Essential Green Renovation Strategies

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By renovating an existing structure, you start out one step ahead in the “green” race. Even the “greenest” of new construction still takes a lot of energy and material just to get to the point where a typical renovation starts.

Recycle001Here are some key components to a green renovation project.

  • Reuse and retain whenever possible. One of the primary elements of a green renovation is to reuse as much of the existing structure as possible – keep material in use and out of the landfill. Can the plaster be repaired instead of removed? Can items that must be removed be recycled in any way?
  • New materials should be renewable, recycled, and/or locally sourced whenever possible. Products that are salvaged or made from recycled materials help maximize the “embodied energy” in your home. Locally produced and sourced products reduce transportation energy. Renewable products have lower impact on natural resources.
  • Select energy saving appliances and fixtures. Fixtures and appliances that use less energy help reduce the monthly costs associated with your home. Look for the “EnergyStar” label on appliances. Low-flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads reduce water consumption.
  • Weatherstrip and air seal.  First, weatherstrip any gaps around doors and windows. Caulk gaps in exterior trim.  Reglaze repairable window sashes and replace non-repairable sashes and frames. Install good quality storm windows.
  • Insulate those walls and ceilings. Insulate and seal attics and walls to as high an R value as possible.  However… remember that a building is a system – solicit advice from someone who is familiar with the implications of insulation and how it affect moisture in the walls and ceilings.  In some cases, additional insulation can damage the building.  Foil “radiant heat barriers” are almost always a BAD idea in Iowa.  At the very least, they cost a lot of money for little long-term effectiveness.  At the worst, they create a condensation problem that can actually damage your insulation.
  • Graywater and stormwater capture and use. Rain barrels and other water re-capture devices can help reduce the overall household water consumption. Non-potable water can be used for things like flushing toilets and exterior watering.
  • Explore renewable energy technologies. If you can’t afford the initial outlay for renewable energy technologies such as solar panels, wind power, and photovoltaics, try to plan for future implementation.
  • Install efficient heating and cooling systems. If you need to replace the furnace or air conditioner, install high-efficiency units. There may be tax credits or rebates available to help offset the costs.
  • Install energy efficient fixtures and lights. Compact fluorescent and LED lamps can drastically reduce power consumption. Also explore using interior motion sensors and dimmer switches to further reduce power consumption.
  • Invest in higher quality when feasible. Higher quality fixtures, finishes, and methods help increase the useful life of your home. While there is not an immediate payoff, durable materials and installation techniques will reduce the need for major outlays in the future.
  • Seek locations close to necessities and transportation. When looking for a house to renovate, think about your total energy usage – including gasoline. Living in a home that is close to shopping, entertainment, and alternative transportation options will reduce your overall environmental footprint.

Enjoy your rehabilitated and energy efficient home!

[Some of the information in this article was sourced from USGBC publications.]