Try some of these products, systems and ideas to help green your space.
Whether you're building from scratch or merely renovating, consider these 17 opportunities to make your home more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
1. Consider metal siding and roofs which are maintenance free, last forever and can be recycled should the need ever arise.
2. Use insulating concrete forms (ICFs) to build the structure, because they're more energy efficient than typical concrete foundation walls and don't emit volantile organic compounds (VOCs).
3. Consider a closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional heating and air-conditioning systems.
4. Install radiant in-floor heating. Combined with a high-efficiency boiler, it eliminates the need for a gas-burning furnace. Stone floors are also cool underfoot in summer, reducing the need for air conditioning. Another option: polished concrete floors need little or no maintenance, will not off-gas like carpet or synthetics, and retain warmth or coolness.
5. Install solar panels on the roof for water heating. A high-efficiency gas boiler acts as a backup.
6. Consider a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) using exhaust air and earth tubes buried underground that pre-warm or pre-cool air before it enters the house. That equals less heat loss and cleaner air.
7. Invest in extra sealing and insulation to reduce heat loss.
8. Install high-performance windows and skylights to increase energy efficiency. Use lots of windows to take advantage of natural light, maximize airflow and reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling.
9. Opt for high-efficiency, Energy Star appliances including a front-loading washing machine and low-flow toilets. Dry clothes outdoors or on a ceiling-mounted drying rack.
10. Use paints and finishes with low VOCs and natural-fibre rugs (where rugs are used at all) to reduce off-gassing. Also, paint walls and ceilings white to let light bounce around, so lights are used less.
11. Go for wood beadboard walls as a green alternative to drywall, which is often treated with fire-retardant chemicals.
12. Use salvaged wood from barns or other structures as support beams, decorative accents and flooring to cut down on deforestation. Headboards and cabinets can also be crafted from salvaged antique doors to help reduce landfill.
13. Install an electricity consumption meter that shows exactly how much electricity is being used in terms of "cost per hour."
14. Choose native and locally-sourced materials, from flagstone to plants, requiring less transportation and therefore using less fuel and causing less pollution.
15. Go for landscaping that's designed to require little or no watering.
16. Install a programmable thermostat that automatically lowers the temperature at night and when no-one's home.
17. Buy compact fluorescent bulbs or low-wattage halogens.