When it comes to home building and remodeling, much has changed in the last few years, with a clear shift in technologies, building materials and practices to more green homes. Savvy homeowners are quickly catching on to this new trend, looking to not only be environmentally conscious consumers, but to also take advantage of the numerous benefits that green homes afford, such as exceptional durability, energy savings, and improved quality of life. With a quickly growing number of informational resources, a slew of new products, service and construction companies, etc, you can keep yourself grounded and on track by focusing on the essentials of any green home.
What makes a new or remodeled home eco-friendly are the following components: a tight building envelope/insulation, roofing, siding, windows and heating system, all built utilizing green materials. These earth – friendly building materials are manufactured with a minimal amount of hazardous materials, are proven to last for decades without requiring maintenance and repairs, do not waste energy and can be recycled at the end of their service lives.
Tight Building Envelope/Insulation
A tight building envelope and high quality insulation are necessary to achieve superior durability and energy efficiency. If you already have a house and it does not have insulation, consider adding blown-in cellulose product. Not only is it eco-friendly (derived from 85 percent recycled paper products), but it is also three times more dense than fiberglass, thereby greatly reducing your home’s energy waste. For new construction, consider fiberglass or spray-foam insulation. While more expensive than fiberglass, spray-foam insulation offers tighter, more dense and more energy-efficient insulation for your walls and ceilings. On the other hand, one of the major benefits of fiberglass is that it is removable, and does not require any special equipment to install.
Roofing That Lasts
The roof is one of the most important components of making your home safe, durable and long lasting, and yet it is often the most overlooked. Installing a green roof on your home will prove to be one of the most financially sound home improvements you make. You will not know the pain of roof damage and leaks and will not have to deal with costly, maintenace, repairs and replacements for years to come.
When it comes to green roofing materials, you have a few choices depending on your home type, taste and budget. If you have a sloped roof home, one of the best investments you can make is to install a metal roof. Metal is considered to be the only truly green roofing material, when you factor in the manufacturing process, lifecycle costs, longevity, high energy efficiency and recyclability and the end of the roof’s service life. Metal roofs are considered cool roofs, which means that they reflect solar heat, thereby reducing energy waste produced by the home’s HVAC system throughout the year. A metal roof can save you up to 15% on your annual cooling costs. Additionally, during winter time, metal roofs eliminate ice dams, which can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your house. Keep in mind that metal roofing installation is a highly intricate process that requires specialized knowldege, equipment and training, and therefore should only be left to metal roofing professionals. One such company that operates in the Northeast is New England Metal Roof (newenglandmetalroof.com)
If you have a low slope/flat roof, a green material to go with is PVC single ply roofing membrane. A PVC roofing system is designed as a green roofing material. PVC is a fully recyclable roofing material that does not use any petrolium products in its manufacturing process. It also offers superior energy efficiency by reflecting upto 95% of solar heat. PVC is designed to last over 40 years and can be easily repaired if needed, which elimates costly replacements and landfill waste. Moreover, PVC roofs can withstand ponding water, ice build-ups and can be easily be applied around most complicated roof penetrations.
Amongst the wide range of choices available for siding, fiber-cement siding stands out as the green choice. It is composed of 50% recycled content and wood fiber pulp that is sourced from sustainably managed forests. While fiber cement siding may be a more costly option, it is more durable than wood and vinyl siding. It also requires very little maintenance, does not create hazardous waste when removed, and can be further recycled.
Another green choice to consider is steel or aluminum wall panel systems. With a variety of available integrated insulation, ventilation and heat absorption metal wall panel systems, you can reduce your heating and cooling energy consumption, by as much as 40%. Additionally, these systems are fully recyclable and are manufactured from up to 95% recycled metal.
Energy Efficient Windows
Windows are one of the most vulnerable parts of the home, through which both hot and cold air can escape, wasting tons of energy and driving up your heating and cooling costs throughout the year. To avoid these issues, its crucial to invest in energy efficient windows. Consider installing fiber glass frame windows with triple glazing and argon/krypton gas, which can offer up to 7R insulating value (a typical double pane window is only 3R). There are also specialty window products filled with heat absorbing liquid that absorb solar heat in the winter. These windows can supply up to 75% of your heating for the entire house, even on a very cold night.
Green Heating Systems
If your goal is to have a truly eco-friendly home, then a geothermal heating system is the way to go. Geothermal heating uses thermal energy stored inside the ground and extracts it by using a heat exchange process. This system only requires 25% of the energy to operate, when compared to traditional gas or oil systems of the same size. A geothermal system can also be used for air conditioning in the summer.
Geothermal heating systems are a costly investment, so if you are not ready to make the switch, consider going with gas heating. Gas heating is cleaner, more efficient and currently costs half the price of oil.
In case you have a south-facing roof, you can install solar thermal panels, which will heat your water throughout the year, and will also supplement your radiant heating system.