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MAKE YOUR HOME
A FRIEND TO
THE ENVIRONMENT

Whoever said "Don't sweat the small stuff" apparently didn't refer to homes and the environment.

It is the accumulation of little Earth-friendly steps that mark today's eco-conscious home. A plastic bottle recycled here, a gallon of paint disposed cleanly there, and you've made a good start toward saving energy, reining in dangerous materials, and reducing pollutants.

According to The Home Service Store, homeowners are far more environmentally aware than they were even a decade ago. Manufacturers have made concerted efforts to label product boxes with information for consumers about energy use and savings.

Mark Sosnik of HSS says homeowners can create their own version of an Environmental Impact Statement to guide their in-home environmental effort. "Homeowners should assess the energy usage of their home, have a plan to dispose of household chemicals, and keep an eye on overall conservation," said Sosnik.

Most homes already have a leg up on environmental issues. Legislation has removed asbestos and lead paint dangers of bygone decades, and action has been taken now to ban treated wood products that contain poisonous arsenic and formaldehyde. Treated wood should never be burned. Cut disposal wood into manageable sizes for disposal in trash containers.

But the removal of harmful products applies largely to new construction. Owners of older homes need to be particularly cautious about the lingering aftereffects of now-banned products. If you contemplate major plumbing or other repairs in an older home, ask local experts to gauge the potential for harmful items in place since the home was built.

Sosnik said the biggest plus for the environment in the last 10 years is the widespread adoption of local paper, plastic, and glass recycling efforts. Homeowners can take advantage of gas stations that accept motor oil and lubricants from cars as well as oil from lawn mowers, trimmers, and snow throwers. Riding-lawn-mower batteries are usually accepted too. Many local governments set up seasonal recycling locations for safe disposal of household solvents, paints, and other liquids.

Ceiling fans are popular cooling alternatives. A fan can cut summertime indoor temperatures 4 to 8 degrees, and when the blade rotation is reversed in winter, heated air is forced downward. Programmable thermostats are common in most homes. New light bulbs generate less heat with less electricity.

New construction gives homeowners a chance to get off on the right environmental foot. In cold climates, large southerly facing windows allow solar heat. In warmer areas, large roof overhangs protect from the hot sun. Radiant heat systems that warm objects rather than heating the air are best installed during construction phases.

"Don't forget about ventilation," said Sosnik. Proper air circulation helps remove moisture that can contribute to the growth of mold in ducts and damp walls.

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Written by: David Bradley, Associated Press


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