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Kitchens are an excellent candidate for homeowners who look to "green" their home improvement projects. For starters, kitchen remodels tend to be large undertakings, and since the greenest remodeling project is one that starts from the ground up, they provide homeowners with the opportunity to incorporate a wide range of green alternatives into the overall design. Even if you're just upgrading your countertops, cabinets, appliances, or plumbing, a green kitchen remodel is a great starting place for a greener home.
Calculating the True Value of Green Kitchen Remodeling
While cost is first in the mind of most homeowners, it's difficult to place a specific cost on green remodeling in the kitchen. The level of green each homeowner is willing to commit to varies, as does the scope of individual green kitchen remodels. What we can tell you is this:
- Green kitchen remodeling doesn't necessarily mean more expensive materials. Most green building materials are cost-competitive with traditional ones, and many actually cost less than non-green alternatives.
- Green building focuses on creating low-maintenance, long lasting kitchens, so you'll pay less for repairs and replacements over the life of your addition.
- Green kitchen remodeling is guaranteed to reduce energy costs in the kitchen, now and in the long term. Those energy savings will help to offset any higher initial costs over time.
- The true value of a green kitchen isn't always best measured in dollars and cents.
This last point is an important one. It's what green remodeling expert David Johnston refers to as "avoiding the payback trap." Green remodeling doesn't just mean adopting an energy-efficient design that will pay for itself over time. It also places an emphasis on creating healthier indoor living areas, on utilizing long lasting, high quality, low maintenance building materials and practices, and on committing at every turn to environmental responsibility.
Green Kitchen Remodels: The David Johnston Way
Johnston isn't just any green remodeling expert. He's the founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., author of Green from the Ground Up, and the award winning Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time, and he's the point man here at ServiceMagic when it comes to green remodeling. Here's what he has to say about increasing energy-efficiency with green kitchen remodeling:
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances. Replacing your old appliances with ENERGY STAR-rated models can reduce the cost of running your appliances by more than 30 percent. A new refrigerator alone can save enough energy to light your home for three months.
- Insulate hot water pipes. Doing so prevents heat loss as hot water runs from your hot water heater to your faucet, reducing the demands placed on your hot water heater.
- Install low-flow water faucets to reduce water usage. They can reduce water usage at these faucets by 60 percent.
- Install an "on-demand" hot water circulation pump. These pumps send hot water to fixtures throughout your home in seconds. You won't waste water resources waiting for the hot water, and your water heater will operate more efficiently, reducing energy costs.
- Install radiant floor heating. Radiant floor heating increases energy efficiency, creates more comfortable and consistent heat, eliminates airborne particulates associated with forced air heating, and can provide heat for a basement area below, as well as the kitchen above.
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Comfort, Quality, Durability, and Green Kitchens
Going green doesn't mean settling for lower quality, or sacrificing looks and comfort for environmentally friendly products. In fact, the opposite is usually the case. Here's some green kitchen remodeling strategies that will result in a more comfortable, higher quality, and longer lasting kitchen every time.
- Install adequate insulation. Adequate insulation leads to more consistent indoor temperatures, more comfortable kitchens, and since insulation helps reduce noise pollution, it makes for quieter kitchens, as well.
- Green flooring is the best flooring. Bamboo, cork, recycled content ceramic tile, stone flooring tile, and FSC-certified engineered wood flooring are not only some of the best looking flooring materials on the market, but they're some of the lowest maintenance floors you can purchase, as well.
- Solid slab countertops aren't just healthy. Solid stone countertops such as granite and marble are the cream of the crop when it comes to countertop materials. And engineered stone and decorative concrete countertops aren't what you'd call second rate, either.
- You can't beat custom cabinetry. In the world of kitchen cabinets, there isn't a product that comes close custom cabinetry in quality, looks, function, or design.
Are you Ready to Go Green?
Going green with your kitchen remodel is a smart move from just about every angle. It will reduce energy costs, create healthier indoor environments, and the final product is a more comfortable, higher quality kitchen area. And, of course, it's also a good choice for the environment. If you think green is the right choice for you, be sure to talk to your contractor about adopting a green building philosophy, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm to help you plan and design the best, and greenest, kitchen remodel possible.
Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.