Green Homeowners are spreading the word

The green home market is now a 2 billion dollar industry, according to McGraw-Hill Construction in market research presented at the recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Conference.

85% of green home owners are happier and more satisfied with their new green homes than they were with their old non-green homes. And the “green buzz” is strong – 28% of surveyed homeowners reported first hearing about the green home concept through friends and acquaintances.

The research also found that:

  • The new green homeowner is affluent and well educated, in his/her mid forties and married, and also more likely to be from the Southern or Western states. Women are also more likely to be green homeowners.
  • Home operating costs matter. 63% report lower operating and maintenance costs as the key motivation behind buying a green home. Additionally, nearly 50% report environmental concerns and family health as motivators.
  • Lack of awareness, higher costs, and scarcity lead obstacles. The top three obstacles, all hovering over 60% of respondents, were oriented around education, additional costs involved in green homes and the availability of the homes. However, when looking at the “biggest” obstacles, green homeowners view education as the biggest hurdle to overcome.

The research also indicated that homeowners have also been very active in green remodeling and renovating. 40% of actively renovating homeowners are doing so using green products or technologies, such as energy efficient windows.

McGraw Hill Construction Press Release.

NAHB Press Release.

When Green Products & Green Design Don’t Measure Up

Came across a post on AbbeyK’s on interior design blog that referred to this Interior Design Magazine article When Green Products Don’t Perform.

Non- or under-performing green product alternatives are a concern for every designer and specifier. I posed the issue to some of my colleagues and heard horror stories—bamboo flooring that comes apart in high traffic zones only after a couple of years, low odor and fast drying concrete sealers that do not adhere well and chip, scratch or stain easily, cork that fades relatively quickly under UV rays.

Failures such as these sour both the designer and client on green products and green design in general … we have found that it is incredibly important when a building is beginning its ‘journey’ towards sustainability that the first green products are successful.

My thought isn’t that this isn’t just a problem for designers, it’s a challenge for anyone interested in “going green” and promoting environmentally friendly alternatives. The green product is supposed to be “the good guy” – you want green products and green design to succeed. After all, you have to go out of your way to find and research green products, buy them, and usually pay more for them. Maybe you even tell your friends about them. To have them turn out to be a bust, well, it’s disillusioning.

So how do you prevent Green product failure?

The Interior Design article recommends you

  • Use green products in established categories and that have a track record
  • get “word of mouth” recommendations
  • request product testimonials from manufacturers
  • ensure proper installation & maintenance
  • try before you buy – ask for product samples
  • find a forum where green products are discussed, such as list serve Big Green

From personal experience and other research:

  • don’t use green alternatives where they won’t perform well
  • don’t go low end – “you get what you pay for”.

I would also suggest look for ratings and reviews on green products. If you are interested in trying green products, you are probably an early adopter and may well be the one writing these reviews … but they are out there if you look …

Do Blog Searches for products you want to try

You may stumble on a houseblogger who has tried it out and learned from the experience. Keywords to use would be the brand name and type of product. Then ask questions on the blog posts.

Visit Green Review Sites

The Green Home Guide offers editorial reviews on green products & services – “unbiased reviews and advice from professionals and homeowners like you”.

Five Limes – community / consumer reviews and ratings on green products and local stores and services.

Finally, back to the blog post that got me on this topic, AbbeyK makes a good point: if your green design product ends up in a landfill before it’s time, it “can end up not being green in the long run”.

Solar Powered Air Conditioner – the new Millenia

SolCool Millennia Air Conditioner thumbnail

SolCool has a new solar-powered air conditioner, the Millenia, to be released next month. Unlike some of its earlier “full system” two-ton offerings, the Millenia is a good replacement for a conventional window or portable unit for spot cooling.

Practical considerations. The Millenia It can run on power grids in either the US or UK. It weighs about 200 pounds and can be mounted on wheels for portability. It has both cooling and heating functions. It comes with a remote control and a 5 yr warranty.

Green considerations: It’s solar powered so it’s an energy saver. It does require some electricity but will keep going in a blackout, day or night: it can run on solar-charged battery power for up to 24 hours. It’s also a “water saver”: the condensate from the air conditioner can be routed to another SolCool product, the Aquacell, to produce filtered drinking water. What will they think of next?

From the SolCool website:

The version four SolCool has two DC compressors, (one DC compressor will be a heat pump) with on board batteries that will last up to 24 hours between charge cycles. The version four is a 1.5 ton package unit that has a three speed blower and is operated by temperature activated remote control. A two gallon, on board condensate management tank will temporarily hold unit condensation with the ability to pump the condensate to a detached reservoir, drain or an Aquacell bottled water cooler system for filtered drinking water.

The SolCool footprint is 24”x 24” at the base and 48” vertical. Vertical height can be reduced to 36” if the battery bank is remotely located. Weight with standard on board battery back up is approximately 200 pounds. The maximum draw at full engagement is less than 500 watts.

So it’s an energy saver – but at what cost? About $3000 + $500 for installation according to published reports.

What were zey sinking? SinkPositive for Water Conservation

SinkPositive

SinkPositive is a new kind of “multipurpose accessory sink” for your bathroom that helps you save & recycle water, promote hand washing, and more. It lives on your toilet bowl as pictured left. It’s also an easy DIY & green project because it works with your existing toilet and plumbing and you don’t have to be a plumber or engineer to install.

So it’s on the toilet eh? Where’s the water coming from? Rest assured the water is clean and comes directly from the water supply line. Flushing the toilet triggers water flow from the sink faucet so you can wash your hands. From there, the water drains into the toilet bowl (not the tank), if properly installed.

As noted, it starts and stops automatically after each flush. So no faucets to touch ( a features that germophobic TV detective Adrian Monk would love). Coming from a family of compulsive hand washers (both parents in the health professions) this is a big plus … well in other peoples homes anyway (kidding!).

Think different. Think green. Think clean. SinkPositive.

Found on the freshhome blog. Who found it on the Core 77 Design blog.

Ikea as the Mother of Invention

Came across an interesting blog the other day – ikeahacker. The challenge: take existing Ikea furniture, components or accessories and make them into something new. Each blog post features a new Ikea “hack”, either by the author or other Ikea fans.

The blog was started in

may 2006, i did a google search on ikea hacks and saw that there were so many wonderful ideas floating in the www. how great it would be if i could find them all in one place, i thought.
jules, the ikeahacker

Before: unassuming hemnes daybed

So he did. Projects range from the simple – transforming a roll of Ikea rationell drawer mat into a set of modern contemporary placemats and coasters to the complex.

After: cozy banquette for 2

Ikeahacker recently published its top ten and awards for 2006. The nominees ranged from using akurum kitchen wall cabinets to make a terrific sideboard to making sliding wardrobe doors into an ultra cool room divider.

Voted the best Ikea hack of 2006? The hemnes daybed turned banquette … wherein a mild-mannered daybed (above) is transformed into a cozy dining area for two (right).

Sometimes the hacks are about just making dodgy Ikea products actually work … there’s even a forum where you can ask other hackers for help. If you have a tip on “how to finally stop flimsy forby stools from wobbling”, ikeahacker would love to hear from you.

New time, money or energy saving products for your home

Interesting review of new products for your home from Newsday. Some I’ve seen, some I haven’t. The products highlighted are:

Read the full story 8 hot household helpers by Gary Dymski on Newsday.com

Keep your secrets safe

Electrical Outlet Secret Safe from Spyville

A new twist on home security, recently featured on Good Morning America. Hide your valuables in plain sight with a line of cool “secret safes” from Spyville.

Disguise your “family jewels” or other valuables as innocuous household products or items. A can of Dr. Pepper, a jar of peanut butter. A decorative candle. An electric outlet in the wall. All can be more than they appear … if you order from Spyville. According to the site …,

All of our hidden safes are made from actual name brand products. They look and feel real!

Prices range from about $20 to $50. Neato!

Other fab home security stuff you can buy: full video security systems, VCRs and DVRs, nanny cams.

They also sell things one hopes wouldn’t be needed in your neighbourhood – bug detectors, voice changers, night vision goggles. I think though you have to supply your own foil headgear …

Going Green at the Beach – Leading Edge Green Home

Can a “mortgage banker and green advocate” find happiness by giving up a life of luxury to go green? This news article says yes. Going Green at the Beach documents Dave & Anna Porter’s quest to build a cutting edge “Craftsman” green home in Snohomish County, Washington.

The Porters aim to meet the requirements of not one but all five existing residential green building certification programs:

thus making it a record setting and hopefully trend setting green home.

How is this home greener than the rest?

  • Original home deconstructed, saving 80% of original material from going to landfills
  • Doors, kitchen cabinets recycled from original home
  • Geothermal heat
  • Radiant floor heating system
  • Rainwater collection system
  • Tankless hot water with recirculation system

… among many other features. The full list is quite lengthy: they’ve obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the design.

One of the things that jumped out from the list is that it is a “modest-sized home on a small lot”. How is that special? Well for people who used to drive a “gas-gulping Jaguar” and have a “4,000-square-foot home”, this is progress. As noted in my previous post, buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US – small(er) is beautiful.

The demonstration home is an expensive proposition but lucky for the Porters, they’re not “going it alone”. They are being assisted in their quest by a team of professionals, have sponsors and a marketing team.

When the beach house is finished in the fall, the Porters plan to report on how efficiently it performs, right down to the utility bills. They also will open their doors for tours.

The site seems new, much of the content is under construction but looks promising. My only disappointment with the site: they promised green tips from the family dog and I couldn’t find any. Skipper, the “recycled dog”, looks really cute in his hard hat and tool belt. Maybe that’s coming later …

Renovations can kill your relationships

Interesting story from MarketWatch, Blood, sweat and tears: Use caution when tapping friends, family for home-improvement projects, about the pitfalls of having friends or family do your major renovations. A botched job can mean the end of a friendship and then some …

Rate Your Real Estate Agent

HomeThinking

Thinking of buying or selling a house? Homethinking.com can be helpful in selecting a real estate agent or broker. The site’s promise: “Know which agent sold what and what people said about the job they did.”

It aims to help consumers target the most active and the most recommended agents through a combination of consumer reviews and Homethinking.com’s ranking system. “The agents who do the most work usually get the better price …”
Niki Scevak on RealEstateJournal.com

Read the in-depth review by The Smart Surfer.

Please note that the site has been updated since the story was published late February – the data should be the same but the look and functionality have been revamped.

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