set the temperature to 68 degrees and 60 overnight. These will be comfortable settings for most people. However, senior citizens and others with medical problems may require higher settings.
Geothermal Heating is not a new idea. It has been used for centuries and is still a popular source of heat in many countries. Geothermal heating takes advantage of the Earth's naturally constant interior temperature.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency this kind of system can save a homeowner 30-70% in heating costs and 20-50% in cooling costs. The systems require little maintenance because they are built to last for decades.
The cost of the system depends on the size and installation required for your home or business.
If you're like most people you spend every morning standing in front of the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth but hopefully you are also turning the faucet off while you brush. We've all been told to turn the water off while we brush our teeth but no one's perfect. The bathroom is where most of a house's water is used so it's important to make changes where it counts.
According to the California Urban Water Conservation Council 60% of a home's water consumption takes place in the bathroom. So what can we do to cut down on wasted water and money?
Toilets are definitely not the most enjoyable part of a renovation and certainly are not as fun to shop for as new countertops or a spa tub. However, there's money to be saved. The toilet consumes 27% of the houses' total water.
The standard toilet is required by government regulation to use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. A study done in 2000 by the city of Tuscon found the average toilet actually uses 1.98 gallons per flush. Older homes with preinstalled toilets were not up to regulation so were often retrofitted with devices to lower the gallons per flush from 3.5 gallons to 1.6. Because the toilet is being outfitted for use not originally intended the toilet will not work efficiently also early models of low-flow toilets still had a lot of flaws to be worked out. Homeowners will continually experience leaks, clogs and other annoying problems because the toilet is being misused or is outdated. The best option is to buy a new low-flow toilet. New models have repaired the issues of earlier models and now function at an optimal level. Look for the WaterSense label on a toilet before purchasing. This is a new label the Environmental Protection Agency created to distinguish efficient toilets. These new toilets only use 1.28 gallons and sometimes lower depending on the need. Even better news, these toilets are generally affordable. The dual flush toilet by Sterling Rockton retails at $230.
For the more eco-conscious homeowner there is the composting toilet. Check out the Envirolet waterless, non-electric composting toilet at www.envirolet.com. It retails at $1,400 but saves much more money an energy in the end.
Remember to always check for local incentives. If you happen to live in an area which suffers from droughts, water contamination or any other water problems there is a chance your local government will offer incentives lowering the price even further.
While a lot of water waste can be controlled by our behavior i.e. shortening showers, not letting the water run for extended periods of time and switching from baths to showers there are still other changes we can make.
One of the more recent problems are the multi-head shower systems! While each shower head can legally spout no more than 2.5 gallons per minute there are no regulations for several shower heads. Some showers release as much 80 gallons per minute, an astonishing amount of water. While these systems were once limited to only high end homes they've become more popular and there are no signs of slowing down.
While it was true that the low flow shower heads did not deliver enough power many improvements have been made. Companies have begun addressing the low pressure issue and developing shower heads which actually deliver 1.6 gallons per minute with the feel of 2.5 gallons. These shower heads retail for approximately $55 (www.deltafaucet.com) but several companies offer cheaper and more expensive models.
Several gallons of water are also wasted waiting for the water in the shower to warm up. If you're interested in spending a little more money there is always the tankless on-demand water heater. It takes 30 seconds to warm your water up and will save about 6 gallons of water a day.
There are endless products including a tank that recycles your sink water into toilet water so your toilet stops being such a large water consumer(www.watersavertech.com).
For more information or product suggestions please visit The Green Guide or any of the other sites suggested on my Green Ideas & Resources page.
There are several options for eco-friendly flooring.
Recycled Metal Tiles, Bamboo, Concrete, Cork, Reclaimed or sustainable wood and stone are all available options and can be easily found.