Green kitchen renovation: tips from America's oldest zero energy Home

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Green Renovations

My wife and I are about to start the next phase of the transformation of our 112-year-old historic Victorian home. Now that we've achieved net zero energy and won our appeal for our historic preservation tax credit, it's time to tackle the kitchen!

Induction stoves

Induction cooktops are one of the hottest trends in upscale kitchen renovations in the U.S. In Europe, Asia and Australia, induction cooking has been popular for all kitchens for over a decade and are surpassing popularity of gas cooking. Even for the most finicky chefs, induction's flexibility, safety, energy efficiency and cooking performance has proven far superior than gas flame.

Sadly, in the U.S. there is a shortage of attractive induction ranges. If you're looking for standard knobs rather than digital controls, you're out of luck. We're hoping that the Rangemaster Classic range from the U.K. will be available in the U.S. for us to include it in our landmark remodel. It's got the gorgeous retro-look with all the modern conveniences and efficiency we want. We want it to look good in magazines and on our home tours and scream "Gorgeous!!" rather than "energy efficient" (how boring is that?)

classic induction oven

And now that we'll be an all-electric zero energy building, we will decommission our energy hogging (and dangerous) gas range and hope to qualify for certification under the Living Building Challenge. (Learn more about the Living Building Challenge and Net Zero Energy Building here).

High-performance faucets

Almost all major manufacturers now offer high-performance lines of faucets. Look for faucets with a maximum of 1.5 gallon per minute (gpm) aerators. Standard faucets use as much as 2.2 gallons per minute.

Compared to old school faucets, you'll save nearly a gallon per minute! When your running the hot water, you're saving energy as well by requiring less water to be drawn from the water heating tank.

And don't think for a second that what used to be called "low flow" faucets can't be high quality and elegant. Kohler offers all of their kitchen faucets with a 1.5 gpm option. We've got the new Sensate faucet that turns on/off with the wave a hand. If your kid leaves the faucet running -- no worries -- the sensor shuts off the water automatically.

low flow kitchen faucet

Check out the EPA's WaterSense® program which helps home owners find high-quality water saving products. Only the highest performing products can qualify for this label.

Salvage lumber for custom cabinets

In a very old house you want your renovation to reflect the same quality, craftsmanship and durability that will last another century. We're proving that you don't need to have toxic materials or wood that comes from clear-cut forests to achieve these goals.

A local Amish cabinet maker, Branch HIll Joinery, will be sourcing local wood from Ash trees that were killed by the recent epidemic of Emerald Ash Borers. They'll use mostly hand tools during the process resulting in very little energy use during construction.

Amish cabinets

Local urban sawyers are popping up across the U.S. offering green, sustainable wood from locally sourced dead, downed and salvage trees. If you're resourceful, you can have cabinets made from solid hardwood without paying a premium price.

Other tips

  1. Use only LED lighting
  2. Install motion sensor lights switches
  3. Restore your old wood floor rather than covering it with green materials like bamboo or cork -- Watch this VIDEO on GreenovationTV
  4. Install only Energy Star dishwashers and refrigerators

Learn more

VIDEO: watch this video about the University of Michigan BLUELab and their efforts to help us achieve net zero water as part of the Living Building Challenge.