You know the basics of green living at home: Screw in some compact fluorescent bulbs, lower the temperature on your thermostat. But if you're thinking of renovating, here are 10 ways to turn your home into an earth-friendly paradise.
1. Redoing your kitchen? Stay away from cupboards made of pressed woods, which are often bound with carcinogenic formaldehyde (headache-inducing stuff that could release fumes into your home for years). Same goes for any wood furnishings in your house. Ikea's furniture and kitchen gear is considered virtually formaldehyde-free. And 20 per cent of their wooden stuff is certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council.
2. Jazz up your home with gorgeous eco-friendly floors made with bamboo, cork or wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. If you're hooked on carpeting, look into lines with high recycled content by Milliken, Interface or Beaulieu, but note that pollutants have been found to lodge themselves into carpet fibres with time. Make sure to vacuum often.
3. There's no point in home renovating if you're going to let all that heated or air-conditioned air escape from every nook and cranny of your home, especially when draftproofing your home properly will mean your power bills will decrease by at least 20 per cent. Pull out a caulking gun and weatherstrips and seal up doors, windows, electrical sockets and baseboards. Boost the insulation in your attic, crawlspaces, basement and walls. Look into getting an energy audit from a pro to help identify leaks.
4. Furnace more than 20 years old? You'll actually save yourself some cash in the long run if you buy a new Energy Star model, since they're about 20 to 30 per cent more efficient than your old beater -- especially considering about 60 per cent of your home's hydro bills go to running these things. If you've got a dirty oil furnace, it's time to switch to cleaner natural gas. And don't forget to clean or change your furnace filter monthly in colder months.
5. Ditch old crumbly couches, mattresses and pillows filled with dangerous fire retardants in favour of PBDE-free stuff (Ikea's been PBDE-free since 2002).
Page 1 of 2 -- Is it time to get rid of old appliances? Find the answer, plus more great advice on eco-friendly renovating on page 2
6. Trade in your old power-leaching appliances in favour of a new Energy Star models. A certified fridge, for instance, uses 40 per cent less energy than regular ones sold in 2001 -- a good thing considering 20 per cent of your energy bills go to keeping your milk cold and your ice frozen.
7. Sure, they let in nice light, but windows can leak about 25 per cent of your home's heat in winter and let in about 40 per cent of summer's suffocating temps. Keep your house comfy with a set of new low-E Energy Star windows and skylights. While you're shopping, get some good cellular blinds for extra window insulation.
8. It may pretty up your pad but that fresh coat of paint is also filling your home with polluting volatile organic compounds. Make sure to use low-VOC paints, available at major paint retailers like Benjamin Moore.
9. Keeping your showers steamy and your dishes clean swallows up a lot of hot water. In fact, a quarter of your power bill goes to heating up all that H2O. Why not tap into the warmth of the sun's rays and get a solar hot water heater? For a few grand you can get a good vacuum-tube model that's really efficient at harnessing those solar rays, even in the depths of Canadian winters. If your budget's tight, tankless hot-water heaters are a super-efficient option and will cost you about a grand.
10. Renovations draining your wallet? Stop in at one of the 50 Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores across the country. They're like thrift shops for building supplies full of secondhand, donated or discontinued lumber, sinks, doors, windows, chandeliers, tiles, mantles, even nails, hooks and knobs for about half the retail price. You'll save a couple bucks and help keep bulky building supplies out of the landfill at the same time. Plus, all the money you spend goes to building homes for the less fortunate. Happy renovating!
For more tips and eco-friendly products, don't miss Adria Vasil's book Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Products, Information and Services in Canada.
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