On the House | Top 10 list for a green makeover at home

The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) has kicked its list of top 10 technologies up a notch this year, to two sets of selections.

The first list, designed for all construction, came out in January and was proclaimed publicly in February from the steps of the NextGen demonstration home at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla.

The latest list, compiled with remodeling in mind, was a highlight of the Remodelers Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Here's a look at PATH's more recent picks, which it calls "innovations [that] improve energy and resource efficiency in existing housing:"

Air sealing with spray-foam insulation. The foam is blown through a membrane - a fabric similar to what you find when you look at the underside of your living room chair. The cellulose in the foam surrounds air bubbles, for more effective insulation. More information at http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/walls/insulation-blown-through-membrane.

Smartvent's crawlspace-ventilation system. Sensors measure temperature, relative humidity, and water vapor in the crawlspace, as well as the air outside it, to calculate when more or less ventilation is needed to lower moisture levels. More information at http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/HVAC/smartvent-crawlspace-ventilation.

HVAC sizing. Proper sizing of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment can save money from the start - and lead to increased comfort. Instead of sizing a system by eye, figuring out heating and air-conditioning needs through an algorithm - the Air Conditioning Contractors of America's Manual J Residential Load Calculation - results in greater accuracy. Information at http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/HVAC/hvac-sizing-practice.

High-efficiency toilets. Gravity-fed, dual-flush, pressure-assist, and power-assist models cut water waste, utility bills, and the amount of precious fresh water used. Information at http://www.toolbase.org/Techinventory/TechDetails.aspx?ContentDetailID=3661&BucketID=6&CategoryID=9.

Compact fluorescent lights. "Fluorescent lamps use about one-quarter the electricity of an equivalent incandescent lamp," PATH says. "In hot climates, they provide a further benefit by reducing the heat output from the lamp. They last about five or more times longer than incandescent lamps."

Energy-efficient and storm-resistant windows. Low-E (emissivity) window coatings cut heating costs from energy loss. Solar-control windows allow more natural light to enter the home, requiring fewer electric lights. Impact-resistant windows can prevent damage and injury because panes don't shatter when they are struck by objects traveling at high speeds.

Wireless lighting, thermostats, and other controls. These are the things that have helped existing homes accommodate new technology. In days gone by, houses had to be rewired extensively and expensively. That's no longer the case.

Solar hot water. Solar heaters reduce the amount of gas and electricity needed to get water hot and cut the amount of pollutants entering the atmosphere from fossil-fuel-burning generating plants. Information at http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/Plumbing/solar-water-heaters.

Recycled and renewable flooring. In post-industrial America, a lot of yellow pine flooring lies in abandoned factories, ready for reuse. But that's not the only place to look. PATH says bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus flooring products are a sustainable alternative to traditional hardwoods.

Tubular skylights. By using light from the sun during the day instead of electric lights, considerable energy savings can be realized. Savings attributed to tubular skylights will depend where and how they are used.

Hope all this helps as you plan future remodeling projects.

On the House |

Join Inquirer real estate writer Alan J. Heavens for a live discussion at 2 p.m. Fridays on the PhillyTalk link at philly.com. He answers questions about real estate and home improvement in an online forum at http://go.philly.com/askheavens.

"On the House" appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com.

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