Green Home Remodels And Renovations: Contractors And Architects Must Educate Homeowners On The Most Effective Way To Maximize A Home’s “Geography, Structure, Systems And Aesthetics”

17 12 2010

The FHA 203k Renovation Loan is the only true Green Home loan.

The remodeling contractor has to educate the homeowner to take the most effective approach for the project.

  • Geography :  “If you’re building a new home, the lot is the most important thing. If you’re doing a retrofit, you have to respect the existing architecture. You have to understand where the home is, what direction it faces, what you may need to change about the overhangs, things like that.”
  • Structural: “A rammed earth house may work great in New Mexico but it’s perfectly worthless in Michigan. You have to respect the structural aspects. People read about a certain system and want to build their addition in that way, but I have to tell them I can’t build that for you in this state. I’m in the Mid- Atlantic region where we have a mixed-humid climate that is just vicious to build in. You have to be on your toes to know what you’re designing in that market.”
  • Systems: “If you have a super air-tight house you don’t need a huge mechanical system. Or if you can use radiant instead of forced air or you can use less plumbing, or if you’re using solar thermal you don’t need as big a water heater. The structure will tell you a lot about what kind of systems to use.”
  • Aesthetics: “Too often homeowners start with the aesthetics, but that’s stuff you can go back and change. You have to know the systems first before you pick out recycled glass tile or a sustainable bamboo floor.”

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“” Contractor Update: Homeowners Should Interview Qualified Contractors At Home For Remodels Where They Should Provide References And Perform A Thorough Energy-Efficiency Review Of Entire Home

28 10 2010

“Some had planned on getting a bigger house as their family expanded, but they can’t sell, so they’re adding another bedroom instead,”

“Anyone who’s legit in this business has four or five references saved on their phone,”

Many clients of First Choice Carpentry are looking to add value to their homes and improve their energy efficiency, according to Max Capestany, the Issaquah-based company’s project specialist.

The company has worked extensively in the Snoqualmie Valley, including framing houses on Snoqualmie Ridge. The tight housing market has changed some homeowners’ plans, he said.

“Some had planned on getting a bigger house as their family expanded, but they can’t sell, so they’re adding another bedroom instead,” he said.

Other homeowners are taking advantage of tax credits to improve their houses’ energy efficiency and save on their heating bills. Some are just taking advantage of a buyers’ market.

While it will continue to be a buyers’ market for the near future, tax credits for energy improvements will go away soon. The credits in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008 expire at the end of the year.

Until then, homeowners can receive tax credit for installing Energy Star materials or appliances. The credit is up to 30 percent of the project’s cost or $1,500, whichever is lower.

Plenty of things have an Energy Star rating: windows, dishwashers, insulation, shingles and so on. A home remodel project is a big commitment for a homeowner, and there are some things they should keep in mind, Capestany said.

The first question they should ask is “Who’s doing the work?”

“The temptation of every homeowner is to get caught up in the types of materials being used,” Capestany said. “What’s most important is who you have doing the work.”

Don’t just go for the cheapest contractor. Check out their credentials and track record first.

When a contractor comes out to look at your house, ask for references on the spot, Capestany said.

“Anyone who’s legit in this business has four or five references saved on their phone,” he said.

Ask for the person’s contractor license number, and look it up on the website for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry.

Check Angie’s List for customer reviews.

Talk to the contractor about how he or she does his or her work.

“Just taking time with the contractor in the home before any documents are signed” can save major headaches down the road, Capestany said.

If it is a general contractor, ask for a thorough energy-efficiency inspection of your house. This simple task can prevent a homeowner from wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars, he said.

Capestany recalled one house where the owner had installed an air conditioning unit because inside was sweltering hot in the summer.

The owner didn’t have a general contractor look at the house, which would have revealed that the attic was not properly ventilated and causing the house to heat up.

Walking around a house, Capestany said, he can quickly spot where a home is losing heat.

“Sometimes, I’ll go into a house and see 1970’s-era single-pane windows with aluminum casing,” he said. “When you stand next to the window, you can literally feel the cold air coming in.”

When crunching numbers, homeowners should consider a project’s cost versus the expected savings, Capestany said. Remodeling Magazine has useful cost-versus-value comparisons.

Seek information from professionals.

“Home shows are a great source of information,” he said.

Some homeowners are also taking advantage of the fact that it is a buyers’ market.

Ahren and Allie Johnson hired First Choice Carpentry to redo the exterior of their home in North Bend.

The project involved adding gutters, masonry work, a new entryway, new window trim and painting.

For more: Bathroom Renovations: Kohler “Sustainable Design” Toilets, Fixtures And Showers Are Examples Of “Green Improvements” (Video)

23 09 2010

A suburban New Jersey couple prepares to remodel their water-guzzling master bathroom into a stylish water-saving retreat.

Watch this New Jersey couple’s sustainable remodel take shape, as their marble-clad master bathroom becomes a chic and modern oasis.


“” Green Homes: Tuscon Home Harvests Rain Water, Uses Runoff From Showers, Laundry And Sinks For Irrigation And Has A 3.2-Kilowatt-Hour Solar Panel System

10 09 2010

“…the home should become the first in Tucson to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certified platinum rating, said Rich Franz-Ünder, Pima County’s green building program manager. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design…”

A north-side home, built by a father-and-son team, is slated to be the first in Southern Arizona to receive the highest rating for energy efficiency given by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The first house in Southern Arizona likely to receive the highest rating, LEED certified platinum, for energy efficiency. Photo courtesy of NICOLE BRULÉ-FISHER

The house at 1240 E. Blacklidge harvests rain water, uses runoff from showers, laundry and dishes to irrigate desert landscaping, and has a 3.2-kilowatt-hour solar panel system.

Of course, the first thing a meticulous, eco-friendly homebuyer may notice when walking up to the house is the fountain bubbling in the front yard. Fountains use power and lose water through evaporation.

But Drew Lutz, who built the house with his father, David, said the two balanced the energy cost of each component with the comfort it may provide. Someone, after all, is going to live there. The fountain adds aesthetic appeal and drowns out the street noise from nearby Mountain Avenue, he said.

“The biggest thing is compromise,” Drew Lutz said. The ultimate aim is to sell the house and make a profit.

The 2,000-square-foot house – listed at $440,000 – is no doubt a higher-end product. It has glossy, scored concrete floors, bamboo cabinets and large insulated windows. It’s surrounded by corrugated metal fencing accented with caged rock pillars. Drew Lutz said he and his father, who together make up Lutz Construction, wanted to incorporate a new look into Tucson’s traditional feel.

“I feel like Tucson is lacking in modern design,” he said.

In the coming weeks, the home should become the first in Tucson to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certified platinum rating, said Rich Franz-Ünder, Pima County’s green building program manager. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

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Green Home Appliances Update: Miele Introduces “Smart Washing Machine And Tumble Dryer” That “Start Automatically” When Electricity Is Cheapest

3 09 2010

 The first two appliances featuring smart-grid functionality will be a washing machine and a tumble dryer. The models can also be fitted with Miele’s gateway communication module, providing access to the appliances through a PC and the ability to monitor electricity rates.

Miele has announced its new smart grid ready domestic appliances at IFA 2010. These appliances have been designed to start automatically when electricity is cheapest, offering consumers energy savings.

After adding tariff data, the consumer can activate the Smart Start function in the appliance display – once the earliest starting time and the latest finishing time have been programmed in. Once installation is complete, the appliances will automatically run when electricity is cheapest. “Over the coming years, we are likely to see considerable variance in electricity rates in Germany,” says Peter Hübinger, Managing Director of Electronic Production at Miele. “With smart grid ready appliances, Miele is offering a highly relevant and future-proof solution.”

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Green Home Appliances: “GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Heat Pump” Can Save Up To 62% On Water Heater Costs

1 09 2010

The most energy efficient 50-gallon electric water heater you can buy

To create the next generation of water heaters, GE rethought every aspect of this appliance from the ground up. The result is an innovative new product that can reduce water heater operating cost up to 62% and save $320 per year.* That adds up to significant savings, and you won’t have to give up a single drop of hot water.

The GeoSpring is an incredibly innovative device.  Like the Dewpoint DH9 that pulls water vapor out of the air and makes pure drinking water out of it, what really sets the GeoSpring apart is that it derives heat from its surroundings, and uses it to heat water in its porcelain tank. This process is complemented by electric heating coil elements, somewhat like a hybrid car.

Unlike a hybrid car, though, the GeoSpring has the capability for user control of its settings that allow it to really maximize efficiency….or to really maximize its ability to produce hot water.By setting the control to the energy saving setting, a user can allow the GeoSpring to fully utilize the ambient heating of water.  The drawback is that hot water is not replaced as quickly.  Conversely, if hot water needs are higher during a certain period, the user can set the heater to high volume production, wherein the electric heating elements are more engaged.

GE’s calculations show a $320 annual savings for an average American.  Adding in a 30% Federal Tax Credit (actual credit dependent on household income) means the GeoSpring can help contribute to a healthy bottom line for small businesses and homeowners.

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Green Homes: High Energy Star Ratings On Home Appliances Can Reduce “Home Energy Consumption By 10-50%”

24 08 2010

 It’s time for you to replace your old appliances with energy-efficient ones, especially those with an Energy Star certification. By doing so, you are able to do three things: save more, reduce home energy consumption by 10-50%.

From, “Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.  According to Energy Star, Americans saved enough energy in 2009 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 30 million cars — all while saving nearly $17 billion on their utility bills. To ensure that all products are energy-efficient, Energy Star sets forth energy-efficient requirements which are based on the following set of key guiding principles (from

  • Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
  • If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through lowering utility bills within a reasonable period of time.
  • Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
  • Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
  • Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

You may have a high-end model refrigerator that’s been with your for ten years or may be even more, but it’s been eating your budget ever since. Newer models of appliances are built with energy-saving features that allow you to save from $100-200 of energy costs annually. Energy-saving appliances can be expensive but you can save more on your electric bills in four years or so which substantiates for those extra costs.

If you replace your older model with an Energy Star high-efficiency dishwasher, you can definitely save money on your electric bill since you’ll be using 25% less energy than an older model. Other than that, you’ll also be saving 5,000 gallons of water annually. Thus, you can save money, energy and water all at the same time with an Energy Star high-efficiency dishwasher.

When you’re going “greener”, saving water is your greatest contribution to mankind and to planet Earth. Experts have forecasted that fresh water may become planet Earth’s most valuable resource. Saving up water today will give everyone enough water in the near future.

Almost all American homes are equipped with a washer and dryer. However, utilizing a 10-15 year old washer or dryer, will only make electric bills higher than what you can afford to pay. Purchasing green appliances, such as green washers and dryers can be costly but in the long run, you get to save a lot.

So, getting your old washer out of your home and swapping it with a horizontal axis washing machine, is your smartest and the most economical choices you’ll ever take for a longer term. The replacement is a sure opportunity for you to save up $120 a year or even more on your electric bills, which can still compensate for the price of your newly bought horizontal axis washing machine. Aside from saving up energy and money, these machines have other advantages as well.

Horizontal axis machines can fit into smaller spaces. Other than this, they’re quieter and allow you to wash large loads of laundry while using lesser amount of detergent. That way, you’re only putting fewer chemicals into your home’s waste water stream.

On the other hand, getting a dryer that’s equipped with moisture and temperature sensors is also one of the best green choices you’ll be making. Unlike other dryers that run for a set time, a moisture-temperature-sensor-equipped dryer will shut off earlier if the clothes inside it are already dry enough. Other than your energy savings, you can even save your clothes from possible wear and tear and you don’t have to keep on replacing them as well.

Compared to conventional models of dryers, sealed combustion gas clothes dyers use up lesser energy. It’s also beneficial for your health since they expel only a few gases that get into your home. But among all the dyers mentioned, nothing could ever beat the greenest and the most traditional way of drying your clothes.

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