Green-up Your Home
How-to Tips from Local Experts
Making green improvements to an existing home can be simple. Aimee Balda of Balda Development and Construction, a leading expert in Florida for custom designed and built sustainable green homes and commercial buildings, says the first step in any green home makeover should be a home energy audit as a way to give specific solutions to increasing the home’s energy efficiency.
An energy audit evaluates and inspects the home to determine where and how energy is being lost and what cost-effective improvements can be made to increase comfort, lower energy bills, and get the quickest return on investment. Changes can be as simple as air and duct sealing or upgrading insulation.
If building a new home, or remodeling an existing residence, Balda says important things to consider when it comes to energy efficiency are materials (such as insulation) and windows. She recommends low emissivity (low e) windows, which reflect heat, not light, keeping spaces warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Placement of windows is also important.
“When designing a new home, we take into careful consideration where windows are placed,” she says. “We want to keep the lights off as long as possible, taking advantage of natural light.”
Changing the look of a home is an easy area to make green improvements due to a large variety of eco-friendly products for use on both the inside and outside of a home.
For those considering a new coat of paint to freshen up a room, Scott Martinelli, store manager of Sherman Williams in Rockledge, says Sherwin Williams offers a full line of green products. “We take great pride in the number of environmentally-friendly products that we carry for home, industrial and health-sensitive structures.”
The company has a line of products called GreenSure that are made with sustainable raw materials and use formulations that are low-odor and low-VOC's, reducing their impact on the environment. The products are designed to provide maximum performance and long-term durability, plus they have the highest indoor air quality ratings.
Fewer things can make a home feel “new” as tearing out old, dingy carpet and replacing it with new flooring. At K&Y Carpet One in Melbourne, owner Jim Katehakis is committed to community and the environment thus provides numerous green options for flooring.
The company offers a wide selection of Green Select products, which means they are recyclable, are made from a natural, sustainable, quickly renewable resource, and/or contain a minimum amount of recycled material.
Katehakis says when purchasing green flooring, durability is a factor. Purchasing a cheap carpet and replacing it every five years is not sustainable, so if money is an issue, he suggests a vinyl or laminate as an alternative to hardwood, bamboo or cork (some of the greener options).
One product getting a lot of attention for its sustainability is DuPont’s Sorona®, a renewably sourced polymer fiber like no other. In fact, Sorona® contains 37 percent renewably sourced ingredients by weight, and the production of Sorona uses 30 percent less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 63 percent compared to production of an equal amount of nylon 6 (a common grade of nylon for carpet). The best part, says Katehakis, is that it is stain- and wear-resistant, and once the life of the product is completed, it is meant to be recycled and deconstructed.
Whether you want to get new carpet or clean the old, Greenway Carpet Care offers all natural and organic solutions to greening a home. “Carpet cleaning can be a fairly toxic practice,” says owner Tim Bagby. “Standard formulas contain a combination of harsh chemical solvents and detergents to remove dirt and stains. After cleaning, harmful residues remain in your carpet and circulate throughout the air. This ‘toxic soup’ affects the health of every member of your family, especially small children and pets.”
He says because carpets trap dust and mites, allergens, bacteria, heavy metals, and other particles from the air a powerful vacuum with a HEPA .3-micron filter should be used; otherwise, particles can escape back into the air.
To clean carpets the green way, he says steer clear of solvent-based cleaners with dyes, heavy metals, aerosol propellants, artificial fragrances, optical brighteners, or other harsh ingredients. Look instead for products and services that use as many plant-derived, natural ingredients as possible. “Ideally, find a service that removes at least 75 percent of dust mites and allergen, mold spores, and pet dander allergen, and uses very little water.”
Home theaters have become a valuable part of today's family life, so providing green alternatives has become more crucial than ever. Home Theater Design Group in Sebastian is making it possible to balance green living with high technology.
According to owner, Tim Fox, the company offers home automation solutions designed to make the home’s different systems work together with effortless entertainment, comfort and convenience. For instance, they offer solutions that allow the homeowner to manage energy usage by automatically turning lights on and off as needed, or managing the home’s comfort systems to minimize energy usage by adjusting temperature, or opening and closing blinds as needed to create the most efficient use of energy while maintaining a comfortable environment.
Perhaps Carl Moody, president of Solar Energy Systems of Brevard says it best: "Everyone has utility bills, and nobody likes to pay them. But, there is a solution, and it comes up every morning".
The company’s director of sales, Jacque Wirth, says solar water heating and attic ventilation are quickly becoming standard on new home construction. “Quality contractors are delivering the most energy efficient homes they can build,” she notes. “Informed consumers are shopping for lower HERS (Home Energy Rating Score), and even zero energy homes.” She adds that homebuyers are becoming much more aware of what it will cost to live in a home.
Wirth says there is a simple, cost effective way for everyone to incorporate solar into a home or business. Solar Energy Systems of Brevard offers systems to fit everyone's budget—from solar hot water, solar attic ventilation, solar-thermal A/C, and solar pool heating. For those who are able make a significant financial investment, they custom-design photovoltaic systems to meet clients' desired energy offset.
Incentives are also available for those who qualify. “If you have the tax liability, you may receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for 30 percent of the total cost of your qualifying solar purchase, an incentive that is available through 2016.” Some utility companies voluntarily offer a credit for incorporating solar hot water and solar electric.
For those unsure of how to proceed, Wirth says the company will custom design and suggest solar products that will maximize and provide the quickest possible return on every client's solar investment.
Protection from Pests
Transforming a home (even if it is little by little), into an earth-friendly paradise wouldn’t be complete without considering the care and maintenance of both the inside and outside of the home, and in Florida, pest control is always a factor one must consider. However, individuals can easily make healthy, sustainable choices when it comes to fighting critters.
At Nature’s Best Pest Detection and Elimination, owner Ed Kornfeld offers organic and low impact pest control personalized for each customer. He says every year Americans use hundreds of millions of pounds of industrial strength pesticides to get rid of bothersome bugs. By using toxic chemicals in and around the home, they can cause issues for individuals and their families, especially children and pets.
Kornfeld says organic pest control is a more holistic approach to pest control, as treatments are based on each home and family’s unique needs. “Nature’s Best does not use a one size fits all approach in Integrative Pest Management, but rather the best treatment for your particular pest problem.” He says that may mean sealing cracks, removing a food or water source or, when necessary, carefully employing pesticide treatments.” He also warns that just because a product says “natural,” it is not always safe and recommends knowing the ingredients of every product used in the home.
Green homes are increasingly sought-after by homebuyers. By investing in a few simple eco-friendly upgrades, we can do our part to increase the focus on environmentally friendly, sustainable living.
For more information, contact: Balda Development and Construction at 321-777-4026 or BaldaDevelopment.com; Sherwin Williams in Rockledge at 321-631-6004; K & Y Carpet One at 321-725-0021 or KandYCarpetOneMelbourne.com; Greenway Carpet Care at 321-406-9213; Home Theater Design Group at 772-589-4944 or HTDGI.com; Solar Energy Systems of Brevard at 321-253-3232 or 321solar.com; and Nature’s Best Pest Detection and Elimination at 321-253-5600 or NaturesBestPest.com.