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Eco-Friendly Homes Can Be Luxurious


Posted By Ruth Mitchell  From: Partner site

Real Estate: When we were building our "dream home," we had the resources to use our lifelong collection of desires, and the knowledge garnered from years of experience; my husband, the architect of our luxurious home, and myself, a past editor of a home magazine.

When the architect, James Mitchell, insisted we install a hot water recirculating pump or "instant hot water" I thought this was one luxury we could do without, as the dollar signs danced in my dreams during construction. When he told me it was a "green" thing to do, I made him explain. It turns out a hot water recirculating pump actually helps the environment by not sending a bunch of extra water down the drain. It works by circulating the water through insulated pipes delivering hot water immediately to where you need it.

Some of the other "green" design concepts in the house include 3 foot overhangs on the eaves. It makes the house look more classic and luxurious, but it also helps with heat gain. We used natural materials wherever possible such as wood and stone. Better for the environment and better for our health.

We also used SIP panels in the timber frame construction. SIP stands for Structural Insulated panels. They are tremendously energy efficient and very attractive. The panels have six inches of Styrofoam sandwiched between beautiful natural pine paneling on one side and plywood on the other. We put a light wash stain on the pine to retain its natural color so it wouldn't "yellow" with age.

The house located on a steep hillside, gave us the opportunity to use the stability of the earth's temperature to moderate thermal fluctuations. We live in a warm climate and this "nestling" into the earth keeps our air conditioning bill to a minimum as well.

With a million dollar view, we opted for lots of glass in the house, but our view faces north, so we are not subject to heat gain. We also made an investment in this luxury item by purchasing high E factor windows made from wood, not metal, which would conduct heat or cold from the outside into the interior.

One of the more expensive investments into "Green" living we made was the two Water Furnaces or Geothermal heat pumps. The technology has been around for awhile, but the higher initial investment keeps most homeowners from going this route. The lake that we live on provides the "heat exchange" for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. Wells can be dug for this process, and less reliable, depending on your climate, are the units that use the ground for this heat exchange.

When it came to appliances, we went all out with the most modern energy efficient models we could find. Those popular front loading washer and dryers actually are great energy savers. They use a horizontal or tumble-axis basket to lift and drop clothing into the water instead of rubbing clothes around a central agitator. Newly designed top-loading machines can be energy efficient as well, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR before purchasing. Faster spin speeds, two-three times faster during the spin cycle, extract more water from clothes thus reducing dryer time and energy use.

Looking for the Energy Star is important when looking for other types of appliances as well. Viking, Kitchen Aid, Asko, Wolf, Sub Zero and Bosch are all name brands that you should be able to find energy efficient. While you might be able to afford those higher energy bills, luxury trends indicate consumers are looking for better technology that is eco-friendly. By choosing energy efficient technologies, appliances and taking steps to optimize the performance of your heating and cooling equipment, you are helping to prevent global warming and promoting cleaner air while enhancing the comfort of your home. It's the moral thing to do.

Three foot overhangs, use of natural wood and stone, and many other technological advances, make living in this luxurious eco-friendly home satisfying for the owners.

By Ruth Mitchell

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