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Energy use can be affected by variables that include house size, insulation, building materials, the efficiency of systems and appliances, and even a home's orientation on the building site.
Other elements of a home’s environmental footprint include water use, waste disposal, transportation — if we live far from work and shopping — and the relative sustainability of the materials and building processes used in construction or remodeling.
Technological advances can improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems and reduce the energy used by major appliances. Many elements of a home’s environmental footprint are also easy to control and improve. These changes can be convenient, budget friendly and relatively low-tech; even modest changes can have a big impact.
Don’t overlook windows
A custom window treatment can help your home in more ways than you may think. Sunlight streaming into your space can affect the way you use the room. For example, sun glaring on a computer or TV screen can be bothersome. It can also damage your furnishings and flooring by causing fading from lack of protection against UV rays.
Different kinds of treatments can also be used to enhance the functionality and style of your windows. Some of the most common types of window treatments include drapery, blinds and shutters. These varieties provide privacy, help to control light coming in from outside, insulate, and add style to the room’s décor. The options are endless, and you can choose from a variety of materials based on the shade you choose, including fabric, metal and natural materials like wood and bamboo.
Many types of window treatments are also good insulators. When it is very hot outside, the covering on your windows prevents heat from entering inside. And in the winter, the heat from inside the room does not escape outside, letting you enjoy the warmth inside. Because of this, you won’t need to rely as much on your heating and cooling systems, leading to energy savings and energy efficiency.
The cleverly designed Duette Architella window blinds from Hunter Douglas use a double-honeycomb inner structure to provide a thermal barrier. The opaque models also incorporate a metallic mylar lining that further improves thermal performance. Without energy-efficient treatments, as much as 50 percent of a home’s heating and cooling energy can be lost through the windows.
PowerView motorization is another clever option offered by Hunter Douglas. Blinds or shades can be hard-wired or controlled with a battery-powered system. You also have the option to utilize the PowerView app on your smartphone or with smart home devices to control and manage window shade settings throughout the day.
Even if your windows are insulated, sunlight hitting them during the day can warm your home and lead to increased cooling costs in the summer. Come winter, heat that’s lost through your windows can result in higher heating costs. Automated window treatments can help with both issues. In summer, these shades can be programmed to adjust in response to the sun’s movement and lower your home’s solar heat gain. In winter, you can have your motorized shades open when the sun is up to help heat your home, and then close as the sun sets to better insulate your windows. In these ways, automated window coverings can offer you energy-saving benefits.
FLOOR360, located on Verona Road, features a Hunter Douglas gallery with many options on display, allowing clients to touch, feel and try out different operating systems. Knowledgeable designers can set up in-home appointments with clients to get a better feel for their needs and style. FLOOR360 also has a Hunter Douglas certified installer who does professional measures and installations.
With so many options of window covering, it is possible to get a window covering that is beautiful, functional and energy efficient.
Better kitchen, better environment
“Kitchen Tune-Up takes pride in the eco-friendly approaches we use,” says Tracey Conner, owner of Kitchen Tune-Up on the west side of Madison. “For example, whenever possible, Kitchen Tune-Up encourages homeowners to choose cabinet refacing and re-dooring as opposed to full remodeling.”
Doors and drawer fronts can wear down more quickly than the frames, Conner explains, so it’s not always necessary to install new custom cabinets to get a new look in your kitchen. “With cabinet re-dooring and refacing, you keep cabinet boxes out of a landfill,” she says. Also saved are the materials and energy that would have been used to build and ship new cabinets.
Conner notes that for re-dooring as well as more extensive projects, Kitchen Tune-Up offers products in a surprising array of alternative and sustainable materials. “We have many alternative cabinets and doors that contain less wood product,” she says, “and they often have the additional benefit of increased durability and longer life.” The longer any product or home element lasts before needing repair or replacement, the better it is for the environment.
Countertops are another part of the kitchen that can be made from environmentally friendly materials. The stone products, such as granite and marble, which have been popular countertop materials for many years, are non-renewable resources, Conner explains. “Customers are looking for alternatives,” she says, “and there are a lot of great products to choose from now. For example, there are new paper countertops that are as strong as stone and are made of recycled paper.”
Recycled glass can also be used to make countertops, as can bamboo, which is readily renewable. Crushed leftover stone can become quartz countertops that look like natural stone and are available in a wide array of colors. Countertops can also be made from a combination of recycled materials, including mirror, porcelain, glass, paper, earthenware, wood pulp, cement, plastics and some metals.
In all areas of operation, Conner says, “We strive to use environmentally safe products and those that have the least amount of impact on the environment and natural resources.” If a project does entail removal of cabinets, countertops or fixtures, those items, plus any excess building materials, are donated to Habitat ReStore so that they can be upcycled.
The greenest of Kitchen Tune-Up’s services is the original one-day Tune-Up, which retains all the existing cabinets and wood. “In only one day, we repair and restore the original finish on wood cabinets and other wood surfaces,” says Conner. In addition to being easy on the environment, the process is affordable and minimizes disruption in your home.
Whichever approach you choose, Conner says, your kitchen looks like new, and your project is environmentally friendly. •