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"Green" Tips For The Reluctant

By: Bidmyreno Admin | Feb 16, 2016

Green Living


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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 fewer 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, and less exposure to toxic materials. Thanks 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)

  • Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system: There are several ways you can improve the efficiency of your HVAC system. All of these ways are 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. Upgrading old heating and air conditioning appliances will help keep your home at a reasonable temperature without breaking the bank. If interested in radically optimizing your home's heating, you may be interested in  the way in which they heat their properties for maximum performance, radiant heating systems. These maximally performing systems carry out heat directly through your property’s walls, floor, or ceiling and are way more ecologically friendly than traditional air-circulation strategies of heating. Otherwise, make sure you have:

    • Weather stripping around all exterior doors.

    • Adequate home insulation.

    • Blinds drawn down in the summer.

    • All cracks and holes in the walls sealed.

    • Checked for leaks in your air ducts. 

    • Optimized your system by installing ceiling fans and ensuring they're blowing in the right direction, depending on the time of year. This is especially helpful if you rely on window air conditioners. Be sure to use fans to help circulate the colder air and close the doors of rooms you aren't using. For smaller homes, one or two small AC units per floor should be more than enough to enjoy a cool house with very low energy consumption. They have great new low-wattage 6,000 - 10,000 BTU units nowadays.

    • Familiarity with your HVAC system. If necessary, manually adjust the humidification/dehumidification to suit the season.

    • Your system audited: air circulates in your house, so your vents should include proper returns, your ducts should be clean, and your filters replaced.

    • Basement A/C vents closed in the summer. This helps to boost cold air flow to the upstairs (being underground, basements are naturally cooler anyway)

    • Install a solar-powered vent in the roof to vent out hot air.  

    • Added a programmable thermostat! This will allow you to reduce the heat or air conditioning when no one is home or everyone is asleep.

  • Doors and windows: If you have older windows, install storm windows or cellophane insulation. If funds allow, replacing windows and doors, having insulation added (or blow in). 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
    • Grow 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 the summer.

    • Lighten the colour of your roof. Lighter coloured shingles and surfaces reflect light. (***Just be sure to consult with a qualified contractor for this one, you need proper structure and water drainage***)  

    • Grow plants on a flat roof. This provides some insulation and conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen.

    • 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 your 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. 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 HD television. Plus, 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 lower electrical consumption.

  • Add skylights to bring in natural light wherever you can.

  • Look for Energy-Star rated appliances with which to upgrade old electicity-sucking appliances. Consider using the money saved to install solar panels.  

  • Try to use radiant heat whenever possible, especially from the floor, as heat rises and if your feet are cold, your whole body feels cold. (There's actually increasing evidence that keeping your feet warm can help ward off winter illness! This is being medically-studied, we're not making this up.)

  • Consider upgrading your heating system in lieu of expensive and energy guzzling space heaters and electrical baseboards (and while we're at it, insulate).

4. Reducing waste

Hopefully, we are all already doing your part to recycle. Still, we can always do more!

  • You might be impressed by recycled glass materials for tiles, countertops, and floors.

  • Recycled aluminum and paper products areavailable 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. If enough people demand these products, we'll preserve large, mature trees - and that's a good thing.

  • Visit flea markets and yard sales or check out used websites to find doors, lamps, etc. that you can re-use in your house.

  • Compost your organic waste. 

Over to you - What green changes have you made in your home or lifestyle?

 


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