Anyone interested in greening their home?

Questions, answers and advice for people who own or work on houses built during the 20th century.

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bungalowfamily
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:35 pm

Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by bungalowfamily »

I would love to be green, but I don't really know where to begin. Anyone have any experience on this? I saw an interesting new video posted off the home page, but it's just the beginning of a series. http://www.oldhouseweb.com/green-guide/ ... omes.shtml

Lot's of recommendations, but has anyone done it?

I'm not so interested in building my house out of recycled milk cartons, riding a bike to power my tv, or installing technology that doesn't pay for itself... I'm looking for an easy way to be green.

Thanks!

RosemaryT
Posts: 418
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2005 11:12 pm
Location: Norfolk, VA
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Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by RosemaryT »

Well, it's a small thing but we have four 52-gallon rain barrels set up in our backyard which provide water for emergencies (think Hurricanes) and day-to-day use in the garden. We have an enormous slate roof, so these rain barrels go from empty to full in about 15 minutes of good rain. My last house in Illinois was built in 1904 and had an old rain-water cistern, parts of which were still in place. Even had the old lead-lined tank strapped to joists in the attic, which provided steady head pressure when municipal water systems were unreliable.

Like everyone else, we've caulked the daylight out of our current house and have a high efficiency heating and cooling system. One thing that - I think - is often overlooked is this: Old houses are the original GREEN houses because they were built in a time before electricity was reliable, and built before A/C was available and built at a time when municipal water systems were in their infancy. I've often looked at brandy-new houses that have windows only on the front and back, and wondered what in the world do those folks do when the a/c goes off?

My house was built in 1925, and has lots of huge windows (six-feet tall) and a minimum of two windows in every room, providing natural cross-ventilation in every room. The kitchen jutted out from the rest of the house, and it also had many windows, proving ventilation on three sides.

High ceilings also made the house more bearable in summer months, as did large screened in porches with canvas awnings and over-sized eaves. Originally, many of these old houses had a gravity-fed heating system - no electricity needed. Porch ceilings were painted blue because it was said that mud-daubers and wasps would not build their nests against a blue background.

I guess my point is. our old houses were thoughtfully and intelligently built way, way before the green movement was a twinkle in Al Gore's eyeball. ;)

As a final point, IMHO, the best way to utilize existing resources is to preserve them, and one way to do that is to build quality structures that will last for generations and not need to be demolished and replaced every 50 years. Our old houses were built with virgin lumber out of first-growth forests and we will *never* see quality building materials like that again. A well-built pre-WW2 house - with a certain amount of maintenance and care - will last forever. In my humble opinion, and building one house every 400 years is a lot better usage of our resources than building a plastic McMansion every 30 or 40 or 50 years.

Rose

barrett
Posts: 787
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2006 2:35 pm
Location: SE Vermont
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Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by barrett »

I just hung laundry to dry on the clotheslines in the enclosed sunporch. We don't even own a dryer!

We have a pellet stove for heat.

We have a rain barrel for the gardens.

Our driveway is dirt instead of oil based asphalt.

We use a human powered reel mower to cut the grass.

Trying to be green!
"so you'll walk the floor
from door to door"

('mental revenge', waylon jennings)

Kansas. 1911.
Posts: 848
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2009 4:56 pm
Location: Junction City

Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by Kansas. 1911. »

We're trying to be green, too.

We have a tankless water heater.
We line-dry clothes and have a front-loading washer which uses only the water necessary.
We saved the single-slot screws, shined them up on the grinder, and spray-painted them black, and reused them--this one made our electrician laugh.
We bought used oriental rugs, and look for used furniture before new stuff.
We have almost all CFL bulbs,... including the front porch lights, which are on sensors.
We have two 50-ish gallon rain barrels for watering the roses and cannas.
We take everything we can to the recycle station.
We had an efficient gas insert put into the fireplace which cut the heating bills.
We live where we can walk to the post office, library, city hall, church, restaurants and so much more.
We dump the dehumidifier water on the hostas.
The doors have been weatherstripped; the windows have new storm windows over original windows.
We have 7 ceiling fans in the house, and set them for summer or winter.
The house itself has overhangs and trees on the southern exposure.
I have three power strips which get turned off at night (TV is not a flat panel :( but every bit helps for savings).
I shop in town whenever I can, and avoid big box stores.
I'm starting to watch how far the food has to travel, and have started using a local dairy (glass bottles) and local beef, and some local cheese, and I bring my own bags to the store.
We have no paper dish products in the house. We entertain using only dishes that can go in the dishwasher, full loads only.

AND I joined the local sustainability council. It's actually fun seeing one's bills go down. I have a distance to go, though. I don't garden for food, and don't have a compost pile.
American Foursquare with Prairie and Colonial Revival influences

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TinyOldHouse
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Joined: Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:28 am
Location: Front Range, Colorado
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Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by TinyOldHouse »

Well, the greenest thing you can do is live in an already built house, replace things ONLY as they wear out and fix what you can, etc. Use used building materials and supplies in your needed remodels as much as possible. I bet a LOT of us on here are pretty much there!

We try to get all of our supplies used off Craigslist, our habitat restore, or the local salvage yard. We've even bought paint, nails, scrapers, etc there. We even traded our huge top loader washer and dryer set for a small front loader set; no waste of the old set, and lots of savings for us in the new set in water AND detergent.

We buy all clothing used except socks, underwear and shoes. We darn our socks, and take our shoes to the shoe repair to be resoled, stitched together, etc. Sew up ripped clothing... we have sewing parties every so often!

We use bar soap that comes without packaging, and bar shampoo that comes wrapped in a bit of kraft paper. Both are locally produced, which cuts shipping time. We have toothbrushes where only the bristles are replaced when they wear out.. Terradent, I believe. No more waste of an handle... and we are STILL using up the old toothbrushes for cleaning and such from before we switched. Now, we do use CHEAP toothpaste in a plastic tube... the Tom's of Maine in the recyclable tube is just out of our budget at 5x more a tube. I have to say that the soap and shampoo we use are both cheaper than most "normal" liquid versions of the same.

Now... each of us has a 20-30 minute drive to work... one of the reasons we are looking to sell in then next few months and try to buy in the town my husband lives in. Would love for one of us to be able to walk/ride a bike to work!

Now... I have to say we are driven much more by economics and quality concerns than by the environment... I can't afford the quality I demand new, so I buy used, etc. BUt... added side benefits of being greener~
See what we are doing now!
http://tinyoldhouse.blogspot.com

Leslie Ap
Posts: 238
Joined: Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:15 am
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Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by Leslie Ap »

-Electric mower
-porous pavers
-french drains
-tankless water heaters (in our future!)
-VOC free paint
-composting
-no curbside trash service (taking it to the dump ourselves, we spend about 25 bucks a couple times a year, and are able to
recycle way more- as in approx. 85% of our waste)
-thermal window treatments
-cfl bulbs
-water efficient applicances/fixtures
-line-dry clothing
-insulated attic and exterior walls (AirKrete)
-practice some gray water recycling ("clean" kitchen water gets dumped in the garden or yard)
-try to minimize use of electricity during "peak" hours
-turn down the home and water heater thermostats
Hmm what else...

bungalowfamily
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:35 pm

Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by bungalowfamily »

Those are some great ideas. Impressive stuff Rosemary!! I think I have a long way to go before I can get to your level. The grey water idea is really interesting. I'd like to know what water can be used where (suppose I'll google it), I figure I can't dump my washing machine water in the yard!

BTW, Kansas I love your signature's house photo!

We have some work coming up on our house. I need to re-roof. Has anyone done the research on the greenest way to get this done? I don't know if composite shingle is eco-friendly but there don't seem to be many alternatives in the price range. Also, are the stripped shingles recylable? Does anyone have experience with recycling construction waste? I figure my steps are:

- look for eco-friendly roof
- insulate new roof
- dispose of old roof in eco-friendly way

Appreciate the advice!

barrett
Posts: 787
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2006 2:35 pm
Location: SE Vermont
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Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by barrett »

Look into metal roofs. Mine is over 100 years old with no end in sight! Shingles last what, 20 or 30 years?
"so you'll walk the floor
from door to door"

('mental revenge', waylon jennings)

Kansas. 1911.
Posts: 848
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2009 4:56 pm
Location: Junction City

Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by Kansas. 1911. »

Thanks, bungalowfam.

We need a new roof and it is going to get really ugly when we talk price. Three layers of roof will have to go to the landfill.

I have read about "Cool Roof Technology." This means you buy the company's white or light grey shingle, and it has the properties of bouncing the heat away somehow, saving on cooling costs in summer. Another product I barely heard of: a liner you put under any color shingle that does the same thing as cool roof technology. I heard about this at the home show from the owner of a heritage building company that won a preservation award. So I'll be combining cool roof technology with 100-year-old looks.
American Foursquare with Prairie and Colonial Revival influences

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s.kelly
Posts: 652
Joined: Sat May 02, 2009 9:42 am

Re: Anyone interested in greening their home?

Post by s.kelly »

I agree with many of the ideas sent above. We just had a new record low electric bill by KWh this month. Still got lots of work to do, but I hope to seal up a number of things this summer.

Roofing is in my future too. The over 100 year old roof on the main part of the house will go to the scrap yard,and a new light colored metal of some type will go on. That may have to wait until next the year or two though. Probably will have to paint the old one again to get a little more life out of it.

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