Building a Green Home, a Look Back

When my husband and I embarked on this project I believed green living and a tech lifestyle could co-exist, what I found was that technology helped us be more energy efficient, more connected and smarter in the way we designed, built and live in our home.  Looking back on the 24 months we have invested in this project, I have learned so much and have enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned with you, our daily readers. Today marks the final blog entry on Green Life Smart Life but I will continue to blog on green and energy topics on our Caster Blog and hope you join us there. The site and the blogs will remain intact for your future reference and I wish you well in your green building projects, feel free to email me at info {at} greenlifesmartlife.com if you have any questions.

Here is my final entry and an overview of what we did.

When we decided to build our new home in April of 2008, we also decided we wanted to build it green. We wanted a home that captured the incredible views of Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge; integrated sustainable design with durability measures that would handle the harsh weather elements of the Northeast corridor; and incorporated smart home technology to enable us to live in a high-tech, high-touch, entertainment driven environment.

We were dedicated to building the home to achieve LEED for Homes certification, and despite our 4,529 sq/ft of living space, our home achieved 92.5 points. From energy management to water conservation and from high performance building techniques to a systematic waste management plan, our team worked together every step of the way to bring Gold to this project.

The Nantucket style home was stick built and framed using FSC sourced lumber whenever it was available, FSC-certified white cedar shingles flanked the home’s exterior, with Versatex specified for all eaves, trim and moldings for their long life in the salt ridden air. Being built in a 120-mph coastal wind zone, we selected Pella’s Hurricaneshield windows for both their impact resistance and their ENERGY STAR ratings. With spray foam insulation filling the building envelope the home received a HERS rating of 58. The extra steps that we took in building our foundation included french drains and a sump pump really paid off for us when RI encountered the recent historic flooding; as neighbors pumped their basements, our home stayed completely dry through and after the storms!

We are thrilled with our decision to install a five-zone geothermal HVAC system, including a dedicated heat pump for the wine cellar. Our electric bills are coming in just slightly higher than our previous 2,200 sq/ft oil heated home, but we have no monthly oil or gas bill to pay. The system also included dual water tanks for holding hot water, two Environmental Recovery Ventilators, and a water pump for diverting water from the well to the 5,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system should their not be enough rainfall (looks doubtful) and eliminating any exterior municipal water for irrigation. Our water bill to date has been the lowest we’ve had in years, with no excess usage charges.

I really enjoyed working on the interior finished of our home which included 200 year old reclaimed barn wood floors, a wine cellar with racks made from the reclaimed Point Judith County Club deck, recycled countertops, sinks and tile, low-flow plumbing fixtures including 1.0 gpf toilets, 1.75 gpm showerheads and 1.5 gpm faucets; locally-made FSC early-American cabinetry and zero VOC paints and finishes. Wood scraps were used to make the custom closets, shorter floor boards were relegated to closet sections and even the lavette sink was crafted from leftover materials, but you’d never know it to look at the design of our house. Even our furniture and fabrics choices were sustainable!

One of the real unique attributes to the project was the complete integration of smart home technology to monitor and control every subsystem in the home. We really pushed the threshold of innovative technologies with the goal of saving energy while not forgoing our lifestyle. The design included a Control4 system for integrated management of HVAC, irrigation, Lutron lighting control, security and state-of-the art entertainment. It also includes an energy management system that aggregates data and communicates areas of consumption that can be lowered to conserve energy, which was really important when we first got into the house to help determine if we were hitting our energy goals (and budgets).

I know our home is big and we’ve taken our share of flack for that. But honestly, this is an affluent, waterfront community and a small house would have been both out-of-place and a bad investment. I truly feel our home could be anyone’s home, whether it is in whole or in part.  One of the things I learned during this process is you don’t have to do everything but you can do something and that was the point of this project, to inspire everyone to do something that makes a difference for our environment.

I hope you enjoyed reading us because I certainly enjoyed sharing. Happy greening!

posted by Kimberly Lancaster, founder Green Life Smart Life project (Twitter | newscaster)

With a week left to file, did you remember your energy tax credits?

I finished my takes last week, and all told we are receiving more than $38,000 in tax credits both federal and state from the installation of geothermal system and other ENERGY STAR products in our home in 2009. There were a lot of changes in the tax code this year so if you made home improvements, be sure to give your tax preparer your receipts so you can determine your deductions for 2009.

To find out about rebates in your state, check out the DSIRE website. The ENERGY STAR website also provides great information about Federal rebates.

Rhode Island Tax Credits

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit for Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal Heat Pumps

o    Amount: 25%  based on maximum system cost of $15,000 for PV, active solar space heating and wind and based on $7,000 maximum system cost for solar hot water and geothermal

Renewable Energy Sales Tax Exemption

o    Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Pool Heating

o    100% Exemption

People’s Power & Light – Renewable Energy Certificate Incentive

o    Production incentive for photovoltaic and wind

o    $0.03 per kWh with a 3-year contract

Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards

o    Credit amount is based on the product. Proper manufacturer certification will be needed to claim this credit

Federal Tax Credits – visit the ENERGY STAR website for qualifying factors for each credit

Home Improvements

o    Windows & Doors – 10% of cost, up to $200 for all windows, skylights, and storm windows and  10% of cost, up to $500 for exterior and storm doors

o    Roofing –10% of cost, up to $500 for metal and asphalt roofs

o    Insulation — 10% of cost, up to $5000

o    HVAC 

  • $300 for Central AC
  • $300 for Air Source Heat Pumps
  • 30% of the cost up to $2000 for Geothermal Heat Pump
  • $150 for Gas, Oil, Propane Furnace or Hot Water Boiler

o    Water Heaters

  • $300 for gas, oil, propane water heater

o    Biomass Stoves –  $300

Solar Energy Systems

o    30% of the cost up to $2,000 for solar water heating

o    30% of the cost for photovoltaic systems ($2,000 cap no longer applies)

Small Wind Energy Systems

o    30% of the cost, up to $500 per half kW of capacity (not to exceed $4,000)

Fuel Cells

o    30% of the cost, up to $1,500 per half kW of power capacity

 This is the list of tax rebates we applied to our 2009 taxes:

 1. Windows/Doors: $200 for our Pella Windows and $500 for our doors = $700

2. Our composite shingle roof = $500

3. Our spray foam insulation = $500

4. Our Geothermal Heat and AC System = Based on our total cost of $116,754, we have a tax credit of $35,026 federal  and $1750 state credit.

Not too bad I say.

Kimberly Lancaster | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Hating on Enviromentalism

I don’t get it. How can you call caring about the environment “earth-worshipping manure”? Or liberal happycrap?

Do you have to be a liberal to care about the earth or eat local foods that taste great and don’t have chemicals? I mean I fully believe in the death penalty. Hell, I believe in an-eye-for-an-eye. I think welfare is for lazy people looking for handouts and women who aren’t smart enough to understand the concept of birth control.

But really, your saying green is about the liberals and therefore you don’t support it. Do you go to the beach? Ever been there when your three year old got her foot cut on an aluminum can? Really is it that hard to recycle it or just throw it away. Or ever been to a national park where someone just enjoyed a cookout and left all their trash behind? Looks nice don’t you think. Or you think this is about energy because it is so plentiful. Right, cause you aren’t faced with rising energy bills and are 100% for leaving you lights on and blasting your A/C when you are at work because you want to stick it to the liberal man. Ooooh….you showed him and your checking account what burning through an extra 25okWh can do.

My annoyance comes from my recent run ins with random comments and rantings on articles I have read. And honestly I am so tired of this blinders on mentality that the following comments ignited my fury.

ttt4 My nine year old daughter is a girl scout (brownie, actually) and I have to routinely offer an alternative perspective to the ‘mother earth’ environmentalist hogwash that emanates from the scouts these days. We sold hundreds of boxes of overpriced cookies for these guys and for that I get this tree-hugging nonsense. Look, I can believe in some basic concepts of voluntary recycling, but this earth-worshiping manure that is slowly overtaking many of our classic American institutions drives me up the wall.

 
From Well Meaning Gentleman “But is there really a problem anyway? I am not an expert or a physicist BUT, in my recollection of some elementary physical science concepts from my school days (I was listening; we didn’t have text messaging back then), ENERGY CANNOT BE DESTROYED, DIMINISHED OR DEPLEATED, it can only change in form. It seems to me that all this extreme, fear mongering, tree-hugging, earth worshipping, hand-wringing, industry hating, bottled water drinking, global greening, sterilized liberal happycrap is nothing more than a rebellion against the Sovereign God who has created this world for our use and dominion and who will sustain it until He has accomplished His purpose in it.”
 
Climate Change Fraud – What hippies, the WWF and now the US Government forget is that polar bears managed to survive despite the cold and ice, not because of it.  Slightly more pleasant weather will probably see an increase in the number of deadly white killing machines, not their extinction.
 
We have one planet and it is ours to do with what we want. This isn’t a partisan movement it’s our WORLD.  And only human beings could so thoroughly thrash a place in such a short time. For those of us who do in fact care about our sliver of the earth, I applaud you for doing what you can and fighting what seems at times a losing battle. For those of you who don’t care, don’t come crying to us when it finally hits you close to home.
 
Kimberly Lancaster | Twitter

Who Will Win the 2010 Heart of Green Awards?

via the Daily Green

The Daily Green’s Heart of Green Awards honor those people and organizations that take green to the mainstream — to the “heart” of the American people.

On April 20, 2010 The Daily Green will host its second annual Heart of Green Awards ceremony in the LEED Gold-certified Hearst Tower in New York City.

In addition to honoring celebrities and stalwarts of the environmental movement, The Daily Green honors one Lifetime Achievement winner and one Local Hero, nominated by The Daily Green audience.

This year’s list of nominees include 22 year old Katie Sportz, the youngest person ever to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat solo in an effort to raise funds for clean water initiatives in developing nations.  The list also includes Spencer Brown, founder of Rent-a-Green-Box, a company dedicated to tackling the problem of overfilled landfills around the country.  For a full list of nominees, click here.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from Green Life Smart Life!

Spotlight on Creativity: Saturday Etsy Series

If you are going to be doing any holiday entertaining in the upcoming months, my etsy pick of the week, hopejohnson, would be a perfect shop to browse for some unique colorful ceramic dishes for your table.
Hope Johnson’s shop has bright one of kind pieces that range from dipping dishes to bowls. Everything is handmade in her home and ready to ship to yours.
This California designer has a background in graphic design and photography and is inspired by plant forms and organic shapes. Hope’s etsy profile says “functional pottery is a passion of mine, and I want my pieces to be used and enjoyed in the daily lives of my customers and friends”.
My favorite piece in her shop is this one – a plate perfectly sized for desserts or appetizers.  It measures 3/4″ tall, 6″ in diameter and is decorated with chartresuse and white matte glazes and a chocolate gloss glaze. The big bright leaves against the white plate will make any dish you are serving look great…maybe even mine.
Posted by: Becca / follow my Etsy shop on Twitter

Organic Turfs Don’t Cost More

Grassroots recently released a Turf Comparison Report analyzing the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a conventional (chemical) program and a natural (organic) program over a five-year period. The report, prepared for members of the New York State legislature, concludes that the annual cost of maintaining a field using natural products and techniques can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of conventional programs using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The emerging science that links exposure to turf pesticides with human health problems, including potential interference with normal brain development in children, has increased the demand for non-chemical turf management solutions for schools, and has spurred lawmakers in Albany to consider legislation to ban the use of chemical pesticides on school grounds. One obstacle commonly cited by chemical management proponents is the purported higher cost of a natural turf program.

“We’ve all known the dangers of pesticides for a long time, but until now, there hasn’t been a clear choice for schools facing economic challenges,” says Assemblyman Steve Englebright, co-sponsor of the legislation. “Now, thanks to cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned biology, we can accomplish both goals at the same time. This is great news for schools across the state.”

The report includes cost factors for fertilization, aeration, over-seeding and irrigation for both programs. The conventional program includes additional costs for purchasing and applying typical herbicides and insecticides, while the natural program includes costs for compost topdressing and natural soil amendments. Costs for the natural program are slightly higher in the first two years of the comparative report, then drop significantly in years three and beyond.

Natural Turf Pro, produced by Grassroots Environmental Education, is a 2-DVD, four-hour professional training program for turf managers and landscapers. The program covers all aspects of natural lawn care, from soil testing to compost tea to new lawn construction. We encourage you to ensure that your town and school leaders are using education resources such as Natural Turf Pro to ensure that proper care is taken on lawns in your town.

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