Blog : Seasonal Home Renovations: Greening Your Home From the Inside Out

By Katelyn | Nov 15, 2015 | in

 

By Anne Twombly

 

With chilly weather rolling into the state, New Hampshire residents are spending more time inside, so it’s no surprise that many homeowners start interior renovation projects this time of year in order to make their personal spaces more comfortable and efficient during heating season. But before siphoning cash from your nest egg, consider the social and environmental effects or your home renovation. We have compiled a list of tips to consider when improving your home.

 

1. Conduct a Professional Energy Audit

If you’re considering making any structural renovation to your home’s interior to increase heating efficiency, the first step should be getting an energy audit from a reputable source. Yankee Thermal Imaging is a Rochester-based company that specializes in implementing thermal imaging techniques when conducting comprehensive energy audits. Identifying temperature fluctuations around a home is the first step in addressing energy and insulation efficiency.

“Thermal imaging is just one of the techniques used in a comprehensive energy audit,” Chris Meyer, Yankee Thermal’s owner and founder, explains. “But it’s not the only thing we use. We have a wide range of tools to figure out where energy is being wasted and then more importantly, the expertise to implement upgrades and retrofits to improve efficiency.”

Meyer says the program results in substantial energy savings without significant investment. Implementation can be completed in a day and can pay for itself in less than two years. For the cost of approximately two oil deliveries, homeowners can dramatically reduce their annual heating and cooling costs, as well as their carbon footprint.

“Whether you are staying in your home for the next 10 years or selling it, a good energy audit and the common sense upgrades to follow it up, makes good financial sense,” Meyer says. “We have many customers who immediately value what we’ve done.”

2. Address Insulation Issues

After you have pinpointed where heat is escaping from your home with an energy audit, you can begin mitigating the loss with an improved insulation seal. The Green Cocoon, an environmentally friendly insulation company located in Salisbury, Mass., services the sealant needs of customers throughout the New Hampshire seacoast and southern Maine.

General Manager, Candace Lord, can’t emphasize enough how important proper insulation is to a home. “The first thing to look at in terms of greening your home is wasting less heating and cooling via more and better insulation. Starting from the top and working your way down is the best approach.”

In the winter especially, large amounts of heat escapes from the top of the house as it rises, escaping through the roof if it is not properly insulated.

“Using eco-friendly spray foam in your roof slopes save money on heating and cooling and also saves your HVAC equipment if it is located in the attic,” Lord says. “By insulating the attic you are making that space conditioned and a part of the [home’s] thermal envelope. Your HVAC won’t have to work as hard to cool in the summer and heat in the winter.”

The base of the home can also be a great place to address in terms of escaping heat.

“Making sure your basement rim joist is air-sealed and insulated is another great way to stop heat loss as this slows down the stack effect caused by poor insulation,” Lord says.

3. Consider Alternative Heating Options

Once your home is efficiently sealed, you might consider filling it with heat from an alternative or renewable source. If you’re not ready to completely go off the grid, there are a variety of baby-steps via solar systems to heat your hot water or provide solely electric needs.

Jack Bingham, owner of Seacoast Energy, a beacon of residential and commercial alternative energy solutions on the Seacoast, explains the options more clearly. According to Bingham, once people try solar water heating or space heating, they start looking for other energy efficiency projects, and only good can come of such a trend.

“There are all sorts of unique ways to combine systems such that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Bingham explains. “So if you combine a small PV system with a heat pump, your home or business is basically starting close to zero energy.”

Bingham likes to remind people that this isn't a project just for the wealthy, but for the average citizen.

"With the rebates offered from the government," Bingham says, "and the savings on your monthly bills, you get your investment back and then some."

4. Paint Your Home Green

If you’re looking for a color change on the inside or outside (during warmer months) of your home, be sure to choose paints with low volatile organic compounds, or VOCs for short. VOCs are gases emitted by various solids or liquids, many of which have short- and long-term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, VOCs cause eye, nose and throat irritation, frequent headaches, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney and the central nervous system. It’s common sense that any interior paintwork being done, especially in homes with children, the paints should be as safe and non-toxic as possible.

Containing anywhere from 50 to 90 percent water, the environmental impact from water-based paint is less than oil-based paint. Whereas most painting companies use harsh VOC paints, Minute Men painters, a Portsmouth based eco-friendly company, uses a wide range of low VOC and VOC-free paints.

The owners of Minute Men Painters, Sean Sturk and Chris Tufts, explain their personal rationale for using eco-friendly paint alternatives.

“We literally felt the effects of these [toxic] products,” said Sturk. “We grew the company to take the burden off of ourselves physically but now we have these other options for our employees. As a company we made a conscious decision to decrease the toxicity of our products and learn as much as we could about them.”

Minute Men doesn't only paint buildings. They've expanded their scope of work to include finish work on cabinets as well as different spraying techniques catering to some of the more desirable looks like antique glaze finishes and revitalizing old furniture pieces to accommodate a new look in a home.

5. Reuse when Remodeling

If you’re building a new home, don’t start from scratch. Older homes can be remodeled to be more efficient and comfortable than ever before.

Chinburg Properties, the sustainable building company behind the magnificently renovated mill buildings in Dover, Portsmouth, Newmarket, Exeter and Amesbury, Mass., shared their expertise on revamping historic shells with a modern, efficient inside.

“The overwhelming majority of these already 150-year-old buildings has been preserved for reuse”, explains Geoff Spitzer, Chinburg’s LEED certified AP and Newmarket Mills’ senior project manager. “The lifetime of the ‘embodied energy’ has been renewed, extended for many years to come. A significant portion of wood planking, timbers and columns are reused and put back in the buildings. 100 percent of the brick and stone from the demolition has been cleaned and reused throughout the buildings and in the landscaping.”

By utilizing reclaimed materials from the area, as opposed to buying and shipping new from far distances, a home or commercial building becomes that much greener.

“Local is green. People and products that travel short distances use less fuel and have a smaller carbon footprint,” Spitzer says. “And if something is made well and lasts longer then it will almost always save energy and resources.”

“Something which is beautiful, but falling apart, can be given a new life,” says Jen Chinburg, Chinburg Properties’s marketing director. Think of this in terms of your own home and how it can be improved.

Tonight, while you making a list of all the improvements you’d like to have done on your home this winter, take a minute to consider their environmental impact and how you can do your part to make this snow-white season a little greener.