By now, we’ve all heard about compact florescent light bulbs and how they last longer and use less electricity. Eco-Lighting is important, but when it comes to going green with visual changes, nothing stands out more for less financial investment than a bright, new coat of paint. The choices abound in eco-paints these days, from the original milk paint, which is literally made from powdered milk product, to gallons of less expensive low V.O.C. (volatile organic compounds) paint sold in home improvement stores like Home Depot’s Freshaire paint or Benjamin Moore’s Natura, a zero V.O.C. option. Be sure to choose a light colour, though, as the darker the pigment, the more V.O.C.’s required to create the shade.
Reduce, Reuse, Reclaim, Recycle
Renovating in ecological style doesn’t need to cost a fortune. In fact, greening a house may save money on energy conservation when making long term decisions, such as replacing a water heater. When an old water heater becomes obsolete, consider a new tankless water heater. Conventional water heaters heat water periodically throughout the day and night to be available whenever we turn on the hot water spigot. That’s a lot of energy expended to keep 30 gallons of water ready for a bath.
According to the UK Department of Energy, for average water users who use about 40 gallons of hot water a day, “on demand” water heaters can be 24%–34% more energy efficient than conventional water heaters. They cost more to buy and install, but over time the savings on reducing electric or gas bills can far outweigh the initial expense.
Replacing outworn flooring and cabinetry is generally a large expense in remodelling. One way to go green on a limited budget is to look for re-used wood and other materials. Habitat for Humanity operates a reuse and recycling program where construction materials are sold. This not only benefits the consumer, but creates funding to build more homes for those in need, as well.
Many towns now operate their own recycling programs, with non-profit and for profit businesses that specialise in careful salvage of older buildings and resale of old materials. The extra benefit of finding these sources is the treasure trove of vintage wood that is superior in quality to today’s standard cuts, like “heart wood,” or old growth redwood. While old windows are typically single pane glass and not very energy efficient, including a small reclaimed panel of antique stained glass or leaded glass found in a salvage site can add charm to a new renovation.
Finally, whatever choices one makes in renovating, being sure to recycle used materials is crucial. Unpainted wood can be chipped and mulched in most county landfills and you never know – the cabinets taken out of your kitchen just might make someone’s rental unit or in-law complete. Advertise in the local paper.