Install a programmable thermostat to control the temperature in your home. Turn it down at night and when you are away. Even a one-degree decrease will make a difference on your energy bill.
Recently, I held a seminar on Green Building & Universal Design Concepts. I spent a lot of time talking about “Greenwashing.” Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that involves making exaggerated, false or misleading claims about a product or service to suggest to the consumer that the product or service is “green”.
Lately, every time I open a magazine or newspaper I see another “green” remodeling company. Where are they coming from? I’ll tell you where… They are coming from the economic slow-down putting many out of work, especially in the construction trades. Now, we have laid-off carpenters who are suddenly remodeling contractors. We have custom homebuilders who don’t have enough (or any) new home construction, so are diving into the remodeling pool. And they’re all GREEN – just ask them.
Why is all of this troubling? Because, despite popular belief, remodeling is much more difficult than building a new house. It requires a whole different skill set. Just because someone can frame up a house doesn’t mean they’re qualified to tackle a remodeling project – just as someone who claims to be “green” and can spout some obscure statistics, isn’t necessarily “green.”
So how can you be sure you’re selecting the right professional? Do your homework. Contact several contractors. Ask them the right questions:
1. How long have you been remodeling homes?
2. Are you licensed and insured?
3. Can you provide references for me to contact?
4. What projects have you recently completed?
(I’ve been in business for almost ten years and through countless remodeling and building projects, I have only had a few clients ask for references and only one who ever called any of them – go figure.)
Ask yourself a few questions, too:
1. Can we work with this individual? Did we click?
2. Did the contractor(s) appear to share our vision?
3. Were they enthusiastic about our project or did they just answer our questions?
Next, be prepared by having enough information for the contractor to quote your project accurately. You may not know exactly what you want or what specific materials are available, but certain basics will help. Use the “Good, Better, Best” method; i.e., do you want to use good materials, better materials or the best materials? The cost difference can be huge.
Upon meeting with a few contractors and getting some ballpark prices you should have enough information to make an intelligent decision. Carefully compare apples-to-apples, including what each proposes to do, what materials they propose to use, and the estimated costs. Look for the best value for your money, not just the lowest price. When was the last time you went out to dinner and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu knowing it really wasn’t what you wanted? The lowest price doesn’t usually equal the best value. Remember, this is your home, the single largest financial investment you will ever make. Choose wisely.
After some preliminary research, we purchased and moved 5 of the Phil-Moor Cottages to commercial property we already owned on Route 16 at the eastern edge of Ellendale. Our plan was to create a Village on Main Street filled with artists and artisans that could rent a cottage for a very reasonable amount and use it as a studio/retail space to sell their work. Everything was looking good until DelDOT got involved and started talking about studies and improvements. To make a long story short, the project was no longer financially feasible for us. Now what? We certainly weren’t going to throw the cottages into a landfill!
One day driving through Ellendale I spotted a small building lot for sale. It was on a nice quiet street and had a very large old tree on the property. I thought, I can take several of these cottages, put them together and create a bungalow style house. I pictured how it could look finished, with rocking chairs on a front porch just like the good ol’ days on Rehoboth Avenue, and the more I thought about it, the more perfect a plan it was. So, Kathy and I purchased the lot, I produced the site and floor plans, began the renovation and the cottage house is now complete.
What’s this have to do with green, you ask? Remember the 3 Rs:
REDUCE – We kept 38,000 pounds of building materials out of the landfill. (I know because the crane had a scale).
REUSE – We reused almost everything, preserved all of the trim, original doors, hardware, windows and even the hardwood floors.
RECYCLE – We recycled everything we could, all the old wiring, all the aluminum and metal trim, everything recyclable.
With an extremely efficient floor plan designed for today’s lifestyle, we turned 3 very small cottages into the largest 800 square foot home you’ll ever see. And finally, we utilized some of today’s technology to make the home more energy efficient, including closed cell spray foam and blown in insulation, as well as a 13-SEER energy efficient Carrier heat pump.
Was it worth all this time and effort? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and quicker to build a new house? Perhaps, but I challenge you to find a better built and more enduring home than this for it’s listing price of $159,900! So remember, whether it’s a sophisticated solar array or simply not tearing something down, there really are many shades of green.
If you have more details about the history of the Phil-Moor cottages, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to know more, and to keep this story alive.
My wife Kathy and I had the opportunity to hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., speak at a convention in Atlantic City. He has an amazing grasp of the facts and spoke for an hour and a half without looking at a single note!
Since then I have been avidly reading his latest book “Crimes Against Nature”. He clearly demonstrates how we really could become energy self-sufficient within a few years at a cost far below what we are being told. When I finish the book, I’ll post more detailed thoughts on what we all can be doing right now to save energy and money.
The best time to incorporate Green Energy is when your home is being designed and built; this makes sense when you think about it. When you apply all of today’s green technologies and design technology from the beginning, you will end up with a well-built, well-insulated, energy efficient home. For example, simpy siting the home on your lot properly will save energy. The right home design in the right location will make a solar energy system more feasible and cost effective.
I am a certified installer of Sharp Solar energy products. Only state licensed contractors who complete Sharp’s training program and pass their comprehensive exam may be certified to install Sharp Solar energy systems. As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) I have found growing interest in Green Energy among those who want to remain in their own home and live independently as they age. With soaring energy costs and attractive state grants available in Delaware, solar energy systems are beginning to make sense in residential neighborhoods.
The Delaware Energy Office’s (DEO) Green Energy Program offers grants for the installation of solar electric or solar thermal systems. Qualifying solar energy systems are eligible to receive grants up to 50% of the total qualified installed costs. In order to qualify for these grants, the solar system must be installed by a certified installer in accordance with the standards and specification of the manufacturer and in accordance with all applicable electrical, plumbing and building codes.