Green Remodeling: How to Make Your Renovation Project More Energy Efficient

By Dona DeZube

Saving energy wasn't on the list of reasons we're finally ripping out the kitchen in our mid-century home (green-veined, imitation marble laminate countertops figured much more prominently). But a session at the recent 2012 Remodeling Show in Baltimore clued me in as to why adding a few simple tasks to our remodeling plan could lower our home's energy bill, get rid of some of the annoying hot and cold spots in our house, and make our home less hospitable to mold and other allergens.

Need Home Renovation Tips? Check Out AOL Real Estate's Home Improvement Guide

Carl Seville, author of "Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction," shared some simple, inexpensive ways to make remodels and additions more energy efficient from the standpoint of energy usage and conservation of resources.

Try these eight tips from Seville:

1. Check for water intrusion, condensation, and excess moisture before you begin the project. Fixing those issues during remodeling can improve your home's indoor air quality (excess moisture encourages mold).

2. Use the least amount of framing allowed by your building code when adding walls. Not only will you have to pay for less lumber and fewer nails, the contractor will have more room to put insulation in your walls, making your home more energy efficient.

3. Resist the urge to splurge on multiple shower heads. Opt for a single low-flow shower head rather than installing a car wash-style plethora of shower heads.

4. If possible, add new HVAC ducts to parts of your home that are heated and cooled, rather than placing them in a space with unconditioned air (like the attic). If that's not possible, insulate the ducts. Have an HVAC diagnostician analyze your system to make sure it's sized correctly and balanced to properly exchange old and new air.

5. Be sure to insulate around recessed lights that protrude into uninsulated attic spaces - these are major sources of air leaks.

6. If you're wasting water, you're wasting energy. Look at high-efficiency or solar water heaters, and insulate your water pipes. If you want hot water faster, move the water heater closer to the faucet or install demand pumps to drive hot water to the fixture.

7. Install wall-mounted efficiency toggle switch plates for the outlets where you plug in your televisions and computers to make it easy to cut off the power to electronics you're not using.

8. A humidistat that automatically turns on the bathroom fan when moisture rises beats depending on teenagers or tenants remembering to use the fan. Reducing bathroom moisture reduces the chances you'll have mold.

When I pull the kitchen cabinets off the wall, I'm going to use caulk to seal between the wallboards and the floorboards before I put down new flooring and install the new cabinets. And since I'll have the caulk out, I'm going to seal the top of the window trim, something my home's builder didn't do.

This article was originally published on HouseLogic.

See more on HouseLogic:
A Guide to Insulation Types
How to Store Summer Bulbs During Winter
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Green Remodeling: How to Make Your Renovation Project More Energy Efficient
Whether you give your kitchen a new look with a few tasteful upgrades or rip it out and start over, being creative where you cook is the key.We asked kitchen remodeling and design pros for examples of what can be done, and at what cost. Here are six projects that cost between $37,000 and $100,000. For each kitchen, we show a BEFORE and AFTER view, with details of the work done and the materials and appliances used.
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BEFORE: This outdated kitchen in Sacramento, Calif, needed more than a face-lift. The counter height and lack of space made it nearly impossible for the resident, who used a wheelchair, to prepare a meal.
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PRICE: $75,000

Designer: Darius Baker, an award winning California contractor

AFTER: The widened doorways, lower counters and open floor plan make this kitchen highly accessible. There are roll-out shelves, lazy susans, and a sink that is wheelchair accessible. The finishing touches: stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.
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BEFORE: As part of an addition onto the back of the house, the homeowner wanted a bigger kitchen with a breakfast area. This Houston (Tex.) home was built as a 1930s-style English Cottage, and the homeowner felt the kitchen wasn't reflective of the home's original design.
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PRICE: $100,000
Designer: William L. Shaw Jr., Winner of 5 Texas 2007 Star Awards for kitchen design
AFTER: By adding space, the kitchen area was truly transformed. New cabinetry, granite counter tops and layout make the kitchen feel more organized and functional. This was an expensive renovation, but some of the stainless steel appliances were reused, and the original oak floor planking was restored.
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BEFORE: The homeowners of this kitchen in Tallahassee (Fla.) wanted a complete overhaul. Besides the washer and dryer being located in the kitchen, the 1960's feel and layout left much to be desired.
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PRICE: $37,000
Designer: Rachel + Michael Stiles, owners of Kitchen Solvers
AFTER: By arranging the kitchen against the far wall, thereby flipping the layout, this renovation gained a lot of space. New cabinets and Corian countertops complete the picture, making for an attractive, economical overhaul.The tile floors, backsplash, and new appliances added a more modern element.
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