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Home Handyman

Think Green Next Time You Turn Household Handyman

By Terry

So you think you're quite the handyman, do you? Just because your spouse remarks at how well you've fixed this or mended that doesn't mean there isn't room for improving those hard-earned handyman skills.

Yes, you can literally build on that deftness by turning from conventional handyman to conservationist handyman. That is, by going green you not only can enhance your home for your family but also for the environment. This column can guide you as a "green" handyman resource to help you impress your significant other again.

Becoming a greener family handyman doesn't mean, as a matter of course, that you're way is not good. A great deal of DIY projects in combination with greener, more sustainable and eco-friendlier methods often result in the finest of renovations. Anytime you can integrate personal knowledge with resources on going green, you've taken a step in the right direction. Getting the environmental-friendly ball rolling, so to speak, makes others aware of the importance of a greener home too.

Here are some quick tips to give an eco-friendly helping hand to those handyman hands:

  • Install Ceiling Fan Timers: Before you skip this simple trick, read on. Use those ceiling fans in the winter to help bring heated air back to lower (people) levels. Additionally, install a sensor to the plug-in so that the fan will shut off when no one is around. Or, a timer switch might be cheaper and work just as well.

  • Install Hot Water Heater Timer: It is said that 25% of each energy dollar goes to heat household water. If your water heater is electric, use the same timer system as above. You can then choose to have your water heated in the morning and then at night.

  • Recirculate Unheated Water: There are likely thousands of gallons of water wasted annually: It simply runs down the drain as we wait on the hot water. The next time you're fiddling under the sink, affix a recirculation pump. These nifty gizmos collect the unheated water before it comes out the spout. The water is redirected back to the water heater. Smart concept isn't it?

  • Insulate Water Pipes: If you do not live somewhere where winter is particularly biting, then you may have never thought of insulating your hot water pipes. Simply insulation can keep pipes warmer, reducing heating time and therefore saving energy (and money). You can even buy 110-volt heated tape if you endure colder winters. You can also insulate your hot water heater, whether it’s in the open or behind a closet door.

  • Rock Your Toilet: Undoubtedly you won't physically rock your toilet. It means to fill a large water bottle with pebbles or rocks. Put this in the back of your toilet to displace water, meaning you'll use less water with each flush. Though this is more of a hint rather than a handyman tip, this going green pointer is a proven resource to save water and money. And, it's super cheap!

  • Insert New Weather Strip: Cold, winter drafts constantly fight the thermostat in your house. Even if you don't turn it up, the thermostat will kick ON more often because of cooler temperatures. Insert new weather stripping around windows and doors to keep Mr. Winter from creeping in through nooks and crannies.

    These are all relatively inexpensive ideas and easy projects for most handymen - are you going green from now on?

    Top 10 Green Home Improvement Projects

    By Amanda Quraishi

    There are plenty of new and exciting resources for going green around the house, particularly as you begin new home improvement projects. Regardless of the type of project you choose, keep in mind that all construction should be done with an effort to avoid excess waste in the transportation and use of materials. Also, make sure you know what you're doing! A little research to begin with will save you time, money, and help prevent mistakes that will cause waste, damage, or injury.

    1. Heating and Cooling System

    An outdated heater, air conditioner, or water heater can rack up enormous bills and use ghastly amounts of energy. Newer, cleaner running, environmentally friendly models are made to conserve energy and while it make be expensive to replace these systems to begin with, in the long run you are saving. Also, make sure you have plenty of air filters so that your heating and cooling systems can run at the optimal levels at all times. You can also check to make sure your home is insulated, and the doors and windows are sufficiently sealed.

    2. Energy

    The modern home has hundreds of electrical appliances which are left open and running for most of the day. Older models of refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens can be incredibly inefficient. New "Energy Star" appliances are made to use the least amount of electrical energy possible in order to accomplish their jobs. Again, it can be costly to replace these items initially, but the final result will be an increase in savings--financially and environmentally. Lights, ceiling fans, and lamps can be changed to more efficient models. Maybe even try smaller environmentally friendly appliances - do your really need such a large refrigerator. Don't forget to buy energy saving light bulbs--one of the least expensive and best ways to save energy around the house!

    3. Flooring

    If you're going to replace your flooring, do as much research as you can. Carpet is one of the least healthy alternatives you can choose due to its tendency to collect unhealthy dust, pollen and molds. Unless you have installed environmentally friendly, natural fiber or recycled carpeting it will also gives off toxic gasses for years after installation. Newer, green flooring options include bamboo flooring (a highly renewable resource), stained concrete, and laminate wood flooring (made to look like wood, but without killing trees!).

    4. Cabinetry

    When replacing the cabinets in your home, there are new options that do not use formaldehyde, give off VOC (volatile organic compounds), or use unnecessary natural resources. Make sure you do research and talk to your carpenter about the going green options you have when getting new cabinets made and installed.

    5. Countertops

    Countertops are one of the fastest ways to change the appearance of a kitchen. When you decide to replace yours, look for green alternative resources such as counters made from recycled glass or paper, bamboo, concrete, or ceramic tile.

    6. Paints

    Most commercial paints give off VOC's for years after they are applied. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that are used in making certain products which dissipate as gasses into your home, sometimes for years. Look for low-VOC or non-VOC paints, which may be in limited supply in your area. You may need to do some research online to find a supplier who can provide these to you--but if you're going to live every day in your home with these fumes, it is worth the extra effort to find the healthiest options for you and your family.

    7. Tiles

    Tiles can be a wonderful way to add color and beauty to your home. There are many eco-friendly tile options including those made from recycled wood, glass, and metal. They can be incorporated in to almost any room in your house, and are an excellent use of recyclables and renewable resources.

    8. Décor

    There are literally millions of options for home décor to suit your individual tastes: rugs, lamps, art, and textiles. By far, the majority of these items are manufactured in ways that use excessive resources, synthetic petroleum-based materials, and unethical labor practices. Be a responsible consumer and look at every item you buy for your home to see if it is sustainable, green, and ethical before you support its creation with your hard-earned money.

    9. Stains and Sealants

    Similar to paints, stains and sealants can give off VOC's. Look for products that are based with water, soy, or natural oils and that have low or no volatile organic compounds in them.

    10. Xeriscape

    Xeriscape is a form of landscaping that optimizes your water use. It literally means "Dry Landscape", but it isn't full of rocks and cacti. Xeriscape can be as lush and green as any other yard, but with intelligent design techniques and wise use of resources, you'll have a much more environmentally friendly garden that requires little or no regular water!

    Upscale Goes Green: Homeowners Focus Increasingly on Sustainable Energy, Renewable Building Materials

    By Aldene Fredenburg

    A quiet revolution is going on in the real estate sector. Many successful professionals are putting considerable money into building their own dream homes, and many of those professionals are choosing to build according to green principles.

    Perhaps the first decision these new homeowners face is how to heat and cool their homes. Before even considering what sort of heating and cooling system they will choose, they need to decide on a design and materials for the exterior structure. Alternative building methods including rammed earth, straw bale, and flying concrete construction feature thick walls, often over a foot thick, which conserve heat in the winter and keep the home cool in the summer. Some homeowners are even opting for subterranean dwellings, using the natural insulating quality of the earth to lessen their need for additional heating. Even when opting for conventional wood structures, homeowners are choosing the latest insulation materials, which offer optimal heat conservation with little to no outgassing of toxic fumes.

    Energy-conserving heating systems, some of which create radiant heat from hot water pumped through pipes beneath the floors, save on energy; passive solar construction - homes with south-facing exposure and large windows - allows the sun to warm the home. Solar panels provide electricity for lights and electrical appliances, and gray water systems recycle used water for additional use in the home. Some homeowners in colder climates opt for wood- or wood-pellet-burning furnaces rather than the conventional oil furnace, installing modern furnaces designed to minimize emissions.

    Green-building homeowners and more and more developers opt for natural and sometimes man-
    made materials created from renewable resources, materials which do not expose residents to health risks. Vinyl, which is infamous for outgassing toxic fumes, is rejected in favor of safer materials; hardwood flooring, much of it harvested from old-growth forests, is replaced with materials like bamboo, and cork, two renewable materials providing two very different, attractive looks in flooring.

    Those not in the position to design and build their own home still have the option of “greening” an existing home, using a wealth of safe, nontoxic natural materials. Conventional plywood, which is manufactured using urea formaldehyde, can be replaced with a number of new, safer materials, including “Plyboo,” created from bamboo. Kiln-fired clay tiles, wood from sustainable forests, natural, safe interior and exterior paints, and a host of other materials help create a clean, healthy home environment.

    Building and renovating green currently costs more than using conventional materials; some green builders estimate the difference at about 15 percent. However, recently wood prices have soared, and increasing transportation costs due to the rising cost of gasoline and diesel has impacted the price of building materials, so the difference in cost between conventional and green building may well even out. As it stands now, increasing numbers of prospective homeowners are willing to pay a premium for a home made of attractive, sustainable, and healthy building materials.

    About the Author

    Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire. She has published numerous articles in local and regional publications. She may be reached at

    Going Green With Replacement Windows

    By Travis Guilbeau

    As the cost of energy continues to rise, more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their power bill and be conscious of the environment at the same time. While turning off the lights, using Energy Star appliances, and wearing an extra sweater instead of turning up the heat are all great ways to save energy, installing windows that are energy efficient is another great way to reduce your power bill and help out the environment.

    But which windows are energy efficient, cost effective, and come in enough different styles that will fit the décor of your home? Here’s a quick overview of some windows that will help cut down on the cost of heating and cooling your home, will look great installed in your home, and won’t cost a bundle to have installed.

  • Maxuus 10 Glass System

    When it comes to top of the line windows, the Maxuus 10 Glass System really does take the cake. This triple pane assembly filled with krypton gas does an amazing job of looking great in your home while keeping your home running at energy efficient levels. The combination of the triple pane construction and krypton gas has resulted in a window that is nearly 10 times more energy efficient than a traditional single pane window.

    The key to this replacement window is the low emittance glass that keeps your house warm in the winter by trapping radiant heat, and keeps you cool in the spring and summer by blocking that same radiant heat from entering your home. When combined with an Advanced Easy-Clean system that cuts cleaning time in half, there’s a reason that the Maxuus 10 Glass System is a leading replacement window for those looking for a green solution to their energy bill.

  • PlyGem Lifestyles Windows

    Designed with heavy duty weather stripping to prevent air infiltration and high density insulation filled frames to prevent thermal transfer, the PlyGem Lifestyles replacement window is a great option when it’s time to replace your windows and lower your energy bill all at the same time. Built to reduce condensation, enhance sound control, and provide ultraviolet protection, the PlyGem vinyl replacement windows also come with a lifetime warranty against seal failure and glass breakage that can be transferred to future owners of your home - a great way to decrease your energy bill and increase your home’s value.

    With windows that will work with all the rooms in your house, including a four season sunroom, the PlyGem Lifestyles Windows are a great choice to lower your energy bill while upgrading the look and feel of your home. What’s not to like about replacement windows that come in a variety of colors, decorative grids, and sizes?

  • Cut the Cost, Not the Look

    When it really comes down to it, getting replacement windows for your home is all about finding the delicate balance between the cost of the windows, the look of the windows, and the amount of money the new windows will save you on your energy bill. There are plenty of windows out there that can save you money on your energy bill, but they either aren’t the best looking windows, or they cost so much to buy and have installed that you don’t end up saving any money even in the long run.

    The Maxuus 10 Glass System and the PlyGem Lifestyle Windows offer that delicate balance of energy efficiency, affordability, and a great appearance that will enhance the look and feel of your home. The only thing to do is find a local company that carries them and have them installed so that you can start reaping the benefits of a lower energy bill.

    About the Author

    Travis Guilbeau works for Creative Energy of Richmond, VA.

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