In Part 2, we will evaluate heating & cooling options, appliances, faucets & fixtures and cabinets & countertops. Some of these categories have evolved over the last ten years to minimize their environmental impact.
Heating & Cooling
Living in the Northeast requires that homes have a functional heating system. In many of the older style homes, furnace are used. Furnaces can be gas powered or oil powered. A furnace is designed to call on its designated fuel source, burn it to create heat and distribute the heat throughout the house via a duct system. Most of the innovations in furnaces have come from gas fired furnaces.
Innovations have included exhaust heat exchangers, flame modulation and high efficiency blowers. Boilers burn oil, natural gas or propane to heat water. The heated water is then pumped through out the house to baseboard heaters, radiators or a radiant floor. High efficiency boilers have many of the same features of the high efficiency furnaces. They can be up to 50% more expensive, but those costs are gained back over time due to having to use less energy. One of the green systems that has gained a fair amount of traction over the last five years is geothermal systems. A geothermal system is a form of heat pump that transfers heat to and from the earth. An efficient geothermal heat pump is able to move three to five times more energy than it consumes. It can be used in both warm and cold climates.
Today most new appliances have the EnergyStar or EnergyGuide label. These designations indicate to consumers that the manufacturers of certain appliances are working to meet high efficiency standards without compromising performance. The appliances that put the most demand on energy resources are refrigerators, washers & dryers, dishwashers and cooktops & ovens. Refrigerators are always on, so they are the worse offender of energy consumption. Today’s refrigerators can be up to 75% more energy efficient than ones built just 15 years ago. Refrigerators also do a better job of storing food. There are compartments or bins in the new refrigerators that can regulate the humidity and air flow to help minimize spoilage. When it comes to washers and dryers, the important aspect for washers is water consumption and for dryers, it is electrical use. In fact, as of 2015, the Energy Star specifications for clothes dryers goes into effect. Washers can be loaded in two ways: top loaded or front loaded. Front loaded washers will use up to one third less water water than a top loaded washer and because of their design, they reduce the wear on clothes. They also save on electricity costs.
Dishwashers will consume a both a fair amount of water and electricity, because the dishwasher goes through a a few rinse cycles and it uses electricity to run its motors to heat the the water for more efficient cleaning. According to EnergyStar, dishwashers produced before 1994 typically use 10 gallons per more than modern units. The modern units will also provide an option for boosting the internal temperature for drying purposes or dial in an energy saving mode. Another factor for dishwashers is sound. Increased insulation and sound proofing has reduced the decibel level on most modern dishwashers. Cooktops & ovens can run off of electricity, natural gas and dual-fuel. One of the most significant innovations with stove tops is induction cooking. Induction cooking heats a cooking vessel by electrical induction, where only the heat gets transferred only to the metal. You could place your hand on the surface of an induction stove set it on high and you would not receive a burn.
Faucets & Fixtures
The Ultimate Bath Store is all about faucets and fixtures and their trained sales consultants are by far the best resources for what products will work best for your bathroom or kitchen project. Many of the manufacturers that the Ultimate Bath Store works with, have already developed products that carry the WaterSense label. Stop by one of stores today and learn how the bath and plumbing industry is conserving one of our most precious resources: water.
Cabinets & Countertops
The manufacturers of cabinets have been slow to adopt sustainability standards in their industry, but over the last few years, there has been an internal push to establish some guidelines. When thinking about cabinets, the homeowner should stay away from particleboard cabinets with a veneer. Solid wood construction is the way to go. It may cost a little more, but in the end, it is the best option. Countertops come in many forms: stainless steel, granite, laminate, concrete, tile and engineered stone. Granite provides the most interesting options in terms of looks, but it is pricey and not always the best, in terms of durability. Too get that high end finish and toughness without the cost, engineered stone is an excellent option. Concrete has also made significant inroads as a viable option. Surface like countertops are really critical to your kitchens overall look & feel, so play through the choices before making a decision.