Friday, February 9, 2007

Remodeling Sources and Ideas

Hi everyone,

I had a request for green remodeling info (Congrats on the new home, Ann!), so here it is:

Maintenance Ideas:

  • Replace all the light bulbs in your house with CFL's.
  • Install dimmer switches.
  • Install a motion activated light switch in places where the light is often left on unnecessarily.
  • Avoid heating/ cooling areas that don't need to be comfortable - such as closets, pantries, etc. Seal the rooms by installing weather stripping and a door sweep under the door, and shut off the heater vent in that room.
  • To seal around windows, carefully remove the trim (first cut the paint attaching it to the wall with a knife), then spray Great Stuff Window and Door Formula (the regular formula will bow your jambs!) or DAP Tex Plus (which is easier to clean up) into the gap between the wall and the window jamb. Trim off excess with a knife and reinstall the trim. Warmer windows!
  • Seal up the garage and basement. That cold gets into your house!
  • Check for leaks in ductwork and seal them with aluminum tape (NOT DUCT TAPE) on straight ducts and pure silicone caulk on joints.
  • Hate to be a party pooper, but fireplaces are one of the biggest leaks in a home and when lit actually suck warm air out of the rest of the house! When you're not using it, fill a plastic bag with insulation and stuff it up the chimney. Just be sure to take it out before lighting a nice cozy fire, haha!
  • Tune up your heater.
  • Clean your air conditioner.
  • Put a "jacket" on your hot water heater and foam sleeves on your pipes.
  • Install low-flow showerheads.
  • Plant an organic veggie garden, if you have room. Doesn't get any more "locally grown" than that! And considering an organic red pepper is $4, that could save a lot of money!
  • Vacuum behind and under your fridge to keep it efficient. Fridges account for over 15% of energy usage in homes. If you're considering upgrading, click here.
  • To make your dryer more efficient: Replace flexible ducting with 4" rigid metal duct, with as few bends as possible. Lint can't clog a nice smooth straight duct. Install a 4"x4" vent hood rather than the standard 2 1/2" - this is the equivalent of shortening the ducting by 6 feet - a great thing. Vacuum out the lint chute yearly. Scrub the lint screen with a brush and soapy water yearly, especially if you use fabric softener. Softener clogs the mesh, which means less airflow and slower drying. Also, vacuum the area under the drum inside the motor once a year - not only does this make it more efficient but it will make your dryer last longer and reduces the risk of dryer fires.
  • Check for air leaks around your home. I've heard that if you added up all the tiny leaks in your house you could drive a truck through it! Yikes! It's wonderful to have an energy auditor come and check out your home with an infrared camera (oooh!) but that costs $250-400, and for that price you could fix a lot of little leaks in common places. Walk around your house and feel the floor, walls, windows, recessed light fixtures, attic access door, and exterior doors for cold spots. 35% of air leaks are in the attic, 18% doors and windows, 17% floors and basement, 13% walls, 10% ceiling. Adding more insulation (check Certainteed for insulation suggestions), outlet sealers, weatherstripping, caulking indoors and out... Crawling around in the attic to add more insulation is not a pretty job, but somebody (coughyourmancough) really needs to do it. Just don't do it on a hot day!!!

Very important: When you seal up your house nice and tight, you MUST invest the $20 to get a carbon monoxide detector. A well sealed home keeps you comfortable with less electricity, but also will help hold in carbon monoxide. This is imperative!

Remodeling Ideas:

  • Use low/ no VOC paints. Most major paint stores (Kelly Moore, Rodda...) carry them, and your local environmental home store has them, too.
  • When replacing the flooring, use rubber, bamboo, cork, reclaimed wood (which can all be fixed rather than replaced when need be), or marmoleum (one note- to clean solid floors, use the swiffer-style mops with washable microfiber covers, not an actual Swiffer. Waste of money and landfill.) Carpet is not only a germ and dust magnet, but it has to be vacuumed (which takes electricity), and even when it's recycled carpet it will still need to be replaced in a few years, and will probably end up in a landfill. Matt is a total diva about carpet and flat out refuses to put it in people's homes. ;-)
  • Install radiant heating.
  • Obviously, buy Energy Star appliances when it's time to upgrade.
  • Research any materials you might use. There are a lot of great options out there. Educating yourself can save you money and give you a very "green" and beautiful home.
  • Countertops come in amazing materials - paper (really!), quartz, recycled glass... It's best not to use natural stone. Yes, it's beautiful, but impractical for daily life and quarries are bad news for the environment.
  • If replacing a toilet, check this site and click on "CWWA Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilets Reports".
  • When doing any demolition, contact a building materials recycler, and freecycle or craigslist any useful stuff you don't want any more.
  • Check out salvage shops for beautiful high quality materials with history. Not always money saving, but good for the environment and kinda exciting when you find a one of a kind piece that calls to you.
  • Check local classifieds and Craiglist for used materials. We've gotten brand new double pane vinyl windows for next to nothing (or actually nothing) just by doing our homework.
  • Consider quality. It's better for everyone if your purchase lasts a very long time and looks great doing it.
  • Refinish cabinets, or if necessary, replace the doors if the cabinet layout is good but the cabinets are ugly. This goes back to the big picture of Buy Less Stuff.
  • Go for timeless beauty. Trends are fun now, but in ten years you'll be dying to remodel again because it's so "outdated". Stay contemporary with paint colors - cheap, fast, and easy. On the big ticket items think about how well it will blend with changing aesthetics. That doesn't mean it has to be boring! Just classic. Again, saves you money and saves the world. They're connected so often!


Of course, in ten years when Matt and I build our Zero Energy Home development, you can just buy one of our houses! ;-)


*Dani* said...

Great article Carly! Good ideas! I'm on the energy star webpage now. The one thing I wanted to note, however (because it came up in the green living forum on mdc) is that it's not a good idea to turn your hot water heater down that low. It needs to be at least 135 (I think- google to make sure!). There is a germ that can grow in the colder waters and give you this horrible disease, although I don't remember what it is called. I'm useful, eh? All I know is to leave the hot water tank up- hee hee.

*Dani* said...

Oooooh! Look at this guy:

I forgot to mention, our new house doesn't have a dishwasher, but it has the space for one...hmmm. That little guy should fit just fine. I'm almost considering going without a dishwasher and putting a little kitchen stand in the divet (sp?) available. I could use more counter space. The cupboards are so retro and they are down so low! You can fit a microwave beneath them perfectly probably. So, no blenders out on the counters then ; )

Carly Fay said...

I'd never heard about the water temp thing! Well, I'll remove that tip then, just in case. This is the dishwasher we chose for the in-laws. I'm a big big fan of the drawer style because you can do small loads. I'm sure you can find much cheaper ones than this tho.

You can also buy single dishdrawers, so you could add storage underneath!

Dishwashers make the same impact as handwashing, and I freakin' hate washing dishes by hand, and if it's not greener, then why waste the time? IMHO. ;-)

*Dani* said...

I love the dish drawer. Can't believe they spent that much on a dishwasher! How not frugal of them- hee hee!