Fall home improvements have consumers thinking “green” in ‘08


As home renovators flock to their local hardware stores this fall, they will undoubtedly take into consideration such things as the price of a barrel of oil nearly tripling in the last ten years when deciding which renovations are necessary. Following the latest trend in America, look for many consumers to sure up their homes in more eco-friendly methods, the popular one being “green remodeling.”

“Going green” doesn’t involve homeowners tearing down their houses to change the way they heat their homes, but to make minor adjustments to their current living quarters. According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), which recently launched its Green Remodeling Education Program, the four facets of “green remodeling” are improving indoor air quality, energy and resource conservation, reduced material waste and using products that are safe for the environment.

The Sustainable Building Industry Council (SBIC) says homeowners who choose to remodel green can cut their energy consumption by 30-50%. By incorporating recycled materials or sustainable species, meaning resources that can be replenished as quickly as they’re used, homeowners will help to save on Earth’s forests, which produce 40% of Earth’s oxygen. The United States Department of Energy (USDE) believes that if current buildings were green-improved by using energy efficient appliances and programmable thermostats, homeowners would use $20 billion less energy each year.

Another reason to remodel green can be attributed to the poor air quality in many homes says the NARI. With more than 15 million Americans estimated to have asthma and another 28 million suffering from Hay Fever among other allergies, improving indoor air quality is a must. Many factors contribute to poor air quality such as tobacco smoke, smoke from burning wood, kerosene or coal, toxic fumes from cleaning products and damp carpets and fabrics to name a few. Homeowners can remedy these problems by installing better ventilation systems and using non-toxic wood, paint and sealants.

The growing waste problem is another situation addressed when remodeling green. The NARI estimates that 136 million tons of waste comes from home remodeling, ultimately accounting for 20% of the waste in landfills. Green remodeling focuses on using local materials, engineered lumber and recycling, as 85-90% of all materials are recyclable.

The NARI’s aforementioned Green Program helps contractors who seek to develop knowledge and skill in green remodeling.

“The NARI (Green Program) will help realize those goals,” Green Education Subcommittee Chairman Chris Donatelli said. “This program thoroughly educates the contractor who desires to focus on environmentally friendly remodeling.”

Many local businesses have realized this trend, as well, as the cold winter months are just around the corner and homeowners look to cut down on heating bills by making their homes as efficient as possible.

Patrick McBride, of McBride’s Heating and Cooling, says that he’s recently received numerous phone calls and inquiries regarding hybrid furnace and heating systems.

“People want the 95% hybrid speed furnace and heat pump systems,” McBride said. “These systems (compared to the old furnaces) can save you up to 65% on home heating costs.”

McBride also says that while these new furnaces cost roughly double than that of the old systems, customers don’t care because it saves them a tremendous amount of money in the long run.

“I’ve made callbacks to some of the customers that I installed the systems for and they absolutely loved them,” McBride said. “They wouldn’t trade them for nothing.”

Another product offered is a geothermal furnace, which extracts heat from well water and loops buried in the ground, although these furnaces range in price from $12,000 - $20,000 each.

“This is more of a product for people with a lot of money,” said McBride.

Forwards Energy Manager Jerry Nelson explains that to heat an average sized home each winter requires about 800 gallons of propane, which he estimates will cost slightly over $2,000 dollars. As propane is made up of 50% oil, it goes hand-in-hand with the price of oil.

“Propane has steadily been going up in price,” Nelson said. “Which is why we have our ‘Stay Warm, Save Energy’ program.”

The Forwards’ Energy program is a type of green push that informs consumers of different ways to help preserve the use of their propane. Making sure windows are caulked properly, changing air filters, using programmable thermostats and turning down the water heater are several of the ideas expressed in the manual says Nelson.

“Are we shooting ourselves in the foot here,” asks Nelson. “Probably, but we’re (everyone) in kind of new territory here and we don’t want chaos (over fuel prices).”

Although a lot of people are looking to remodel green this year, some consumers are just looking for cost-efficient products.

According to Sam Miscisin, part owner of Miscisin Brothers Incorporated, his customers don’t care about high efficiency appliances.

“They (customers) just want the cheapest product they can get by on,” Miscisin said. “Wood stoves are the most popular fall home improvement item right now, corn burners are on the back burner.”

While green remodeling is good for a number of reasons, it might not be possible for some people as it can be quite expensive, upfront, to install.

According to www.home.altenergystore.com, an online store specializing in alternative energy products, energy efficient items such as solar panels can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 each while an advanced lighting controller can cost up to $150. Even the simple replacement of one double-hung window costs at least $200, for the window alone, according to www.andersenwindows.com.

So while many consumers may be “thinking green” this fall, many consumers may not be “going green” due to the poor economy, gas prices and many other plausible reasons.

Top ten fall home improvement list provided by www.ConstructionOwl.com:

1. Kitchen & bath remodeling—Since the kids are back in school, a major remodel at this time of the year is less disruptive to the family. A one-room project can easily be finished before the holidays arrive.

2. Roof repair/replacement—Be proactive and prevent emergency—and expensive—repairs. Find out about common trouble spots and ask your contractor how you can locate a leak from inside.

3. Install a fireplace—Many homeowners dreaming of chestnuts roasting on an open fire will make that dream a reality this season. Ask your contractor about all the options available in fireplaces.

4. Have interior rooms painted—Painting instantly freshens up a room and can even change its look and feel. It’s best to start interior paint jobs while it’s still warm enough to leave windows open.

5. Replace carpets—If you’ve ever smelled carpet glue you’d agree that a replacement is also a great project to complete while it’s still warm enough to leave windows open.

6. Install indoor & outdoor lighting—Indoor lighting adds an aspect of style to a home, and outdoors it can add an element of safety by lighting up a dark walkway or entry door.

7. Insulate the attic—Insulating the attic is an excellent way to keep a home’s heating and cooling where it is meant to be—inside the home.

8. Replace windows—Poor quality or older windows are often a leading cause of high heating and cooling bills, so replacing them is another way to keep a home’s heating and cooling inside.

9. Mount closet/garage organization systems—A great idea for the homeowner who wants to get the home organized before the holiday hoopla sets in.

10. Replace gutters—Leaking gutters cause interior structural damage and the constant moisture promotes mold and mildew growth, so gutter replacement can save a homeowner from costly repairs in the future.

Avoiding Home Improvement Scams

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers homeowners these top ten warning signs that a home improvement contractor may not be reputable:

1. You can't verify the name, address, telephone number or credentials of the remodeler.

2. The salesperson tries to pressure you into signing a contract.

3. The salesperson tells you a special price is available only if you sign the contract “today."

4. No references are furnished.

5. Information you receive from the contractor is out-of-date or no longer valid.

6. You are unable to verify the license or insurance information.

7. You are asked to pay for the entire job in advance, or to pay in cash to a salesperson instead of by check or money order to the company itself.

8. The company cannot be found in the telephone book, is not listed with the local Better Business Bureau, or with a local trade association, such as NARI.


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