The Green Home

Home remodeling in 2012? Put efficiency on your checklist

Posted January 27, 2012

With low interest rates prevailing in the North Carolina through 2011 and set to carry through for the foreseeable future, home renovation projects are showing a marked increase, both from homeowners looking to improve their houses for their own comfort and those who are improving their homes for resale in 2012.

While a more spacious master bedroom or new granite counters in the kitchen are often the goal, one of the biggest benefits which homeowners find after renovations is improved energy efficiency, especially in older homes. Working energy efficiency improvements into your home renovation budget and timeline from the start not only makes the most of the existing home life disruption that occurs during renovations anyways, it also pays off for years to come and is a significant advantage for home comfort and/or potential resale value down the road.

Draft Dodging

North Carolina sports some of the finest historical homes in the US, but unfortunately homeowners often pay the price in discomfort, living in drafty rooms in the winter and dealing with sweltering bedrooms in the summer.

Regardless of what room you’re renovating for your home, proper insulation and air sealing should be foremost on your list of improvements. Your newly renovated master bedroom will seem much less desirable if you find you have to wear socks to bed to keep warm. Especially for older homes which have large and poorly insulated attics above the bedrooms, investing in spray foam insulation and air sealing will create a benefit that’s invisible to the eye but tangible in your utility bills and your level of comfort for your home.

Making the Most of Living Space

Older homes, particularly those with older radiators, can benefit significantly from improved heating and air conditioning systems. Aside from being enormously wasteful of energy, old radiators also consume several cubic feet of floor space and force odd living behaviors on home owners – you tend to place seating furniture near radiators for warmth, but not so close as to cause damage to furniture.

High efficiency forced air furnaces and ductwork, frees up valuable living space for families, while also dramatically improving the comfort of rooms with continuous and reliable temperature control; while lowering your utility bills.

Better Air Quality

Before laying new hardwood floors, consider what is beneath your feet – the crawl space. In a home with an unsealed crawl space, up to 60% of the air on ground floor living spaces can come from your crawl space, along with all the ensuing moisture, dust and irregular temperatures.

Sealing a crawl space alone can improve a home’s comfort dramatically (particularly for families with young children that spend most of their time on the floor) and improve air quality for all areas of the home. In addition, a properly sealed crawl space can reduce your energy bills by between 5 to 20% and add to the value of your home.

Working With the Right Contractor

When evaluating and requesting bids from home renovation contractors, consider requesting an analysis of how their proposal will improve the energy efficiency of your home. While building codes are in place for home renovations in North Carolina, often contractors are used to addressing the aesthetics of a home first, with comfort and energy efficiency being a poorly planned second. If your contractor is unable to demonstrate a good grasp of energy efficiency improvements, bringing in a dedicated energy efficiency contractor to work with the renovation contractor can give you the best of both worlds.

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  • jonrpatrick Jan 28, 2012

    Sealed crawl spaces originally were designed to control excessive moisture/humidity levels in vented crawls where some combination of airflow, temperature, or utilities caused HVAC condensation, etc.
    It was found that an improvement on the order of 20% efficiency in the HVAC system could be had, and since outside air (with pollen, dust, etc) doesn't circulate beneath the home the quality of the air IN the home improves as well!

About this Blog:

Bobby Ferrel, founder of Green Horizon oversees The Green Home blog. Ferrel is co-founder of Green Horizon, with offices in the Triangle and Charlotte, offering home owners and builders a one-stop shop for energy efficiency and green building. Services include home performance assessments, weatherization, closed crawl spaces, all types of insulation, HVAC and geothermal installation and maintenance. Reach Bobby directly at or visit him online at