January 27 2015

Winning Energy Efficient Home Ideas

One of the places we can get ideas for what’s ‘coming down the pike’ in energy-efficient home ideas is from what the government says it likes. One such venue is US Dept. of Energy (DOE) and their annual Solar Decathlon, a contest open to college teams in which they have an opportunity to show what they can do in designing, building and operating homes solar-powered homes that highlight the latest and best technologies and practices for energy-efficiency, attractiveness and cost-effectiveness. Winners are selected based on the best blend of consumer appeal, affordability, design excellence and (of course) optimal energy production, consumption and overall efficiency.

This recent year’s contest (2013) was held in Irvine, CA. and the winner was (who would have guessed?) the Vienna University of Technology in Vienna, Austria with their design called “Living by Sustainable Innovation” (AKA: LISI) which was indeed a beautiful home.

Of course most if not all of these homes were outstanding but this particular home included the following features:

  • A modular, wooden frame which made it quick and easy to erect, saving time minimizing labor costs.
  • An innovative automatically controlled and activated screen and awning system, both outside and within the home, which prevents heat from entering the home and keeps living spaces much cooler, more comfortable and save energy.
  • An herb-garden (to keep the humans healthier) watered from the homes’own rain-water reservoir.
  • Not one, but two air/water heat pumps which provide energy efficient heating and cooling of indoor spaces to keep the humans comfortable and make living there enjoyable.
  • A special recovery system to not only purify the air but also recover excess energy, usually lost in warm or hot air, that escapes.
  • A special heat-energy recovery unit tray that captures and recycles heat energy lost through hot or warm shower.

As one would expect, the home was very beautifully furnished with lots of wood floors and plenty of glass to give it an airy, natural, ‘open’ feeling. The event was very well attended and many of these ideas either are or will soon be available to homeowners throughout the US, Canada and elsewhere.

January 07 2015

How to go green in your home renovation project

Lots of people are putting remodelling time and money into their homes today because of the increasing cost of heating and cooling and also because they’re spending more time at home. One of the key values in home remodelling projects is the concept of ‘green’ remodelling.
Green remodelling simply means that as much recycled material as possible are used and that the functioning of the home is made as energy efficient as possible especially as related to energy efficiency. Construction waste is one of the most common materials found in landfills and every pound of construction material that is eliminated by ‘going green’ is one less pound that damages the environment through the slow process of landfill degradation and decomposition.

Here are some simple ideas that people are using when they decide to ‘go green in their home renovation projects:

Idea Number One: Rather than buying completely new countertops and have the burden of disposing of the old countertops, smart home remodelers have learned how to resurface those old countertops and cabinets with a whole host of environmentally friendly coatings that come in a variety of colors, can be applied very quickly and are very durable.

This type of resurfacing/refacing product is a water based material that sprays on, has no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) or harmful fumes and negates the necessity of old materials being dumped in a landfill.

Idea Number Two: Give it away rather than throw it away. Remodelers have discovered that most discarded home furnishings and equipment can be reconditioned and used by somebody else.

Idea Number Three: Reconfigure your laundry room to do more pre-soaking thus reducing the water necessary to wash your clothes. Also you can do more drying of your clothes in the sun. Also you can use less hot water (thereby saving electricity).

Idea Number Four: Install skylights to let in more natural sunlight, heat and thereby reduce lighting and heating bills proportionately.

Idea Number Five: Many of the newest appliances are even more energy-efficient than the latest Federal standards. For example, one new refrigerator by Whirlpool uses only about as much energy as a 60 watt light bulb. That’s not very much!

Idea Number Six: Sound pollution is another factor of the ‘green’ concept and most of the newest appliances are amazingly quiet.

Idea Number Seven: Some of the new kitchen ranges use electromagnetic energy to disperse heat more evenly through pots and pans and throughout the food. Sort of like a stovetop microwave and it’s much more efficient that old-style heating coils or gas, both of which lose a lot of heat into the air.

Idea Number Eight: Install a tankless water heater. They not only take up less space but they use drastically less energy and have been documented to lower a home’s energy bill by as much as 50%.

These are just a few ideas. Every home presents a different set of circumstances within which one can work but there’s no doubt that modern technology has done wonders toward making our homes (and offices) increasingly ‘green’ thus making now a perfect time to go green in your home renovation project.