Tuesday, 22 October 2019
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Make Your Home Eco-Friendly When You Renovate or Remodel

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 09 October 2019 08:29
Solar panels and wind turbines go a long way to help make a home eco friendly Solar panels and wind turbines go a long way to help make a home eco friendly Shutterstock

By Michael Tobias

Whether you’re selling or have just bought a home, if you’re planning to renovate or remodel, now’s the time to think carefully about all the possible steps you can take to make it eco-friendly. Even if you can’t afford to retrofit, there are changes every homeowner can make to cut down harmful carbon emissions and make their homes more healthy and comfortable. 

Whether you live in a single-family house, an apartment, or a cottage in the country, you can make your home more:

  • energy efficient,
  • water-efficient,
  • resource-efficient, and
  • ensure the indoor environment is the very best it can be.

Energy Efficiency

The focus of any eco-friendly house is energy efficiency, from the generation of power to the mechanical systems we use for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). As the principal of an engineering company that offers HVAC engineering services in Chicago, New York, and other major cities, I know how vital HVAC is for buildings, including our homes, to be environmentally friendly.

Some of the most important elements of eco-friendly HVAC systems include the use of:

  • High-efficiency cooling systems and high-efficiency condensing boilers with occupancy sensors, economizer cycles, and CO2 monitors. 
  • Free solar energy from the sun for water and space heating. 
  • Environmentally clean geothermal energy for direct radiant heating and cooling, and for powering ground-source heat pumps. 
  • Natural ventilation that is maximized by displacement ventilation (DV), exterior vents, and smart window systems. 
  • Thermal storage systems and cool roofs that reduce air conditioning loads. 

Well-designed HVAC systems ensure there is always fresh air in the house and help reduce bacteria, odors, and pollutants, and they lower humidity levels. 

Energy efficiency also involves lighting from the use of natural sunlight to eco-friendly light bulbs, which is an easy option when renovating, as is the recommended use of ENERGY STAR fittings and appliances. 

Water Efficiency

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I mentioned ENERGY STAR appliances above. Well, they go a long way towards improving water efficiency and helping to create a more eco-friendly home. If you don’t already have an energy-efficient washing machine or dishwasher, consider upgrading as part of your renovation. While you’re about it, channel the waste graywater so you can use it for flushing toilets and garden irrigation. 

We know showering uses less water than bathing, but do you have a low-flow showerhead? This is another eco-friendly change that is easy to make.

Water is an invaluable resource, and harvesting rainwater will reduce your utility bill charges. You might even consider a water treatment system to make the water potable. 

You will need a storage tank and pipes for runoff from the roof and gutters. A simple filtration system will prevent debris from getting into the conveyance system and clogging the pipes. Some technical aspects will need to be considered, but the Rainwater Harvesting Guide compiled and published by New York State provides a good starting point for homeowners. Alternatively, an MEP engineer from a New York or Chicago engineering firm – or any engineering firm in fact – will be able to advise you, and many competent plumbers will be able to set up simple systems. 

Resource Efficiency

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Sustainable development demands resource efficiency at every level. Starting with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, there is global acknowledgment that “decarbonization” must be executed together with separating the dependence of economic growth on the ever-growing use of natural resources that is coupled with environmental degradation. 

So what has this got to do with mere mortals wanting to improve their houses? In a nutshell, a lot. Just as different countries and regions within countries have differing challenges and opportunities, so too do homeowners. Concentrating on resource efficiency during your renovation or remodel project could have a bigger impact than you might ever dream. 

Resource efficiency relates both to energy and materials and focuses on ensuring mankind will have sufficient resources in the future. So recycling is encouraged along with an emphasis on reducing environmental pressures that produce a negative impact, for instant exploitation of certain resources. 

You may not be able to incorporate recycled materials in your renovation, but you can choose durable materials that are environmentally compatible and you can take care to choose materials that haven’t generated waste during manufacture. Ask questions if you aren’t sure. Also, reduce your own waste, and do your utmost to conserve energy and water. 

Indoor Environmental Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes no secret of the fact that poor indoor air quality is high on the list of environmental risks. It is a major health factor especially in terms of asthma and allergies. Pollutants in the air can also cause headaches and dizziness. 

No matter how beautiful the interior of your renovated home is, if the air quality isn’t extremely good, it’s less than perfect. 

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Michael Tobias

Michael Tobiasis the founder and principal of New York Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of more than 30 mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City, and has led numerous projects in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia. He is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and specializes in sustainable building technology including those that relate to heating and air.
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