Making your home more eco-friendly can improve air quality and lower utility bills. Watch this video to find out about:
- Low-VOC paints, adhesives, and building products.
- The importance of proper ventilation in your home.
- Eco-friendly expanding foam insulation made from soybeans.
- Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) building construction for walls.
- Wall coating that reflects heat to reduce air conditioner bills.
- Replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs to save energy.
Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re continuing our look into going green and what that means for you. A home that makes sense for your family and your budget but also works with the environment, not against it. We’ve got a lot more to see, so stick around.
Is this a cool place or what? This is called the Ranch House at Del Sur, a development in Southern California not far from San Diego. Now obviously, there are some beautiful homes in this development, but that’s not exactly what brought us here.
All of the homes in Del Sur are designed to be environmentally friendly and that’s what we’re talking about this week. Now this is the second show of a two-part series on that topic called Going Green.
Now so far, we’ve talked about a few things that motivate people to go green, and outline the five main areas in building and remodeling that involve this green movement. Now we’ve covered the first three last week. Sustainable site planning, water conservation, and conservation of materials through reuse and recycling.
Now this week, we’re going to look into maintaining indoor air quality and improving energy efficiency as ways to make your home more green. So first, indoor air quality. Now if you think about going green, it isn’t just about preserving the planet’s heath, it’s also about preserving our own health.
Now, as our homes have become more and more complex, and include more and more manmade materials, the quality of the air inside them has dropped drastically. In fact, in many cases, there’s more air pollution inside our home than outside of them.
Now, that problem is compounded by the fact that homes today are constructed more tightly for energy efficiency sake, so when we seal in that air to save that energy, we’re also sealing in all those pollutants.
Now, you may have heard of the term outgassing. Well, that’s when the compounds that make up a material hold it together or coat it release potentially dangerous fumes into the air. With all of the different building materials that go into building a modern home, it’s really no surprise that this is a big concern. But now, there’s a number of manufacturers who are changing the process to address the problem.
Chris Schlabach: We’re here today introducing our EQcountertops, and it’s a great step forward because it’s all about indoor air quality and making sure whether it’s the inhabiting of a home or a building as a safe place to be. So what we’ve actually done is teamed up with some of the leading laminate manufacturers, i.e. Wilson Art and Formica, to put together a green countertop.
Allen Lyle: Tell me what makes it green?
Chris Schlabach: Well actually, several things. First and foremost, is the particleboard core. It’s a special core, no formaldehyde added, which is very important when it comes to off gassing of formaldehyde inside a building.
Danny Lipford: Now off gassing, or out gassing, is also a concern when it comes to adhesives, but here again, manufacturers are taking steps to clear the air.
Teresa Morgan: EcoGlue is one of the only water based adhesives that you can get right now on the market where you don’t have to give up strength and quality in order to be friendly to the environment. It’s non-toxic. It has less than 1% VOCs, it’s water-based, and the packaging is 100% recyclable. It adheres to a multitude of substrates. It won’t dissolve in water because it’s completely water resistant, and so you can use it indoors and outdoors.
And it being water based, you think it might not be water resistant, but what makes that happen is that once it cures, it cross links and then forms a matrix. Water cannot penetrate that matrix and therefore it won’t dissolve the adhesive. It’s much like a water based paint in that, when it dries, you can still clean it with water and it won’t dissolve.
Allen Lyle: You know you don’t have to smell these gases for them to be dangerous, but that does seem to be the complaint most people have. Especially, when it comes to paint, stains and sealers. In this case, what you smell is the problem.
The volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, used to make these coatings are given off as they cure and this continues until long after they’re dry, sometimes six months or more. Now, to combat this, most of the major paint manufacturers have begun introducing projects with low or no VOCs which in turn give off little or none of that new paint smell.
Now, let’s take that a step further. Instead of a paint or stain or sealer based on petroleum products, how about one made from soybeans, a completely renewable resource. And get this, these materials are based on soy esters which are particularly good at penetrating wood and concrete so, they offer even better performances than stains and sealers.
Now the indoor air pollutants that we talked about so far are manmade. But another serious threat to indoor air quality is mold and what it needs most to grow is moisture. Now while you can fix a leaking roof or water pipe, you can’t completely avoid moisture in your home, so the solution is ventilation.
Karen Collins: There are two different types of ventilation that a homeowner should be very concerned about. One is spot ventilation, one is whole house or continuous ventilation. Spot ventilation is something a homeowner can deal with immediately. That’s when you put ventilation within a bathroom or within a kitchen. That is where the most humidity within a home is generated.
So from your showers and your tubs, you want to remove that humidity as soon as it’s generated so you’re not seeing it on your mirrors. And what’s more important, you’re also not seeing it on your wall paper or on that fresh paint, and it doesn’t create any damage to those great investments that you’ve made in your bathroom or in your kitchen.
Danny Lipford: So far we’ve looked at a number of store bought solutions to keep your home toxin free. Now Joe has one you can do yourself in this week’s Simple Solutions.
Joe Truini: With all the home improvement projects I have around the house, unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to maintain my tools, and sooner or later they start to rust. Now you can buy chemical based rust removers but they’re very caustic and not very friendly to the environment, so I have a solution that works just as well and you can make with everyday items around the house with lemon juice and salt.
So get a pan and just add some salt, which is the abrasive part of this cleaning solution, then dump in a little lemon juice. Lemon juice acts as the acid which helps cut through the corrosion. Mix it up, here I’m using a steel wool pad. You could also use a scouring pad on a sponge. And just apply it directly to the rust and in a circular motion, you just scrub away the corrosion.
Now, for a tool like this that’s really heavily corroded, you might want to let it, the solution sit for a few minutes, but you can just scrub it a little bit, wipe it off, and you see after just a few seconds how clean that is. In fact this side was fully rusted. Now I also tried it on this hammer. You can see how clean it came out. The nice thing about this is it costs very little and is completely friendly to the environment.
Danny Lipford: Welcome back. We’re continuing our look at going green, and you know the one green concept that we haven’t looked at yet is probably the one that you may be most familiar with, and that’s energy efficiency. Now this is a real big deal whether you consider yourself an environmentalist or not. Now this is the one that really hits us directly in the wallet.
Now, that may sound a little mercenary; but let’s face it, money often motivates us when nothing else will. Utility bills make up a good chunk of most household budget’s, and anything you can do to shave it down a little bit puts money right back in your pocket. So how do you do that?
Well, it should be no surprise that we’re going to talk about insulation here, because that’s one of the best things you can do to preserve that energy that goes in to making your home nice and comfortable. Now these days, there’s a variety of ways that you can do that which is really good because people live in different types of homes in many different types of climates.
Now, if you’re building from the ground up, one option is an ICF house, or insulated concrete form construction. Basically the house is built of concrete in the forms that support it while it’s being poured in insulated panels which remain in place after the concrete is dry. Now the result is an obviously very sturdy house with R-values as much as 40 in all the exterior walls. And, because the walls are solid, there’s no chance of any draft here.
Now, for more traditionally framed homes like this one, there’s plenty of other options. The most common one is fiberglass, which can be installed in batts or blown into attic spaces. You might consider using a spray foam insulation, because they expand to fill the cavities up when they’re applied.
These materials do create a great barrier to air and filtration; and in some cases, they even add structural strength to the building itself. Now some are made from renewable resources like soybeans, so they’re green through and through. Now a warm climate, the goal is usually to keep the heat out, and we found a great solution for that at the Greenbuild Expo.
Jay Haines: We have a weatherproofing product line that’s available in both smooth and textured finishes. The advantage for the homeowner is quite simple. It weather proofs their home, their stucco, their wood, and at the same time provides heat and reflectivity as the real advantage.
So with that heat reflectivity comes reduced air conditioning costs, which is really the bonus for the homeowner. The largest portion of light is actually infrared, so what we’re doing is we’re dealing with the largest portions of light and reflecting it back in the atmosphere. As a result of that, that homeowners getting anywhere from a 4 to a 22% savings on cooling costs, annual cooling costs per year.
Allen Lyle: Well that was some pretty cool stuff wasn’t it? One of the things I really like about it is that besides reflecting heat, it also lasts longer than a traditional coating, so even though it does have to be professionally applied, it’s still cost effective. Now, if you live in a cold climate, it may not be for you.
That’s one of the things that you really have to think about with a lot of these green improvements, especially the ones that contain the energy efficiency. Now as Danny said earlier, people live in different styles of homes, in different climates, so every product or technique won’t work for every homeowner.
Now, on the last episode, we talked about our trip to Chicago and our visit with Marty Bhatia. Now Marty renovates homes and multi-family properties in a pretty cool climate. And as he showed me around, it was pretty obvious that he had done his homework and he knew what it would take to make these homes as efficient as possible.
Marty Bhatia: The green features of the home are what really makes this house green starts with energy efficiency which starts with insulation, careful attention to the HVAC system, the heating ventilation and AC, the duct work, the roofing, even the basement slab is insulated and the whole idea of really balancing out your HVAC system with the size and orientation of the house.
Allen Lyle: Now because of his patience and attention to detail, some of Marty’s homes exceed energy star requirements by as much as 80%. So do some homework on your home. Find out what works in your region, what fits your budget, and then find a builder, remodeler or other professional that knows how to make it happen.
Now with that said, there’s some things you can do yourself on any budget and they can make a difference in any climate. Ceiling gaps and cracks around the house is a great example, as is repairing leaks in your home’s heating and cooling ducts. But some are as simple as changing a light bulb. That is if it’s a compact florescent bulb.
Joseph Colant: What you really get out of a CFL is the energy savings for your home. Throughout the life of a 10,000 hour CFL you can save $56 dollars just on that one light bulb. And imagine if you have 50 sockets within your home, the amount of money that you can save on a CFL.
It might now see it on the upfront cost when you’re paying a four pack for $6.88, versus where you can get a four pack of incandescent at 99 cents, but the long term savings is tremendous. And that doesn’t even take into account the maintenance savings so you don’t have to worry about changing out light bulbs all the time.
Danny Lipford: You know earlier we talked about indoor air pollution but this week’s Best New Product may help clear the air outside.
Emilie Barta: When you’re looking for ways to go green, you might not think about a gas powered tool, but this new four-cycle trimmer from Cub Cadet makes your yard work simple while being friendly to mother nature.
Now, most of the trimmers on the market today are either electric powered or two-cycle engines. Because this trimmer has a four-cycle engine, it produces lower emissions and less noise, plus you don’t have to mix the oil and gasoline together. That means you’ll get 30% more fuel efficiency from this trimmer than you would an ordinary two-cycle model.
There are a lot more things to like about this trimmer besides it’s green quality. First of all it’s so easy to start and it usually starts on the first pull. Second, reloading the trimmer line only takes a few seconds because there’s nothing to take apart. How simple is that?
And the last cool feature is that it can be transformed into other handy tools by simply snapping on an attachment including an edger, brush cutter, blower, hedge trimmer, pruner and tiller. So, for less than a couple hundred bucks, you can keep your yard neat and green while making a green contribution to the planet.
Danny Lipford: Well, we’ve covered the five main areas of green building starting with the sustainable site, using water efficiently, conserving materials through reuse and recycling, maintaining good indoor air quality, and of course using energy efficiently.
Now, even though we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface, we’ve thrown an awful lot of information at you, and the last thing we want to do is to leave you with more questions than you have answers, so we asked some of the folks that we’ve met along the way, what does this mean for the typical homeowner? Where do you take it from here and how do you get started?
Marty Bhatia: I’d say the energy efficiency is the start, and then the finish is whatever is the situation can afford. And as the market grows we’re seeing more suppliers able to give us more products that are green and the same cost, which makes a great advantage to us because I see in the next couple of years everything will be different.
Danny Lipford: What would you say as far as homeowners what they can really do in maybe baby steps to get started in the right direction?
Ed Begley, Jr.: You said the right thing there, Danny. You’ve got to take baby steps. You don’t run up Mount Everest. You get to base camp to get acclimated and you climb only as high as you can and different people can climb to different levels depending how their income and different things.
So, you do something simple. You buy a compact florescent bulb. If you like it you buy a few more. Get an energy saving thermostat. You simply turn off the appliances when they’re not in use. You just save energy anyway you can. You ride a bike if weather and fitness permit. You know you take public transportation if it’s available near you.
You do what I’m doing, you can see right here this vegetable garden. I grow a lot of food here. Delicious broccoli, you know that I eat all the time, the more you pick the more you get organic produce, and I grow a lot of food here on site. It’s good for the environment and again it saves me money.
It’s a really good idea to save as much as you can. That’s what I’ve done here. I’ve picked all the low hang fruit first here then I moved up to some medium ticket items and finally the big ticket items like the sole.
Sara Gutterman: The two top topics or issues on people’s mind are energy efficiency and indoor environment quality. Those are the topics that are being most investigated by consumers, and then related products are being the most demanded by consumers at this point.
Danny Lipford: And consumers are demanding green. That’s obvious from what we see in neighborhoods, on store shelves and it shows like the Greenbuild Expo. But with so many products out there labeled green, how do we really know what’s right for the environment or just clever marketing?
Sara Gutterman: It’s a very good question and right now it’s difficult to decipher between the authentic messages and the inauthentic ones. In my opinion my favorite mantra is there is no green product that can come from a brown company.
So instead of just looking at the features and attributes of a particular product, I think it’s important for consumers and for building professionals to look beyond those products and into the companies themselves, meaning looking into their operating and their manufacturing processes, their product development and their marketing messages to see if they are indeed authentic.
Danny Lipford: You know I’ve been renovating homes for a lot of years and you know usually the questions I would get from homeowners would be how much would something cost, how long will it take to complete the project, and can I get this or that in a different color.
But now homeowners are asking about green products and techniques and how they can fit into building or remodeling their home, and I think that’s a great thing. Hey, speaking of questions, here’s one of yours.
Tina: Danny, how do I know if I have enough insulation in my attic?
Danny Lipford: That’s a popular question and for good reason. Everyone is always interested in some way to reduce their utility bills but a lot of people think they just have to be willing to pay a little more to stay comfortable.
You know according to the Department of Energy, up to 70% of the energy that’s used in an average home goes towards heating and cooling. So a properly insulated attic can actually reduce the amount of energy that you use and in turn reduce your monthly bills. Well, how much is enough?
Well, my favorite answer to that is, just go up and look in your attic, and if you can see the top of your ceiling joists, well, you need more insulation. Now you can purchase insulation in rolls or you can have it mechanically blown into your attic. And to help you find out just how much insulation is enough for your home, you can check out all the great information that’s available at insulateyourattic.com.
We have really covered a lot of ground over the last two weeks and I hope some of the information that we shared with you will really be useful when you decide to improve your home, whether that means building a new one or making some changes to the one you already have.
Well as you can see there’s a lot of different things to consider if your idea of improving includes going green, and while not all of the improvements we’ve talked about here may not immediately visible on the bottom line of your family budget, I think it’s safe to say that a green household makes just as much sense economically as it does environmentally.
I also think it’s safe to assume that there’s still plenty to learn about going green for all of us, so check out our special going green section at dannylipford.com for even more details about the ideas and products that we’ve talked about here. Now I want to thank everybody that helped us put together these two special shows and especially you for joining us. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you soon.
This special Going Green episode of Today’s Homeowner was made possible by our special partners, the makers of Amazing Ecoglue, Kohler, NuTone, and n:vision.
Once your way to change your room is to change your ceiling. Next week we’ll show you what a difference it can make.
If you would like to purchase a DVD copy of this week’s show, visit our website at dannylipford.com or call us at 1-800-946-4420.