Jill Fehrenbacher

5 Tips to Green Your Home From Organic Architect Eric Corey Freed

by , 12/08/13

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TYPES OF INSULATION

Once you’ve determined where you are leaking heat, you can patch up your insulation in a number of different ways. The location of the leaks will determine which type best suits your needs, but whatever you do, it’s a good idea to hire an expert to help you determine what type of insulation is best for your climate and where to put it. For attics and roofs I prefer blown-in cellulose insulation, which is basically shredded/recycled newspaper. When adding additional insulation to your walls, my favorite type of insulation is a soy-based spray foam called BioBased. While I like the organic and eco-conscious qualities of Bonded Logic recycled denim insulation and wool insulation, I find that when you are looking for the highest R-value and the tightest seal, spray foam just can’t be beat, and BioBased is my favorite green option in that department.

DON’T FORGET WINDOWS

As much as 25% of a home’s heat is lost through its windows, so when replacing windows get the most energy-efficient model you can afford. If you have old single-pane windows and you live anywhere where it gets cold, you need to replace those windows pronto with double-pane glass. If you have really large windows and live in a cold climate, it also might be worth considering super-insulated windows with triple panes, argon in between panes, and really tight seals around the edges. Or, if you want to take it to the next level, Marvin Windows now makes a triple pane with a krypton/argon/air gas mix in between the panes, this window ups the thermal performance by 0.03 beyond the U-factors of a tripane with argon, which Marvin also offers.

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18 Comments

  1. alarch0821 May 18, 2011 at 8:01 am

    While most homes are certainly under insulated, there is such a thing as over insulating which cause cause over heating in warmer months. In colder climates where air conditioning is not used in summer, too much insulation reduces heating bills in winter but causes such extreme overheating in summer that it becomes a significant issue. Studies show that there is a specific width at which the energy saving benefit of insulation plateaus (usually around 150 mm for cellulose insulation) which makes it unnecessary to spend extra money and resources insulating beyond this point.

  2. Cat Chang March 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Hi Jill,

    This is Cat from FM! I just started reading this book called “Cradle to Cradle,” and thought of your site. I think it would be an interesting read for you. We are really accustomed to thinking of industry and the environment at odds at each other, where everything is built and produced based on a cradle-to-grave model, but these guys write about how architecture and products can be designed from the outset that after their useful lives, they can be used for something new. Instead of applying environmental solutions in isolation and tacking new technology onto the same old model when building, and trying very hard to “not be bad to the environment,” the authors explore ways that something can be built with completely positive intentions in mind.

  3. greeninthenow March 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Great article Eric. I agree with the insulation aspect, especially in the colder climates of the world. We blow recycled newspaper insulation in the exterior walls of our investment properties and have cut the energy bills in half instantly on the heating side. And it also allows the house to stay cool in the summer.
    Matt Stookey
    Blogger on http://Greenhabbing101.com

  4. Rick Awdas March 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Like Brit I also live in an apartment which means that I can’t do many of the tips listed, still an interesting post with lots of useful advice.

  5. weezilgirl February 17, 2011 at 12:23 am

    My house has a HUGE magnolia tree to the west. It definitely shades the house but it also cuts way down on natural light from the windows.
    I put in two sun tunnels. One in the living room and one in the kitchen. I love them! Makes a huge difference in both rooms.

  6. glwoll January 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Good suggestion on the Black & Decker Thermal leak detector. I bought one at Lowes, found it very useful. Of course I’d like an infra-red camera but they’re expensive. The downside is once you know where the problems are you have to do something about it. Insulation has failed for some reason in several exterior walls, not sure what to do about it. Don’t want to tear everything down to the studs. Here’s a review of the Black & Decker tool: http://bit.ly/gKaEwu

  7. drewmcd January 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    YOU FORGOT STEP #1 An Energy Audit
    YOU FORGOT STEP #2 AIR SEAL !!!

  8. Jill Fehrenbacher January 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Anreise-

    I think your comment is unfair. The point of this article was to convey helpful pointers for homeowners concisely in an easy-to-read article. This is not a 100 page manual, and we cannot include every single possible issue that a homeowner needs to know about insulation. It is a good idea to get a professional audit, and that is why we suggest that to readers in the paragraph called ‘Types of insulation’. I think saying ‘Boo’ and claiming we didn’t consult experts is hugely unfair. I can’t really think of more of an expert on greenbuilding than Eric Corey Freed. To expect that everything in the universe about insulation would be included in the short few paragraphis in this post is an unrealistic expectation. Even as is the article is 7 pages long!

  9. anreise January 27, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Step one leaves out plenty of critical information on air sealing, condensation issues, and climate-specific considerations (cellulose is a liability in very moist climates.) Just adding insulation to your home can actually have detrimental effects and it’s very important to have a professional audit, which may be offered free or cheap via your local utility. This article is great from an architect’s perspective! Boo, inabitat, for publishing something with such a clear lack of information from experts in the field. I’m a huge fan and expect better from you.

  10. Rebecca Paul Rebecca Paul January 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    There’s so much to know about greening your own home, it can sometimes be overwhelming. Eric does a great job of explaining this in a way that’s easy to understand.

  11. Jessica Dailey January 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I wish our apartment building would replace the old windows. If I sit anywhere near them during the winter, it’s practically like being outside!

  12. davidbrodeur January 26, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I’ve been telling my dad to insulate his old house for years, maybe this article will help him finally decide to get it done.

  13. adamschw January 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Greengrid roofs are awesome and a lot of progressive cities offer tax incentives for installing them that help defer cost.

  14. Diane Pham Diane Pham January 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    plenty of useful tips to choose from – passing this onto my parents who own their own home!

  15. Jasmin Malik Chua January 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Just got a leak detector; looking forward to trying it out!

  16. Hajo Meijer January 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    You’ve got to be careful when adding sprayfoam insulation to the walls of an existing home. It might create moisture traps, which create problems of their own. Namely mold and rot.
    Besides, biobased sprayfoam is not as green as it is made out to be: think about all the farmland that is being taken away from food production to create a foam product! And how would you recycle that stuff at the end of the home’s lifecycle?

  17. Andrew Michler January 25, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I was expecting five things and got maybe forty- thats an exhaustive list.

  18. Brit Liggett January 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I live in an apartment now, so I can only use a few of these tips, BUT I’m going to save the others for my future green dream home!

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