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Going green and saving money

It is easier and less expensive to build new green than to renovate green. With new builds you can do some additional things to maximize the return on green construction. Some these things may include: orient the home to the sun for maximum heat gain; structure the frame and plumbing to support a roof garden; and extend the roof eaves to reduce summer heating.
With renovations, your neighbour may not want to look at your windmill or have your photo cell array blocking his sun; you may not want to pay for your home to be restructured for the new loads of a green roof or to be oriented to the sun. That’s why it can be difficult to reach net zero with a renovation.
With green renovations, additional planning is required. Not only do we have to consider the usual requirements of the homeowner, we have to consider the green aspects also. Some of the green aspects will cost more now, but they will save money over time. The green items to be considered could include: do future green upgrades get planned for now? Does the existing structure require work to accommodate wind mills and photo cell arrays? Are certified installers required for some of this work? Does salvaging of existing materials for reuse drive costs higher? If geothermal heating and cooling is being considered, is there sufficient space for its installation?
A variety of green practices and items are already part of the current building code. They include: the dreaded 6l toilet; low flow faucets; increased insulation values in walls and ceilings; and depending on the heating system’s HRV. All of these items can be improved on from a green perspective with things like dual flush toilets, added insulation and air sealing, and ECM motors for the furnace.
Green renovations do involve the various items available for new homes, but they may require modifications or additional thought before inclusion in your renovation. You will have to be prepared for some building officials and contractors to question some of your items.
Some officials will be skeptical of some items and will not allow them as not being code compliant. As the building code is now objective based, not descriptive, you may have to educate the officials to allow your green selections. You may ask, what can be included in a green renovation? It turns out that many of the things in green new homes can be adapted to your renovation. Some of these items can be:
  • ICF foundations
  • Composite floor, roof, and wall framing
  • Low e film, argon gas, and triple pane glass in windows
  • Compact fluorescent and LED lights
  • Lots of natural light
  • Reduced and/or no formaldehyde cabinetry
  • Low or no VOC paints and finishes
  • Composite material exterior finishes
  • Recycled material roofing metal, rubber, cement
  • Wood or linoleum floors
  • Heat pumps ground, water, and air
Some other new items you may want consider for your green renovation include:
  • Solar water heaters
  • Heat recovery systems, i.e. Waste hot water heats incoming cold water before it enters the hot water tank
  • Photo cell panels
  • Computer modeling of energy requirements
Making your renovation more green can be an easy process by selecting a different product or as hard as redesigning your home. Quite often these selections will have a higher initial cost, but as they typically last longer and use less energy; and you will save money over time.