Thursday, March 27, 2008
1. Energy Efficiency:
Geothermal heating, cooling and hot water - We used Envision by Waterfurnace is 30 SEER a/c; up to 500%. Read the article about our system in MetroMode Magazine. Learn more about geothermal.
Find a contractor anywhere in the U.S.
Geothermal Contractors in Ann Arbor:
Meadowlark Builders, (734) 332-1500
Michigan Energy Services, (888) 339-7700
Haley Mechanical, (800) 871-7993
Jetstream Heating & Cooling, Geocomfort System - Tom Fauser (734) 668-8010
Fact: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said geothermal heat pumps are, "the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today."
Occupancy sensors - Wattstopper on all light switches - turns off lights automatically in unoccupied rooms. California now requires these in all new home construction.
Installed by Dan Delzoppo Electric 734-930-1630 - Our favorite contractor!
Available at Gross Electric in 2232 South Industrial Hwy., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (734) 665-8676
Available online at EcoHaus
Cellulose Insulation: blown cellulose made from recycled newspaper. R-50 in attic / R-18 in walls. Attics can be easy DIY projects. But, for walls we strongly recommend a professional with the right equipment and experience to ensure proper fill.
Farmer's Insulation in Ann Arbor - Guy Murphy (734) 769-0066
Note: Our infrared camera test showed excellent coverage. Great job Guy!!
Open-cell spray foam insulation in basement between foundation and floor framing. Provides an excellent air and thermal barrier. This is also an excellent choice for attics and walls.
Energy Star appliances - Helpful hint: For 50% - 75% off on energy efficient appliances look for a Sears Appliance Outlet Store near you (there's one in Livonia and Taylor, MI)
Change to appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR, and you could save hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs, while saving the environment.
Energy-saving light fixtures; compact fluorescent lights throughout
"A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12% discount to estimate the savings." The End of the Light Bulb as We Know It. US News & World Report, 19 December 2007.
Easy Do-it-Yourself Items to eliminate air leaks and gaps in your house:
Great Stuff foam for sealing around window casings, basement gaps, chimneys, attics, etc. When you add up all the little gaps in your house, it can be the equivalent of leaving a window open all year long. Check out the Great Stuff website "Interactive House" for cool tips on sealing your home.
Rope Caulk to help seal those pesky gaps in your old windows. Available in brown or gray. You can purchase rope caulk online or at any local hardware or home improvement store. Cost: $5.25
Reel lawn mower - German made by Brill Luxus. Weighs only 17 lbs and easier to push than a gas mower. Zero Carbon and ultra-quiet.
Check out the Brill Luxus 38 and the all new Brill Razor Cut 38
We LOVE these mowers!! This ain't your granddaddy's push mower. You'll wonder why anyone uses hard to push, noisy, smelly, polluting gas mowers.
Smart Strip - WE LOVE THIS!! Power strip designed to kill that Vampire Power that is sucking hundreds of watts . . . even when you're not using your electronics. Click "shut down" on your computer or "off" on your TV remote and it will automatically turn off all the peripherals too - DVD, Wii, surround sound, printer, fax, hard drives, or whatever. It will pay for itself in a few short months. Available online at Amazon and other retailers.
2. Water Efficiency:
The Average U.S. Home Uses 300 - 700 gallons per day! Look for the new EPA Watersense label for outstanding water savings.
High efficiency 1.5 gpm Bricor showerheads and .5 gpm faucet aerators
A family of 3 will save around 11,000 gallons of HOT water every year. This is not only a water saver, but a huge energy saver as well. This brilliant technology will pay for itself in as little as 7 months!! Every shower should have one of these. No more excuses. Simply the best shower you can get.
Online Retailers $64.95: Black Energy and EFI
Caroma High Efficiency Toilets (HET) - dual flush allows for half flush (.8 gallons) or full flush (1.6 gallons). Caroma is beautifully designed. And, with a 4" trap, they are nearly impossible to clog. Can save thousands of gallons of water per year. They'll pay for themselves in a few years. Other Brands to Look For: Kohler, Sterling and Toto too!
Find a Caroma Retailer: http://www.caromausa.com/distributors/
Available online: BuyPlumbing for under $400
Rainwater capture used for irrigation - We got ours made from reused Michigan oak wine barrels from St. Julian Winery. There are plenty of places to buy rain barrels or you can make your own. Believe it or not, for every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rainwater. 5 inches of rain falling on a 2,000 square foot roof area will generate about 6,000 gallons of rainwater!
Bioshield Floor Coatings. Antique heart pine floors sanded then refinished using natural penetrating Bioshield Hard Oil #9 for a durable, water resistant and non-toxic finish. You can often catch great closeout deals on the Bioshield website.
Find a retailer
Shower & Bath Tiles made with Recycled Content - American Olean - Available at Lowes and other tile retailers. Find a retailer
Salvaged clawfoot tub from Craigslist.org - For refinishing the interior of the tub, we used (and highly recommend) Ron Benedict of Ann Arbor Perma-Glaze
New Hudson MI 48165 (US)
Bathroom floors made from second hand marble. Highly durable.
Medicine chest mirror made from antique picture frame.
Other Materials Considerations:
Reused salvaged trimwork wherever possible
Sustainably Harvested Wood: When buying new wood, insist on Forest Stewardship Council‘s FSC Certiciation or Rainforest Alliance Certification.
Donate excess materials for reuse - Habitat for Humanity Restore or Ann Arbor Reuse Center
Compost bins for yard and kitchen scraps
1 Gallon trash can in kitchen - prevents us from creating too much waste for landfill
Compost pail at kitchen sink to collect kitchen scraps for compost - not the disposal or trash.
Reclaimed brick walkways - reuses material and minimizes stormwater runoff.
4. Indoor Environmental Quality:
Fact: Indoor air is sometimes three times more polluted than outdoor air. According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality is considered to be one of the top 5 hazards to human health. Paints and finishes, furniture, flooring, wood & cabinet adhesives, mold and poor ventilation are among the leading causes.
Third Party Certification for Indoor Air Quality: Look for Green Seal or GreenGuard certification.
Zero-VOC Paints: These are the best small brands are superior paints for everyone, but particularly for the chemically sensitive: Safecoat, Yolo Colorhouse,
Major brands (sometimes cost a little less and are now widely available) FreshAire Choice from Home Depot, Olympic Premium Paint (Available at Lowes), Pittsburgh Paints, Sherwin Williams Harmony (NOTE: Harmony is NOT GreenSeal or GreenGuard Certified and is only a "low"-VOC rather than zero-VOC) and others. Just make sure you ask for Zero-VOC paint at the paint or hardware store.
Wood floor finish: For our antique heart pine we used Bioshield Hard Oil #9 (see above) Different coatings are suited for different woods. So, make sure you ask what is best for your wood floor. Also, check out the premium line of eco-friendly finishes from SafeCoat. Bioshield and SafeCoat are both available online at www.EcoHaus.com
Whispergreen Panasonic high-efficiency motion sensor bath fan - improves indoor air quality, reduces mold and uses minimal energy. This fan is virtually silent and uses very little energy. We love it!
Gross Electric - 2232 South Industrial Hwy., Ann Arbor 734-665-8676
Online at WestsideWholesale ($130 - $160) Plumber's Surplus ,
Zero or Low-VOC Adhesives: Henkel Green Series zero-VOC adhesive for sub-floor in new bathroom. You will love the ways these clean up!! No more nasty chemicals to remove the other nasty chemicals that get stuck on your hands. Best of all . . . almost NO SMELL.
Furniture: antiques or reused are the best - Craigslist, Freecycle, or eBay - But, if you must buy new make sure it is durable and free from toxic brominated flame retardants (PBDEs / BFRs), PVC or formaldehyde and is made from FSC or Rainforest Alliance certified wood. Many major brands are going green. Check these out: Crate & Barrel, Lee, Bob Williams+Mitchell Gold. Also, look for products that are C2C (Cradle 2 Cradle) certified.
Rugs and Floor coverings made from natural materials - free from toxic flame retardants (PBDE) or vinyl
Our Wish List:
Energy Recovery Ventilator - ventilate fresh air and recover 80% of heat loss ($700 - $2,000 installed)
Solar and/or Wind Power to provide our remaining energy load ($30k-$50k)
Solatubes for natural daylighting in the closets and dark spaces. ($300 each)
More forward thinking political leaders
Tell us what is on your greenovation wish list . . .
Monday, March 24, 2008
Here's a great article on Matt & Kelly's geothermal system from MetroMode magazine:
Many alternative energy sources have an associated mental image -- fields of windmills sprouting like flowers in a field come to mind -- but what does your brain conjure up when confronted with the term geothermal?
Even if you know what geothermal is, you might have some trouble picturing it. Which makes sense because geothermal's magic happens below the earth's surface. Chances are a home or business you are familiar with already takes advantage of this not-new-at-all technology to heat and cool their premises while spending up to 70% less on their utility bill.
Is your interest piqued? READ MORE . . .
by Kelly and Matthew Grocoff
When we bought our 107 year old home on Ann Arbor's Historic Old West Side, it was a dream come true: lead paint, zero insulation, a half-century old furnace, asbestos siding, and a gas powered mower in the shed. What more could a couple of treehuggers ask for?
We wanted to buy a historic home, turn it green and prove that, even on our limited budget, we could create a home of unparalleled comfort and design while using less energy and water and fewer natural resources and toxic chemicals. Our efforts have rewarded us (and the planet) with an approximate 50% reduction in energy bills compared to similar sized homes in Michigan. As energy prices rise with global temperatures, our home will increase in value as well.
We always joke that there are three things that set back the environmental movement: the original low flow showerhead, the original low flush toilet, and Jimmy Carter's sweater (Kelly would add a fourth: silken tofu). These icons perpetuated the myth that living green meant paying more while sacrificing quality, performance and comfort. We wanted to restore our home using Environmentalism 2.0, which means improved quality, performance, efficiency, value, health and comfort.
In upcoming articles, we will share the choices we made when renovating our historic home. We will review the little stuff and the big stuff. We separate our efforts into those which can be done easily and inexpensively (the little stuff) versus those that require larger investments of time and money, but create higher long term savings (the big stuff). Both are important and both go a long way towards reducing your carbon footprint.
It is important to imagine the day when all homes are carbon neutral, but don't wait for the windmills or affordable solar panels! We developed a plan based on our budget, the historic standards of our neighborhood, and how we wanted our home to look and feel.
We included a large portion of our renovation costs in our mortgage. The first step was deciding how to allocate the money. We prioritized in order of energy consumption, working our way from the worst offenders to the petty criminals. In other words, we started with the big stuff.
The most hardened criminal in most homes is heating, cooling and hot water systems, which account for 58% of home energy use. We chose a hyper-efficient geothermal HVAC system (also called a ground source heat pump or geoexchange), and then moved on to the little stuff like cost effective motion sensor lighting controls and compact fluorescent lights. Remember, the cheapest form of energy is the unused kilowatt.
A green home isn't only about energy efficiency, but also about health and sustainability. With each decision we made we asked ourselves: 1. can we buy reused instead of new materials? 2. is it durable? 3. can we purchase locally? 4. how can we reduce construction waste? 5. will this harm air or water quality? 6. will this harm us, our guests or our community? 7. how was this product made?
In our modest home, our improvements seem small compared to all we need to do to curb climate change. However, choices we've made are being rapidly adopted by others and are often becoming policy. In California, the motion sensors we installed are now mandatory in all new residential construction. Our geothermal system reduces greenhouse gases equivalent to taking two cars off the road! We hope to see Michigan adopting progressive policies and incentives soon.
In a coming article, we will share with you the details of what we've done to green our home and what you can do to green yours - easily, affordably and elegantly. It's inspiring to know that not only can we improve the comfort, efficiency and health of our home, but be part of a collective monumental change.
To schedule a group tour of our Ann Arbor home you can contact us at email@example.com
Coming soon . . . GreenovationTV.com - the world's first internet TV station for healthy home improvement.