Owning a home is one thing. Owning a home that is environmentally friendly is another. Although it might seem like a tall order, there are ways – big and small – to make your home more energy efficient, from saving on water resources to adding property value to your home... all while giving Mother Nature a break.
Running on Sunshine
Like the idea of solar power for RI by RI? So does Newport Solar. Owner Doug Sabetti started Newport Solar in 2009 with the goal of bringing affordable solar installations to the state. He even has a solar array that provides 100% of his home’s electricity. “I quickly realized that the more I did with electricity, the fewer things in life I’d have to pay for. I now do everything I can with electricity in my home and I haven’t had an electric bill in years,” he says with a smirk. “I still pay $5.73 a month for maintenance of the grid that I still use.” There are even tax credits available at the state and federal levels to subsidize the costs. 14 Vernon Avenue, Newport. 864-5024
Another player in the solar power game in Sol Power Cooperative based in Providence. Owner Eric Beecher started the company in 2013 with the strategy of having Sol Power be a workers’ cooperative. This means that they are owned by their employees and thus make decisions democratically. Aside from generating carbonfree energy, this green energy source has an 11% annual return on investment. Not bad. And with all the upfront state and federal incentives, you’ll save roughly half on the installation costs. 6 Messer Street, Providence. 680-0765
One thing gardeners always think about is water. Beverly O’Keefe, The Rhode Island Water Lady, recommends conserving natural resources with a rain barrel. Rain barrels capture water from downspout gutters, which is then fed into 60-gallon barrels. This s especially important during peak summer months when water use is high. In fact, it can save up to 1,300 gallons during the summer.
“Harvesting rainwater saves money on the water-sewer bill if the homeowner is on the public water supply. Homeowners who get their water from a private well will place less demand on the well during the summer thus avoiding drying up their well water during periods of drought,” explains Beverly. Her two main recommendations for a healthy landscape include keeping as much water as possible off paved surfaces, and keeping the water that does run off as clean as possible. 72 Gardiner Road, West Kingston. 539-0667/486-5389
Sow the Seeds
“Many homeowners are surprised to know that their trees are green assets and can increase their property values by as much as 15%. Trees and plants provide great value and benefit the homeowner’s quality of life, and affect neighborhoods and towns with their green power,” says Matt Largess of Largess Forestry, an arborist and urban forester.
Often times Matt will get calls to remove a tree because it makes a car dirty or could hit a house during a storm, but once he explains its value and benefits, it often changes the
homeowner’s decision. Matt even has customers who leave dead trees in their yard for wildlife habitat.
Some tips from Matt on how to green your home’s landscape include having the landscape mimic the natural world, such as a meadow, forest or wetland habitat. Choose native plants and trees that grow well in the region and ecosystem. Invasive species, insects and disease can also be reduced with these planting techniques. Also, plant trees near houses and buildings to reduce electricity and energy costs by over 10%. The average forest is 12 degrees cooler than the surrounding urban areas. Trees act as windbreaks and can reduce a home’s space heating needs by 5-15%. 221 Shady Lea Road, North Kingstown. 849-9191
Being Green From the Ground Up
Steve DeMetrick has been building houses since he graduated from Georgetown University in 1995. Now, he’s the owner of DeMetrick Housewrights in Wakefield, and he has a passion for incorporating green building procedures into every project he works on. “My approach to green building is less focused on products and gadgets and more focused on applying attention to detail to standard building practices to create more durable, comfortable and healthy living spaces,” he boasts. “Energy savings are a positive byproduct of this approach.” Steve is currently the only certified Passive House contractor in RI, which basically means that he applies rigorous standards during the building process to make homes as energy efficient as possible.
As a builder, Steve’s green building focus is on high performance building materials and long-term benefits. He recommends putting the majority of your efforts into the “shell” of the house: the windows, siding, framing, air sealing and insulation. This is where the most longterm impact can be made on the energy consumption of our structures. Then insulate houses with much higher than code minimum values. Build houses to be as airtight as possible and then install mechanical ventilation to bring continuous fresh air into the house. Also, install simple heating and cooling systems, preferably air source heat pumps (ductless mini-splits) that are inexpensive and easy to maintain. Lastly, focus on interior finishes that are renewable, local and environmentally friendly. Wakefield. 378-6257
Green on the Inside
Martinha Javid is the owner of MI Interiors of North Kingstown, an interior design firm that specializes in eco-friendly designs and practices. Fifteen years ago she began by working on projects for herself, friends and family after attending RISD. “When I first started, most [clients] didn’t understand what eco-friendly was,” she says. It’s taken some time, but now she is finding that clients are much more educated on the environment and on green materials, and most are very enthusiastic about repurposing and using energy saving building materials. Eco can be very chic, and it can also mean supporting local businesses to keep the economy growing in your community. For example, she would rather repurpose a beautiful antique piece of furniture made from quality wood rather than going to a big box furniture store. “By repurposing you are reducing your environmental footprint as well as saving energy,” she says.
Here are some tips from Martinha on how to incorporate green design inside your home. When redoing a room, something as simple as a new dining room set or new bedroom set, don’ttoruntoabigboxstore–goto your local second hand location and see if there’s something there that’s well built, that you can reinvent and make it into something that will resonate with you. Then, if you are painting a room, go for the environmentally safe paint widely available at any paint shop. And use eco-friendly cleaning materials. It is essential for your home and your health. 650 Ten Rod Road #2, North Kingstown. 206-1451