Go Green Guidance

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Atlanta businesses that help homeowners make energy-efficient and environmentally friendly choices are in no short supply. Whether you are interested in relocation of wildlife, including pests, or a less harmful way to clean carpets, these green businesses can make you feel good about the ways in which your home can exist in harmony with nature.

Pest control has long been known for frequently emitting harmful chemicals into and outside of the home, so for problems with bees this spring, consider relocation instead. Bees Honeybee Removal can help if you think you have some unwanted fuzzy, buzzing neighbors. Honeybees tend to build nests in big cavities found in places like bay window overhangs and between wall studs. People dont realize the extent that a bee can go to in the springtime, says Cindy Bee (that is her real name) of Bees Honeybee Removal. The average hive contains about 40,000 bees.

tend to build big nests in big cavities found in places like bay window overhangs and between wall studs.

Instead of calling an exterminator, a more environmentally friendly way to handle the bee problem would be to call Bee. She will remove and relocate the entire hive. First, she must expose the entire nest, which she then carefully takes out piece by piece, cleaning the cavity and packing it with fiberglass insulation. She takes the comb and the bees, which have been sucked into a bucket, to her property, where she reconstructs the hive and pours the bees back into it. Once the bees are thriving, she calls a beekeeper who takes them away to let them make honey.

Honeybees are one of the two main types of bees that usually invade homesthe second is the yellow jacket. You can tell which ones you havehoneybees are fuzzy since their main purpose in nature is to pollinate, but yellow jackets do not have fur. Bee also can get rid of yellow jackets, but relocation is not an option since they are aggressive. Do save the honeybees, though, because their role in nature is vital.

Another homecare process that typically has utilized a lot of chemicals is carpet cleaning. Today there is a natural solution. Instead of using water and chemical cleaners, Hughes Professional Carpet Cleaning utilizes processed organic fiber miniature sponges, which are rotated through carpet yarn with special equipment. Not only does this method not require chemical cleaners, it also eliminates the need for water and is ready to be walked on immediately after cleaning. During wet carpet cleaning, some of the water and chemicals put on the carpet are absorbedkind of like shampooing your hair and not rinsing out much of the shampoo. Dry cleaning can eliminate up to 85 percent of dust mites, allergens and mold spores, according to Larry Hughes of Hughes Professional Carpet Cleaning. Its healthier for the homeowner and better for the environment since it conserves water and is performed with a biodegradable product.

Another way to improve air quality in and around the home is by eliminating excess water and moisture. Outside, controlling standing water helps control mosquitoes. Inside, lowering moisture can reduce the chance of mold growth. A company like Drainage Solutions can remove water from the yard or from inside the home following leaking or a flood. They also perform crawl space renovations to eliminate water and create better ventilation, lowering risk of mold and mildew growth.

Outside, controlling standing water helps control mosquitoes. Inside, lowering moisture can reduce the chances of mold growth.

According to Abe Kruger, project manager at Southface Energy Institute (an organization in Atlanta that promotes sustainable homes, workplaces and communities), in addition to seeking energy efficiency, homeowners have experienced a growing concern about mold and indoor air quality. He has also seen spikes in interest about radon, a naturally occurring soil gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon is odorless, tasteless and invisible. Southface provides free radon testing kits for local homeowners to check their properties.

In order to keep in the good stuff (cool or warm air) and keep out the bad stuff (mold, radon, pests, water, etc.), every home needs to have a tight envelope. Think of the building envelope as the floors, ceilings and walls, and consider that a typical home has a lot of openingsdoors, windows and ventilation. Obviously, a loose envelope can affect both air quality and energy costs.

METRO Home Improvement Inc. specializes in energy-efficient applications for home exteriors. Atlanta is known for drastic fluctuations in temperature, sometimes overnight, and homes need to be built to withstand them but often are not. One remedy can be to add vinyl siding, which eliminates maintenance and lowers energy costs. Instead of needing fresh paint regularlyand peeling paint can be a great place for mold to growvinyl siding requires just a soap and water wash each year. It also comes in many colors and patternseven some that look like brick and stone.

Of course, window and doors can also be responsible for great loss of heat. An average home has 20 to 25 windows, according to Greg McManus, president of METRO Home Improvement, so a lot of energy loss takes place through the windows. His company uses vinyl, fiberglass and composite window replacements for its remodeling projects. These replacement windows are basically custom fit to each home and each window opening. Since they are energy efficient and fit precisely, much less energy will be lost through them.

Caulking around plumbing with a product like Great Stuff and sealing ductwork can also tighten a homes envelope. Duct sealing is not always the most pleasant job, but its one of the most cost-effective improvements you can make to your home, Kruger says. Using a duct mastic, which is similar to putty, creates a permanent air seal. Duct sealants are much better than the typical duct tape because tapes eventually fail. Anywhere the ductwork meets the air conditioner or furnace, where the ducts split or where two meet, use the sealant. The metal boot behind the grill where the ductwork is connected should also be sealed.

Dagmar Epsten, architect with The Epsten Group Inc., recommends also paying attention to attic insulation, which should be R30. (The R-factor indicates how well insulation resists heat; the higher the better.) Holes in a home in general are not good, and even lighting should not penetrate the insulation. She prefers to use surface-mounted ceiling lights.

Another interesting, if lesser-known, energy-saving option is a whole-house fan. This fan is placed in the ceiling between the house and attic and pulls air from the house into the attic. Vents in the attic allow the air to flow outside. The whole-house fan can be used in the summer, typically in the morning or evening when the windows are also open, to quickly cool the house. Obviously, this could drastically lower air conditioning costs. In the winter, the vents need to be covered with insulation, and the whole-house fan is not used.

The whole-house fan is placed in the ceiling between the house and attic and pulls air from the house into the attic.

Personally, I live without air conditioning, and I am very comfortable with the whole-house fan, says Epsten, who practices what she preachesand yes, she lives in Atlanta. At least half of her clients also have whole-house fans in their homes.

Attention to energy efficiency is particularly effective during construction or remodeling. Too many people look at the mechanical system and dont look at the whole house, Epsten says. Orientation on a site is definitely importantwhere will the sun hit the home? Epsten likes to place the long sides of homes facing north and south, with the smaller sides facing east and west. Living areas should be oriented toward the south side to gain heat from the sun in winter months.

Builders can also use construction techniques that make a home or building of homes more energy-efficient. Southeast Capital Partners, the developers creating The Manhattan, a high-rise condominium building in Dunwoody, are using the tunnel form construction method, in which a structural tunnel is made by pouring concrete into steel formwork to create the floors and walls. Every day the formwork is moved so that another tunnel can be formed. What this means is that each room has 8-inch solid concrete walls and solid concrete floors and ceilings, making an energy-efficient insulating capsule. And the construction method is environmentally friendly, too, because unlike most concrete buildings, where plywood is used to form walls and must be thrown out and replaced after every few uses, with tunnel form construction, one set of steel forms can be used for the entire building.

Other builders are using more visible techniques to increase the energy efficiency of multifamily homes. Miller Gallman Developers focuses on things like tightly sealed windows and ductwork, but also adds simple features like energy-efficient appliances and low-wattage bulbs in common areas. This is an example that can easily be followed in any home, too. Kruger recommends replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting.

Of course, in addition to being kinder to the environment, using less energy and making other changes can end up saving you money in the long run, making you a very happy homeowner. When youre ready to start making changes around your home, there are plenty of resources to help. Southface offers tons of tips for energy efficiency and ways to make your home more environmentally friendly. Also, if you are wondering how your home stacks up, Georgia Power offers a complimentary Energy Analysis to each of its customers. Whether you make big changes or small adjustments, going green is a home improvement you can feel great about.

Using less energy and making other changes
can end up saving you money in the long run,
making you a very happy homeowner.

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