As April Showers turn into May Flowers and our dark and dreary winter ground cover greens up, the timing is right to think about greening our home’s environment too. Although April is designated as earth month, there is no reason not to think about the green things we can do to keep our home eco-friendly year-round.
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling resource for 52 years, offers green remodeling courses to its members, enhancing their expertise on energy efficiency, indoor air quality, resource conservation, reusing and recycling products, and more. Here are some “go green” tips from Milwaukee/NARI and its members.
Look for the WaterSense® label. Advanced technology in toilets, faucets, and showerheads have made the low-flow difference nearly imperceptible compared to those products from the 1990s. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled products that conserve water with the term WaterSense, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well or as better than standard models. If it’s not time to replace faucets yet, consider using a WaterSense-labeled faucet aerator.
Check Your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Being green (and healthy) also includes improving the quality of air inside the home. There are many sources that contribute to IAQ, including pollutants brought in from the outside, toxic chemicals existing inside the home, and the activities of the occupants that create pollutants. An energy air exchange system can improve indoor air quality by pulling stale air and excess humidity out of the building and replacing it with fresh, filtered air without losing the heating or cooling level inside the structure. An air exchanger also helps control moisture and reduces the opportunity for mold growth.
Avoid Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). To maintain indoor air quality, use low- or no-VOC paints, caulking, insulation, stains, and varnishes, and drywall primers and sealers, to name a few.
Install Programmable Thermostats. To save energy and lower the utility bills, switch to a programmable thermostat for lowering the temperature at night and when the house is empty. Milwaukee/NARI members suggest keeping the temperature at 68 when people are home, and turning it down to 60 when people are sleeping or at work. Homeowners should check if their programmable thermostat is Energy Star-qualified.
Replace Appliances with Energy Star. When purchasing new appliances, make sure they have the Energy Star label, which means greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants are reduced, meet energy efficiency requirements, and still deliver the features and performance consumers demand.
Use Energy Efficient Lighting. Install compact fluorescent bulbs or LED lighting, which uses at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent lighting. LEDs also produce very little heat and last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent and about two to five times longer than traditional fluorescents. No matter what bulb you are currently using, install dimmer switches for times when full brightness isn’t needed.
Buy Local Building Materials. Cork and bamboo are popular flooring because they are a renewable resource, but consumers should look not only at the cost, but the energy consumed to move the product from the point of origin to the point of distribution. Use products that are sourced locally whenever possible.
Consider Tankless Water Heaters. Tankless water heaters operate at a high percentage of energy efficiency ranging from 83 to 98 percent, compared to a conventional tank that is 45 to 60 percent efficient. Tankless water heaters heat only when called for; as water runs through the heater, it’s warmed instantly by an electric or gas-fired mechanism, compared to conventional models which are constantly keeping water at a certain level, whether or not it is being used. One of the benefits of a tankless heater is unlimited hot water, but it needs to be properly sized to meet demand. Proper sizing is best left to the professional who will calculate flow rate, number of shower heads or faucets that may be in use at one time, ground water temperature, and rise and flow rate.
Insulate Properly. Attic insulation plays an important role in reducing the amount of energy you consume for heating and cooling, and in turn reduces your energy bills. Insulation is measured by an R-value – the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating capacity of the material. Insulation will also help keep the cool air inside during the warm weather.
Know Your Windows Efficiency. Windows can be green, too, not only by saving on heating and cooling, but also by being made from renewable materials. When looking for replacement windows, look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label, which tests, certifies, and labels windows, doors, and skylights based on their energy performance ratings. The NFRC label can be found on all Energy Star qualified window, door, and skylight products, but Energy Star bases its qualification only on U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient ratings.
Get a Home Energy Performance Audit. An audit can help assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate what measures you can take to improve efficiency.
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 740 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414- 771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.
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