There are lots of different ways to go green around your home. From improving your air quality to reducing energy costs, here are some great ideas to make your house more eco-friendly.
Indoor Air Quality
Going green isn’t just about preserving the planet, it includes safeguarding your health as well. As homes have become more tightly sealed and the use of manmade materials increased, indoor air quality has declined.
One of the main culprits is the outgassing of potentially harmful fumes from building materials and other products in our homes. While these volatile organic compounds (VOC) often have a noticeable smell, they can also be odorless and may continue to emit gases for months or even years after installation.
The solvents found in paints and other finishes, along with formaldehyde adhesives used in composite materials like particle board, are some of the most common sources of outgassing, though there are a number of other products that can contribute to the problem as well. Due to increased health concerns, many manufacturers have developed no or low VOC products that greatly reduce or eliminate outgassing.
Low VOC Products
EQcountertops from VT Industries are an example of an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional laminate countertops. They are manufactured from low VOC particle board, water based adhesives, and GREENGUARD certified laminates.
EcoGlue™ is another green product that is safe to use in your home. This water resistant adhesive is nontoxic and releases less than 1% VOCs into the air. It can be used to bonds everything from wood and cloth to metal and tile.
While many companies now offer low VOC paints, ecoprocote™ takes their commitment to the environment even further by making many of their finishes from soybeans. Not only is this a renewable resource, but it provides better protection that traditional finishes.
Proper ventilation is another important factor in improving the indoor air quality in your home. Both whole house and spot ventilation systems can be used to supply fresh air inside the home.
Range hoods and bathroom vent fans are the most common types of spot ventilation. In addition to reducing odors, they can remove excess moisture that promotes the growth of mold and mildew. Some vent fans, like the Sensaire® Humidity Sensing fans from NuTone, turn on and off automatically when high humidity is detected.
Improving energy efficiency in your home not only helps the environment, it can save you money. One of the most cost effective ways to lower your utility bill is by adding insulation.
Though fiberglass insulation is still the most common type, sprayed expanding foam is also available. Not only does it have a high insulating value, but foam can actually add structural strength to the building. BioBased foam is a green alternative that is made from soybean oil.
If you’re building a new house, you might consider using insulated concrete form construction (ICF) as an energy efficient alternative to traditional wood framing. Hollow foam blocks are stacked together to form the walls and are then filled with poured concrete. This type of construction is very strong and completely seals out drafts, resulting in walls with as much as an R-40 insulation value.
Those living in a warm climate may be able to reduce their air conditioning bill by applying a special coating to the exterior walls that reflects heat. COOLWALL® coatings from TEX•COTE are available in both a smooth and textured finish in a variety of colors. They can lower the temperature of exterior walls by as much as 40° which may result in a 4% to 22% reduction in cooling costs.
Even if you aren’t able to include the latest green technology in your home, there are a number of simple ways to improve energy efficiency. Weather stripping windows and doors, caulking cracks in exterior walls, and repairing air leaks in ductwork can all make a big difference in your utility bills.
Another easy way to save energy is by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) ones like those from n:vision. Each bulb you replace is estimated to save from $40 to $80 over the life of the bulb.
Choosing Green Products
Green products are everywhere these days, and it’s often difficult to decide if they really help the environment or are just a clever marketing ploy. There are a number of books, such as the The Lazy Environmentalist and Green Building Products, that offer advice and evaluate environmentally friendly products. Websites like the Green Guide and GreenSage also serve as valuable sources of information, with articles on a variety of green topics as well as reviews of specific products.