Any home building or remodeling project can benefit from a little green thinking, as in saving resources and saving greenbacks to boot.
In fact, you can adapt your home or remodeling project, even if already under-construction, to be more environmentally friendly without spending a lot of extra green. Many energy-efficient home improvements save you lots of money in the long run—and you may even be eligible for a federal tax rebate. Perhaps the best thing is you won’t have to compromise on designing and building beautiful spaces to enjoy.
First, think about the Four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose.
- What materials can you use to reduce your environmental impact?
- Can you reuse barn board, beams, shiplap, or reclaimed flooring?
- Can you save that cast-iron bathtub, or re-wire and recycle a funky light fixture?
- Can old wood paneling be used for bookshelves or slate roof tiles to make a path?
- Your old cabinets, carefully removed, could be just the thing for someone’s camp or cabin—and your walls aren’t destroyed in the demolition.
Maybe you don’t have things to salvage, but other people do. Check out architectural salvage yards and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. There are several in New Hampshire. (And, if you’re remodeling, think about donating useful items to the ReStores.)
Sign up for an audit
Not an IRS audit, a good kind: a free energy audit. It will be well worth your time because any improvements you make will help your home feel warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and your energy bills will be lower.
NHSaves, in collaboration with the NH Public Utilities Commission and local electric and natural gas utilities (Eversource, Liberty Utilities, New Hampshire Electric Co-Op and Unitil), provides information and incentives to reduce energy costs and help save the environment at no cost to consumers.
OK, it’s not really free—you pay for energy efficient initiatives when you pay your utility bill. So why not take advantage of it? And ask about federal tax rebates for using things such as compact fluorescent light bulbs while you’re at it.
Let’s take a look at some practical ways you can significantly improve energy efficiency at home:
- Contact your power company to have an energy audit done. They can recommend simple fixes, and there may even be money available under energy grants to help pay for them.
- Solar panels enable you to not only get cheap electricity, but in some areas putting panels on your roof may pay, through programs which sell electricity back to the power company. Or maybe geothermal energy is available from the ground up.
- Live in a condo townhouse, or can’t consider panels on the roof of that 1800s home? Practice simple “passive” solar solutions, such as opening and closing blinds at strategic times on certain sides of the house.
- When remodeling, ask the experts at 3W Design if installing radiant heat underneath your new flooring is a good option. This warms rooms from the floor up, keeping you feeling warmer, and eliminating a lot of waste from heat rising to the ceiling.
- While you’re on the ceiling, add a fan to move warm or cool air around. It’s old-fashioned but effective.
- Replacing windows? Of course, you’ll want well-insulated ones. See if the contractor can blow extra insulation into the walls around the windows, especially if you have an older home that may not be well insulated.
- If you’re reusing old windows that are single-paned, add storm windows in the winter to keep the heat inside, and add weather-stripping. You may even be able to find old storm windows to reuse.
Another major item to consider when remodeling or building is plumbing fixtures and appliances such as hot water heaters, and washers and dryers. Low-flow fixtures (showerheads, toilets, dishwashers) can reduce water usage by as much as 50%.
Look for Energy Star appliances for the best efficiency. How much can you save by updating appliances? New dishwashers use less than 6 gallons of water to get your dishes clean, versus 10 gallons per wash cycle of a 10-year-old model, for savings all around.
Tankless hot water heaters don’t waste energy by constantly reheating the water in the tank. Hot water comes out instantly, never runs out, and there are federal tax rebates for them. Ask your bathroom and kitchen remodeler at 3W Design for details.
Outside, investigate drought-proof landscaping (known as xeriscaping, and practiced frequently in the U.S. Southwest), or leave areas wild for insects and wildlife. You won’t need noise-polluting power tools (leaf blowers, mowers) that use gas, and the birds, bees and butterflies will enjoy the natural habitat.
Look up the Green Building Council at www.usgbc.org for more ideas. The designers and builders at 3W Design can help you bring your ideas for an energy efficient, environmentally friendly lifestyle to life—beautifully.