Are you trying to think green when planning home improvements? With soaring energy prices and states adopting regulations that prohibit products that emit harmful fumes, environmentally friendly building has become a hot topic.
As a result Green has become quite the buzzword in home building and design. Although often used, it isn’t always clear what green means when talking about an eco-friendly home. In fact, “green” doesn’t have a universal definition beyond being a color made by mixing yellow and blue!
So how does a consumer know when a home the builder is calling “green” is actually built with an ecological focus, or at least enough of one to justify its price? First, let’s take a look at the inside and outside of our homes and give a few examples of how you can go green.
Consider insulating beyond the minimum local requirements. Today, you can even build insulation right into the concrete foundation.
In addition to the walls, floors and ceilings, windows should also be insulating. If you have read our series about window replacement. you will see that double paned and/or vinyl windows are becoming the “green” standard.
Energy efficiency should be continued throughout the home. The Energy Star System makes it easy for you to determine the efficiency of air conditioners, refrigerators, heaters and other appliances. In addition, you can use compact fluorescent lights throughout the home. Also consider LED lights wherever those are suitable.
Beyond energy efficiency, use of non-toxic, or at least less-toxic, materials is important in “green” homes. Choose high-quality products and paints that comply with regulations governing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are ozone-damaging pollutants.
Outside the home leaves plenty of room for “green” considerations, too. Here’s two simple examples:
It is getting easier to identify eco friendly products and practices. Organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council establish criteria to help incorporate green products and materials into homes.
You also have the Energy Star rating system that was created in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.
One of the most obvious ways to make any home more environmentally friendly is to use less electricity.
Don’t forget to switch out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs to quickly reduce electricity demand.
Restrict Water Flow
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are toxins that gas-off from conventional paint. The lighter the pigment, the lower the VOC’s, so white or off-white walls are healthier than some of the bolder, trendy colors. Please keep in mind that it is impossible to take the VOC’s out of some pigments.
Bamboo or Cork Flooring
Bamboo is popular because it grows so quickly. It takes about five years to grow bamboo to the right size to make flooring. It is versatile and comes in a variety of styles and colors.
Cork is an option because it is sustainable to harvest – removing cork does not damage the cork tree, as it replenishes its cork bark every year anyway. Cork makes a lovely, soft and springy floor surface that is also naturally warmer than many other flooring options.
For our final indoor consideration, eco-friendly homes will use more natural fabrics such as wool and cotton for carpets and window dressings.
Leaky ducts can account for 30 percent or more of wasted energy. Caulking around your doors, windows, moldings, baseboards and vents is an easy and inexpensive project. For example, Polyseamseal All-Purpose Adhesive Caulk has a VOC level of 3 percent and provides a paintable, fast-drying, long-lasting seal. For more information, visit www.polyseamseal.com
Xeriscaping is a popular means of landscaping utilizing plants native to the area being built in. These plants are naturally drought-resistant because they are acclimatized to the local environment, needing less watering and maintenance than lawns or beds full of foreign flowers.
Another “green” outdoor trend is to utilize permeable paving stones. The stones absorb water which is then naturally filtered through the earth and goes back into the groundwater supply. This process avoids the toxic runoff that usually occurs when water rushes over cement or pavement and into drainage systems. Because this water carries oil, exhaust residue and other toxins, it’s important to avoid it entering the drainage systems and contaminating our waterways.
Ready to add on to that beautiful deck? Need to do some minor repairs?
When selecting an adhesive for the job, be sure to choose one that is easy and safe to use, such as Loctite Exterior Power Grab construction adhesive. The latex-based formula emits no VOCs and has an initial tack that is nine times stronger than traditional construction adhesives. Plus, it is easy to work because you can paint it, it has little odor, and it cleans up with water.
Are you ready to replace your siding?
When choosing your siding material, consider the insulation value and the amount of maintenance it requires. Natural cedar siding, for instance, may seem to be a “green” choice, but it has a low insulation value and requires regular painting; thus, it may not be the best choice.
Insulated vinyl siding, such as CraneBoard Solid Core Siding, is an energy efficient solution. It features a foam backing and provides better insulation than wood, fiber cement or traditional vinyl siding.
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