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dubone

What eco-friendly or sustainable upgrade have you made to your home?

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I've seen comments in past threads about people making eco-friendly upgrades to their homes. What types of changes have you guys made or considered?

I have read about simple things, such as low VOC carpeting and paints. They also have that Method brand of cleaners, which are entirely biodegradable.

I've also read about an awesome new treated lumber called Timbersil which is impregnated with amorphous glass (so it won't rot or be eaten by termites, but it also won't drip chemicals into the ground - arsenic drips from that green lumber). Other easy changes are changing to Energy Star windows and doors and appliances.

Has anyone added solar panels or solar water heaters to their homes with the new federal and state tax credits? What other changes or upgrades have people tried or considered trying?

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I am in the process of putting cisterns in for rainwater. Basically, the rain that falls on the roof is directed into three large barrels (underground) and that water is then used for watering the flowers, grass, and shrubs during dry periods.

I highly recommend using Toto toilets for ecco friendly flushing. Not only do they use little water, they actually, um, make sure everything goes down in one flush.

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A guy I know has a company that installs solar water heaters and their website has alot of info on the tax incentives.

http://www.lakenormansolar.com/

I've also seen the solar shingles for electricity. People will do two or three rows of black solar shingles on their rear roof and it blends in well with regular blach shingles.

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Years ago I went to a front loading washing machine. They save a lot of water and energy to heat water if you wash with hot water. (more eco friendly for whites than using harsh chemicals like clorox) They also spin out the clothes better so less time is used in a dryer which are enormous energy wasters. I recommend getting one of the european models as they are especially water miserly and are built fairly well. I also put up a retractable clothes line and hang out clothes a lot. It's a great and easy way to use solar energy.

My house has two independent furnace/air conditioning systems. This allows one level to be cooled/heated without burning up or freezing the other. When we contracted to have this house built, we took the sun into account when orienting it on the lot so it gets a lot of passive solar heat during the winter. I also installed a whole house fan (used to be common in pre-AC southern homes). It keeps the house cool during moderate temperatures without the need for an AC. An extra bonus is they flush out all the heat that builds up in the attic.

I am faced with having to replace one of these furnaces in the next year or two. I am thinking about going to a geothermal heatpump. They are extremely efficient and as a bonus, also provide free hotwater when running. The downside is they are a lot more expensive to install due to the labor to dig trenches in your yard for the pipe. I've thought about putting in a solar water heater, but frankly they are difficult to install properly on a house that is already built. Solar power cells still are not cost effective and really are only useful if you have to have a off-grid situation.

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Our windows are very energy efficient and triple paned. We've done tons of caulking around our windows inside and out.

We still need to replace our exterior doors, as they get drafty (it's a Craftsman built in 1908)

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I also installed a whole house fan (used to be common in pre-AC southern homes). It keeps the house cool during moderate temperatures without the need for an AC. An extra bonus is they flush out all the heat that builds up in the attic.

Is that like an attic fan? My friend's house in Plaza-Midwood has one and it's the coolest thing (no pun intended). You pull a cord that hangs from the vent panel in the ceiling and the louvers open and there's a big whoosh and all the air in the room gets sucked up and out. It's remarkably efficient and effective.

Another friend has one of those hot water heating 'panels'. Basically it's a small super-heating panel on the wall that heats water as it's passed through the mechanism. Like 'hot water on demand'. You NEVER run out of hot water and you don't waste energy/$ continually heating a water tank. Anyone else have one of those?

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Yes that is the kind of fan. The one in my house is a bit more modern than the one you describe as the cord has been replaced by an electronic control that allows an infinite adjustment for the fan speed. They were quite common in homes prior to air conditioning becoming common in houses, say prior to 1970 or so, and I have seen many of them in houses in Charlotte that were built before then. It's cut my AC usage at least in 1/2 what it would be otherwise. I had it installed when they built this house in the early 90s, but they can be retrofitted onto almost any house with an attic.

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I'm looking at painting some rooms in my home this summer. I looked into eco-friendly paints, and was glad to see that Sherwin-Williams actually has both a low-VOC product, called Durations, and also a zero-VOC product. There are some trade offs, but it appear that the low-VOC product from Sherwin Williams have few trade-offs than they used to.

http://www.realestatejournal.com/homegarde...ejrss=frontpage

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Yes that is the kind of fan. The one in my house is a bit more modern than the one you describe as the cord has been replaced by an electronic control that allows an infinite adjustment for the fan speed. They were quite common in homes prior to air conditioning becoming common in houses, say prior to 1970 or so, and I have seen many of them in houses in Charlotte that were built before then. It's cut my AC usage at least in 1/2 what it would be otherwise. I had it installed when they built this house in the early 90s, but they can be retrofitted onto almost any house with an attic.

Beware of the fire hazards that the automatic fans represent. They are in the top 10 causes of house fires.

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Beware of the fire hazards that the automatic fans represent. They are in the top 10 causes of house fires.

Heh, the #1 reason behind house fires are food left on the stove. It's a matter of common sense. The modern versions of these fans are very safe.

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Hi all, new to the site/forums and am very happy to have found this place!

My wife and I just bought our first house in Matthews and will be moving from NY this summer. It's an all-brick split level from 1968. It has a new roof and HVAC system, but we are already planning our upgrades.

The first thing will be to replace the nearly 40 year old water heater. We considered several options but decided that an on-demand (also called tank-less) system would be best for our situation.

We will also be getting an efficient front loading washing machine and I plan to hang-dry our clothes outside as much as possible.

We do not have an attic fan but I would like to get one. They really are great! I just hope the newer ones are a bit quieter then the last one I am used to.

I am also really interested in learning more about geo-thermal heat pumps, and since our house is entirely electric (no gas/oil) we really do want to go full-on solar panels as much as possible, though it still is rather expensive. The solar shingles sound really neat though, do you have any more information on those?

and Miesian Corners, I would love to hear more about your cistern setup, this something I would like to implement for our garden.

Looks like timbersil will be a good choice for our replacement deck, and some Toto toilets when we fix up the bathrooms. Plus the Method cleaners and low/no VOC paints! I really picked up quite a few tips here, I hope others contribute to this thread!

oh and compact flourescent bulbs throughout the house of course ;)

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I don't use any fertilizer or pesticides on my lawn. This is primarily for reasons of sloth and thriftiness, but it has the advantage of being eco-friendly. In all seriousness, though, it seems to me that a perfect-looking grass monoculture is inherently less healthy than a diverse ecosystem like my lawn, which has lots of different species of grass, weeds, etc. Maybe a biology major can comment?

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It's very true. I forgot to mention that I no longer go through the ordeal like so many people here in getting fescue/rebel grass to grow in Charlotte. Instead I planted what we called Charleston grass, a bermuda type grass in my yard. It does not need to be reseeded, it doesn't require much watering at all, even in the hottest of days, and it stays green all summer without pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The only downside to this grass is that it turns golden in the winter months which I don't mind at all.

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I don't use any fertilizer or pesticides on my lawn. This is primarily for reasons of sloth and thriftiness, but it has the advantage of being eco-friendly. In all seriousness, though, it seems to me that a perfect-looking grass monoculture is inherently less healthy than a diverse ecosystem like my lawn, which has lots of different species of grass, weeds, etc. Maybe a biology major can comment?

i don't know much biology....

but if it makes you feel any better my yard consists of hundreds of spieces of grass/weeds as well.

@ my casa we are on a tight budget... so one thing we do alot of is recycle. for instance i am in the process of tearing down a (big) old shed in the back yard and will be building another one next to it. it looks as if i will be able to salvage about 60% of the old to go into the new. aside from that i can often be found pulling over on the side of the road to pick up an old door or reusable piece of wood for this and other projects. whatever i cannot find i will try to get @ the habitat re-store or the like. one of my most favorite places in NC is a place called CLINE'S. it's way out 49 past mt. pleasent on the left. its an old farm with 5 - 8 barns stuffed to the gills with almost everything you can imagine.... anyways i bring this up b/c if your on a budget you may not be able to afford some of the fore-mentioned ways of being eco-friendly and there is no doubt that as americans we produce EXTREME amounts of garbage... anything that can be re-used helps.

one of my hero's is a guy named SAMUEL MOCKBEE (deceased). he founded a collective called RURAL STUDIO. not only did he research and build with a huge social consciousness, he also captured a spirit of the south, that as a southerner, i am most proud of.

check him out:

http://www.ruralstudio.com/sambomemorial.htm

or for examples of his work and legacy:

http://www.ruralstudio.com/intro.html

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I love Samuel Mockbee. :)

This is the manufacturer of the solar shingles. Uni-Solar

I thought someone was going to open a green building center to help people build green in Charlotte. What's the news with that? I know Atlanta has one.

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I painted a bunch of rooms inside our house last week, and used Sherwin Williams Durations paint. It is "Green Sure", which is a standard that it is both durable/effective and low in emissions. My painter said that even though it was 7 $/gal more, it spread/covered so well, it ended up taking less paint.

I would highly recommend it. We didn't even have to open the windows, the fumes were non-existent.

VOCs combine with car exhaust and sunlight to create ozone and smog. Low-VOC paint is just a part of the solution.

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Heat Pump Water Heaters - (in answer to this thread)

There is good general background info along with manufacturer links here:

http://www.toolbase.org/techinv/techDetail...echnologyID=128

This is still an emerging solution though, so there are not many ready resources. Maintenance should be relatively straightforward for anyone who services refrigeration equipment. But the up-front cost will be high, so it would only be worth it from a cost perspective if you will be living in the house for a while.

Something else to consider is that retrofit units like this one will probably be common. So this is a decision you could defer for a year or two if being an early adopter is too daunting. Go with conventional electric until you're ready to add the HP to the unit.

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