Thermal HouseAn energy audit that includes the use of thermal imaging technology is a good first step toward a more comfortable, efficient home environment.

Home Comfort – A Green Affair
By Sam Strickland

Comfort at home affects practically every person on the planet. If you live in a colder climate like the one here in Maine (climate zone 6), indoor comfort is a huge issue especially in winter, the season when we spend much of our time indoors in heated spaces.

Homes are built to do several things including provide shelter from the elements, but rarely are homes built to perform. We are a culture with high expectations when it comes to performance. We expect our cars, our children, our employees, our stocks, even our favorite sports team to perform well and return great results. Why do we not expect the same from our houses?

Home building has been done pretty much the same way for a long time. Yes, we’ve stopped using Asbestos, and we have improved materials usage and strength, but as far as performance goes, specifically energy efficiency, improvement has been slow. For example, a large percentage of new homes being constructed right now have not had an energy usage calculation done on the expected finished product. Mostly we have focused on the home as being about space and relaxation, family and entertainment. What if we could have all those things encapsulated in a high-performance vehicle of comfort? We can.

 Net Zero House

Any living or working space has several conditions to manage simultaneously, and does so with varying degrees of success. Moisture management, energy consumption, the surrounding environment, and site orientation all contribute to the way a building performs the job of providing comfort. And of course, we want performance over multiple decades with minimal maintenance. Just as with a car, the moving parts need attention every few years and will be replaced when worn beyond repair. But unlike a car, a home is expected to last for generations.

There are several reasons to consider a performance-based approach to building and renovating our homes, but none outweigh efficiency. We should expect our living spaces to moderate temperatures without the need for us to spend thousands on a heating or cooling source each season. It should manage moisture both inside and out, without damage occurring. The home must also provide a healthy indoor environment with air quality; something non-toxic finishes can help with. Last, but certainly not least, it should also be beautiful. Green design does not have to forgo style.

The green building of new homes, as well as the retrofitting of existing ones (important here in New England, where there is a lot of older/historic/antique housing stock), is a science that takes into account all the features of a home and the site where it is built. With an eye toward performance and comfort, it is a common-sense approach to the ever-increasing energy challenge we will face in the coming decades. Whether you are building new or renovating your existing home consider this: You will live in your home no matter what methods you choose to use. Why not make it perform to a higher set of standards? You will benefit your family, yourself, and future owners as the home gets passed on to someone new along the lines of time.

To put some of this into practice in your own home, try the following.

  • Take an inventory of your electric and heating bills. Do you see room for improvement?
  • Tour your home and look for causes of energy loss such as leaky windows, an older furnace, or outdated appliances.
  • Look for spots where moisture may be a problem and find out what can be done to fix them.
  • Consider installing an energy monitoring system to help you determine where you could save energy.
  • Make a list of improvements you would like to see in your home both for aesthetics and comfort.
  • Have an Energy Audit performed by a professional in your area.

In the coming months I will be writing in greater detail about what questions to ask and what to expect from your next home project. In the meantime, you can visit Green Homes of Maine to get a head start.

To learn more about green building and the people who can help you get there with your project, visit us at “The Village Green,” part of the 2012 Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors show held in Rockland, Maine on August 10 -12.

Samuel Strickland
Founder
Green Homes Of Maine