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"Green" Tips For The Reluctant

By: Bidmyreno Admin | Feb 16, 2016


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"Green" is now such a loaded word it immediately makes you think of... well... politics, consumption (like sometimes spending more to save more) and opinions less than our impact on the earth. "Thinking Green", "Going Green" and "Green Movement" all should mean the same thing: doing things more efficiently, with less materials and less or no waste and toxins. So even if you're not into being "green", being more efficient means more self-sufficiency, often a higher resale value, reduced costs to live in your home, less exposure to toxic materials and due to economies of scale your little change actually might make a difference. Here are some ways your next home renovation could grudgingly make your home more efficient:

1. Your home's interior environment (temperature, humidity and air quality)

There are several ways you can improve the efficiency of your Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, all of them co-dependant, but as always, your #1 bet is to seal your house as tightly as possible. Try to think of the structure of your house as a Thermos: the better sealed off it is against the elements, the less you'll be experiencing them indoors. This includes making sure you have weather stripping around all exterior doors, your home is adequately insulated, you draw your blinds down in summer, seal up cracks and holes in the walls, check for leaks in your air ducts and if you have older windows, install storm windows or cellophane insulation. If you have the money, replacing windows and doors, having insulation added or blow in and upgrading old heating and air conditioning appliances will also help keep your home at a sane temperature without breaking the bank. Speaking of money, there are government grants and tax breaks available (they differ in some states and provinces) for energy efficient home improvements. Natural solutions include growing some shade trees around the house to block the sun off of  your roof (a tree's shadow can knock upwards of 25% from your cooling costs in summer) lightening the color of your roof (lighter colored shingles and surfaces reflect light) and growing plants on a flat roof (this helps insulate as well as converts some Carbon Dioxide to Oxygen (***just be sure to consult with a qualified contractor for this one, you need proper structure and water drainage***)). Optimize your system by installing ceiling fans and ensuring they're blowing in the right direction, depending on the time of year. Be familiar with your HVAC system and - if necessary - manually adjust the humidification/dehumidification to suite the season. Have your system audited: air circulates in your house, so your vents should include proper returns, your ducts should be clean and your filters replaced. In summer, close any A/C vents in the basement to help boost cold air flow to the upstairs (being under ground, basements are naturally cooler anyway) and install a solar-powered vent in the roof to vent out hot air. If you don't have air ducts and rely on window air conditioners in summer, be sure to use fans to help circulate the colder air and close the doors of rooms you aren't using. If you have a smaller home, you can easily get by with one or two small AC units per floor (they have great new low-wattage 6,000 - 10,000 BTU units nowadays) and enjoy a cool house with very low energy consumption. Don't forget to add a programmable thermostat! This will allow you to reduce the heat or air conditioning when no one is home or everyone is asleep. For those enthusiastic about radically reshaping the way in which they heat their properties for maximum performance, radiant heating systems – that carry out heat directly through your property’s walls, floor, or ceiling – are way more ecologically aware than traditional air-circulation strategies of heating. Use low-VOC paints and carpeting. This will help maintain healthy indoor air quality. The cheapest way to keep warm/cool in your house? Wear a sweater in winter, walk around naked in summer... or spend more time at the mall (which, frankly, aren't as air conditioned as they used to be).

2. Reducing your water consumption and water heating costs

Use and waste less. Hot water isn't free, so your first step might be to replace your water heater with an on-demand system or a solar water heater. In addition, insulate any pipes and - again - ensure that our house is tight against drafts and cold air.  Low-flow shower heads and faucets help, but really, you'll only notice serious improvement if you limit  the time you spend scalding yourself in the shower. If you MUST use hot water to warm yourself, take a bath. Switching to low-volume toilets and toilets that have different "#1" and "2" buttons and upgrading old dish and clothes washers will also save on water. Outdoors, spend less time watering your lawn and buy some drought-tolerant plants, bushes and trees and consider installing buried soaker hoses and a timer for your watering system. If you already have an automated watering system, be sure to check that it's properly working and isn't watering your neighbour's composte centre instead of your plants. Remember that ye olde sprinklers throw water into the warm, sunlit air, virtually guaranteeing that a large amount of that water will end up evaporating before it even hits the ground, so turn down the sprinkler as low as you can so that the water spends the least amount of time flying as possible. You'll have to move it around more frequently, but you'll get better coverage and use less water. This tip obviously doesn't apply as much if you water at night. 

3. Reducing your electricity consumption

Hey, it's the 21st Century, excuse us all for naively assuming that electricity would be free by now. While nature practically throws magnetism and electricity around like girls throw their phone numbers at Justin Bieber, it's still a lot of engineering and effort to get it to your house in a form suitable for firing up your high definition television and there are a LOT more people using a lot more devices in your town than there were even 20 years ago. Let's just say then, that reducing electrical consumption will allow you to save it for splurging on using your high-speed blender or cooling down water in trays so that it forms "ice cubes". All joking aside, apparently there are still people who haven't replaced all of their lightbulbs to electrical consumption.  Add skylights to bring in natural light wherever you can. Look for Energy-Star rated appliances to upgrade old electicity-sucking appliances. Use the money you saved to consider installing solar panels.  Try to use radiant heat whenever possible, especially from the floor, as heat rises and if you're feet are cold, your whole body feels cold (actually, there's increasing evidence that keeping your feet warm can help ward off winter illness, this is being medically-studied, we're not making this up). Space heaters can be major energy consumers and electrical baseboard heat can be really expensive; consider upgrading your heating system (and while we're at it, insulate).

4. Reducing waste

Hopefully, you are already doing your part to recycle. And you can always do more!  You might be impressed by recycled glass materials for tiles, countertops, and floors. Recycled aluminum and paper products are also available for various home uses in ways that won't make you feel like a road side attraction. From the simple - such as recycled tire door mats - to the expensive, you'll be able to feel good about your purchases because they look good and were designed well, not just because it's saving a landfill. You can also build your deck from recycled plastic or composite materials - decks made of plastic tend to look more uniform and last longer. Consider renewable resources such as bamboo or cork for flooring and cast-off shredded jean material for insulation; they're materials that are relatively quickly and easily replaced and if enough people demand these products, the more large, mature trees abound, and that's a good thing. Visit flea markets and yard sales – or check out used websites – to find old materials – doors, lamps, etc. that you can re-use in your house. Compost your organic waste. 

If you are considering improving your home to be more "green", why not post your renovation project on www.bidmyreno.com?