When remodeling a home, those projects that improve energy-efficiency should be considered high priority. Over the long-term, these improvements not only pay for themselves with reduced utility bills, but they make the house more comfortable and healthier to live in. Most notably, projects that deal with energy efficiency also impact indoor air quality. Indoor air quality can’t be taken for granted and can have a major impact on a family’s health. For example, hidden mold spores in the home can trigger a variety of illnesses from asthma to a host of mycotoxin-related illnesses.
Before remodeling a home, especially an older one, an energy assessment (home energy audit) should be performed by an experienced, licensed contractor. A home energy audit determines how much energy your home is currently consuming and recommends energy efficiency improvements.
While there are a variety of projects that improve energy efficiency, none are more important than the interrelated elements of air sealing, insulation, moisture control and ventilation. Although not as noticeable as many other remodeling projects, at the end of the day, the proper balance of these elements is what really counts. A home with good air quality and efficient temperature regulation is a home that is comfortable and healthy to live in. Always make sure to use a licensed and insured home remodeling contractor.
Air sealing is one of the most significant energy efficiency improvements you can make. When air sealing an existing home, you must detect air leaks as well as assess ventilation needs for indoor air quality. A good professional contractor looks at airflow not as an uncontrolled phenomenon to be avoided, but at a critical and essential function to be managed. The objective in proper air sealing is to improve comfort, reduce heating bills, and most importantly, make the indoor air healthier and safer. The traditional air sealing techniques of weather stripping and caulking is used much less extensively today as contractors become more skilled in finding better options. More air can be stopped elsewhere for less money and air moving through doors and windows is less harmful that air traveling through cavities depositing condensation. The best opportunities for reducing air leakage are at the top and bottom of the house.
Once your home is properly sealed, the next improvement to reduce your energy bills is by adding more insulation. A qualified home energy auditor will include an insulation check as a routine part of a whole-house energy assessment to find out where your home is, isn’t and should be insulated, the type of insulation, its R-value (the insulation’s resistance to heat flow) and depth of existing insulation. To improve the thermal resistance of exterior walls, there are variety of insulation materials including blanket insulation such as rolls or batts which are pre-cut insulation panels, foam board or rigid foam, and loose fill or sprayed insulation. Your contractor can help you decide those insulation materials that would work best for your home.
Moisture and Ventilation Control
The best strategy for moisture control depends on your climate and how your home is constructed. Here, in New Jersey with high relative humidity, moisture control is a serious issue. High humidity levels can lead to mold growth and structural damage to your home. Proper ventilation, the exchange of indoor air with outdoor air, is an integral component of a moisture control strategy. Proper ventilation reduces indoor pollutants, moisture, and odors. Excess moisture and inadequate ventilation can create a health hazard for your family. These factors can cause toxins, pollutants and gages to accumulate and nurture mold and dust mites making you and your family sick. There are now mechanical ventilation systems that measure the moisture content of outdoor and crawlspace air and only provides ventilation when the outdoor air is drier than crawlspace air.
Older space conditioning systems are often unreliable and much less efficient that a modern system. When it’s time for a new replacement, choosing the correct size is critical to getting the best efficiency, comfort, and lowest maintenance and operating costs. Some national surveys have determined that well over half of all HVAC installations are not sized correctly. Most commonly, oversized equipment is installed.
Oversized equipment forces the system to operate inefficiently. It breaks down more often and costs more to operate not to mention the new system costing more to begin with. Oversized heating equipment often creates uncomfortable and large temperature swings in the house while oversized air conditioners do not run long enough to dehumidify the air resulting in that “clammy” feeling and unhealthy mold growth in many air conditioned houses.
Designed for water conservation, HE toilets use an average of 20% less water per flush than the industry standard of 1.6 gallons saving close to 9000 gallons of water annually for a family of four
Energy-Efficient Windows, Doors, and Skylights
Installing energy-efficient windows, door and highlights can go a long way toward lowering a home’s heating, cooling, and lighting costs. Window technology has evolved over the years. Your home remodeling contractor can determine the best windows for energy efficiency based on your home’s design such as window orientation.
Solar Hot Water
Solar water heating systems generate hot water for your home with free solar fuel. Solar water heaters can be active or passive. Active systems have pumps and controls. The two types of active heating systems are direct circulation systems used in moderate climates and indirect circulation systems for harsher climates. Indirect systems circulate a non-freezing heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and a heat exchanger. Heat exchanges transfer solar energy absorbed in the solar collectors to the liquid or air used to heat water or a space. The two basic passive systems are integral collector-storage passive systems and thermosyhon systems. Passive systems are typically less expensive, but not as efficient. Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. There are three types of residential solar collectors: flat-plate collectors. Integral collector-storage (ICS) or batch systems, and evacuated-tube solar collectors, Solar systems generally have back-up water heating for cloudy days and times of increased demand.
Eco-friendly flooring that lead the market are recycled flooring from old structures. Old wood can be given new life as recycled wood flooring made from salvaged boards or trees that have been re-milled. Since this wood came from old growth forests, it is often harder, denser, and more attractive in appearance than new wood growth. Specialty recyclers glean reusable hardwoods such as chestnut, hickory, cherry, and oak from old houses and other structures slated for demolition. Another attractive alternative is renewable flooring from fast-growing trees such as bamboo.
Many homeowners enjoy the natural lighting that skylights provide. However, skylights often do not distribute light evenly, are a significant source of energy loss, and can cause UV damage to carpets and furniture. Tubular skylights use the sun for lighting interiors without the drawbacks associated with conventional skylights. They are generally easier to install than typical skylights and, from the home’s interior, resemble conventional lighting fixtures.
When it comes to kitchen remodeling in New Jersey, there is an increasing demand for smaller, more budget-conscious kitchens with a heavy emphasis on style and universal designs. Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, tightened lending standards, consumer frugality, and increase in single households are all factors.
- Consolidated Activity. A major kitchen remodeling trend is coordinating multiple functions into the kitchen area. Laundry rooms, dining rooms, and home office space are increasingly being absorbed into the kitchen/great room realm. Space-saving solutions include banquette seating, hideaway laundry appliances and small, built-in workspaces with kitchen-side desks.
- Universal Design. The kitchen design should be accessible to everyone, older homeowners, kids, tall or short adults, and individuals with limited mobility. This means easy to reach appliances and kitchen work surfaces and storage areas of varying heights. The microwave should be put in an easily accessible position for kids rather than the microwave/hood combo configuration.
- Focused Luxury. Pick and choose luxuries strategically; every kitchen remodeling project should have at least one special design feature without breaking the bank such as eye-catching backsplashes, plate racks, or glass cabinet doors.
- Maximize space. With high home prices per foot in New Jersey, especially in Red Bank, Rumson, West Long Branch and other prime Northern Jersey Shore areas , New Jersey kitchen remodeling contractors uniformly agree that kitchens have to work smarter and harder to get the most functionality out of its square footage. Volume space should be maximized with skinny, vertical pantries, pull-out cabinets, and wine cubbies that fill odd cavities. Horizontal lines, lighter finishes, and mirrored backsplashes help “grow the space.”
- Think Green. Have a professional New Jersey contractor perform a home energy audit. You will be amazed at the efficiencies from installing Energy Star appliances and Water Sense-rated plumbing fittings. Countertops from recycled materials and other eco-friendly products in their raw state tend to cost less and do not produce off-gassing (evaporation of volatile chemicals found in new products).
- Traditional Style. Stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and hardwood floors are tried and true favorites.
- Good Lighting. Layered lighting for practical usage and visual effect including a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting. Decorative light fixtures also supplement a room’s overall brightness and help carry forth a theme.
- Attention to Detail. In a smaller kitchen, attention to detail is more important. Smaller spaces are less forgiving. Refrigerators and other appliances should run flush with cabinet faces to maintain clean lines. Outlets and endings are also important in a small space. Concealing and pop-up outlets should be considered to not interrupt the kitchen patterns.