Tuesday, July 25, 2017  

Going Green, The Final Installment
One Couple’s Passion for Protecting the Environment  

It has been 13 months since we broke ground for the construction of our green home but we are finally moved in! Challenges large and small have been overcome and our dream has been realized. The pictures will tell much of the story for this, the last of four articles tracking the building of our home. But I can’t let you go without sharing some of the green aspects of the interior. I’d like to touch on energy efficiency, indoor air quality and interior materials.

Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency on the interior is achieved by our choice of lighting, fireplaces and appliances.

LED Recessed Lights are superior to both incandescent and CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights). There’s an interesting web site www.productdose.com, that compares these three types of lighting. Here are the advantages we discovered in our research which drove our decision to use LEDs:

  • More light per watt and a fraction of the heat. An incandescent bulb produces approximately 70% heat and 30% light per watt!
  • Lower energy consumption per watt.
  • Reduced carbon emissions. A 40 watt incandescent bulb, operating at 10 hours per day over the course of a year, will generate 196 pounds of carbon dioxide. The 13 watt LED equivalent will generate 63 pounds of CO2 over the same period. That’sa 68% reduction!
  • Long life. An incandescent bulb has an average life of 1000 hours. A CFL lasts for about 15,000 hours. An LED has a life of about 50,000 hours!!! That’s about 13 years if your lights are on 10 hours per day!
  • Cost effectiveness because of long life. We have 71 LED recessed lights at a cost of $13,000. The same size incandescent recessed lights would have cost about $3000. But the cost of operating our LED lights over their 50,000 hour life will be around $8100. The cost of operating the same number of incandescent lights for the same period of time would be $51,800!!! That’s a savings over the
  • 13 years of $43,700, or $3361 per year. Therefore, we re-coup our investment in 3 years, and enjoy saving $3300 per year in electrical costs, or more if electric rates increase!
  • LEDs are non-toxic, compared with CFLs which have lead and mercury and which must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Our LEDs are dimmable and emit the look and feel of incandescent light.

A “Green Smart” Gas Fireplace allows us to set the height of flame and the number of burners. But it also has a thermostat. In “Smart” mode the flame is automatically modulated up and down, and on and off, to maintain the room temperature. Additionally, it has an electronic ignition so the pilot flame goes out when the fireplace is turned off. So we enjoy the beauty of the fire longer as the flame modulates and use less fuel.

Appliances are the biggest energy consumers in our homes. Fortunately, they’re getting more and more energy efficient all the time. Thermador was our choice for our kitchen. Thermador has been a leader in appliances for the serious cook (which I am) for decades. Their performance, quality and beautiful design is unmatched. What is often overlooked is the extreme energy efficiency. For example, the EcoSense system on the dishwasher has a sensor which determines soil level in the wash water and automatically deletes fresh water fills if they’re not needed, saving water and electricity! We used Bosch high-efficiency, front-loading washer and dryer, loaded with energy saving features.

Indoor Air Quality
A green home, by definition, is an air tight home as we have discussed in previous articles. So if fresh air is not leaking into our home, we must be very careful about indoor air quality. Here are the major considerations:

  • Avoid the “New House Smell”! Just like the “new car smell,” what you are detecting in a new home is the off-gassing of chemicals used in the interior building materials and furnishings. In addition to causing allergic reactions, many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, like urea-formaldehyde found in resin-based adhesives and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). So here’s what we did:
  • All the cabinetry in the house (custom made by our company, Walmer Enterprises), is manufactured using veneer core plywood which is urea-formaldehyde-free, using a soy-based adhesive instead. Walmer’s finishing materials (stain, paint, clear top coats) are all water based and very low VOC.
  • All the paints in the house were zero toxic paints.
  • An Energy Recovery Ventilator is necessary in an air-tight house to ensure healthy, fresh indoor air. An ERV cools and de-humidifies outdoor air in the summer. In the winter, it warms the outdoor air and moderates extremes in humidity levels which helps prevent moisture damage or over-drying of the home. And it maintains positive internal air pressure at all times.
  • A Central Vacuum System extracts dirt and dust from the home through a vacuum hose attached to ports throughout the home and deposits it in a large, filtered collector in our garage. This eliminates the dust particles that escape from traditional vacuum bags right back into the indoor air. In addition to cleaner air, we enjoy the quiet of the central vacuum system since the noise-maker is in the garage.

Interior Materials

To the greatest degree possible, we have used wood for the floors and the cabinetry from sustainable forests which are certified as such by the Forest Sustainability Council (FSC). Our kitchen cabinetry is Lyptus, milled from eucalyptus trees harvested from non-tropical, certified forests, a renewable resource. Lyptus is a beautiful wood, comparable to mahogany and cherry in appearance. Our floors, stairs and all cabinetry come from FSC certified forests. Most of the stone in the house is sourced from within a 500 mile radius. Our stainless steel posts for our stair rail system are made from re-cycled steel.

Now it’s time to enjoy and live in this house! We worked hard on the design of our home and the execution of that design through the building process. Now that we are in it, we are taking great pleasure and satisfaction in the house as we imagined it from the beginning. Nothing is ever perfect, but we’re pretty close. We take pride in having built a comfortable, energy efficient and environmentally responsible home. Our passion to build green has been beautifully fulfilled! And to ensure that we can enjoy our home for years to come, we have made the house handicap accessible. In the future, we will open our home to those who would like to visit and learn more about green building.

We look forward to seeing you.