Meanwhile, up on the roof...

The roofing system that I am using for my eco-friendly home is different than the systems used for most homes. I am using a multi-layered roofing system for the roof that’s designed to compliment the advanced framing construction techniques I used below it.

The roof isn’t quite done yet, but when it does it will pack quite an R-value punch. My base layer for the whole system is a layer of GAF underlayment to keep water out but allow the whole roof to “breathe” - that is, allow moisture to escape. I’ll place my insulation system on top of that, which for the roof consists of two four-inch layers of rigid commercial insulation.

On top of the two four-inch layers of rigid, I’m placing 2x4s spaced about a foot apart, with an additional one-inch layer of insulation. This will create an air cavity that will allow for roof ventilation. Above that goes a layer of plywood, followed by shingles.

At the very top is a ridged vent that completes the ventilation aspect of my roofing system. Adequate ventilation is necessary in a colder climate like New England to prevent the roof from icing up during a snowmelt, and to vent moisture that’s moving from the interior of the home to the attic. If you’re ever looking for a crash course in roof venting, I've put one of my favorites at the end of this article.

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Q&A - On getting your home certified

There are many angles to building an eco-friendly home. Some people are like me and incorporate environmentally friendly features into the home through advanced construction techniques and by using certain recycled building materials. Other folks might decide to make their focus on a different area altogether, like growing their own food and recycling the waste.

As far as my project goes, I have tried to cover as many areas under the “eco-friendly umbrella” that I can. I’m installing tankless toilets to promote water conservation. I’m putting a solar water heater into my system to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to heat our water. I’m using a tight building envelope using recycled commercial grade materials to reduce our energy bills and consumption.

As the project continues, I’ve found myself looking at the various types of certification systems that are available to a builder like me. Certification systems provide owners and occupants with guidelines for the design and construction of eco-friendly buildings and a method for evaluating overall performance. If my wife and I ever decide to sell our home, having a certification will almost certainly increase its resell value and give the buyer an idea of what they’re getting for their money.

One common type of certification is LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was developed through the US Green Building Council to certify new and existing homes and is widely used.

Another type of certification is ENERGY STAR, which typically means that a home is 15% more efficient than a typical home built to state codes.

Many cities and states across the country have their own certification programs. What certifications do you think I should go for for this project in particular? Join the conversation and let us know!

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AHR 2017 - Balancing the HVAC equation

A good HVAC specialist once told me that the best HVAC system is one that you never know is there, because it’s doing its job keeping you comfortable. For most people, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems are something that they rarely see or think about, because the components are usually behind a locked door or in the basement and there’s really no reason to check it out unless it breaks.

However, I believe that if more people have a rudimentary understanding of what goes into an HVAC system, we could design better homes and buildings, increase the comfort of the occupants, and save people time and money.

When I was at the AHR expo this past January, I got to sit down with Dan Foley of Foley Mechanical and discuss this concept with him. Dan has many years of experience in the HVAC industry and shared with me some insights that you can only get from years of coming up on different scenarios on the job. Dan talked to me about the importance of listening to his clients and some minor home construction adjustments that could make for better systems overall. I hope you enjoy and get some good takeaways from this segment!

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Q&A - word of mouth vs. online resources

Over the course of 30 years or so, many of the contractors that I have hired to do work on my home have been "repeat customers". Generally, once I find someone who is reliable and who does good work, I tend to stick with that person for as long as possible through my various projects.

Oftentimes, somebody I work with on projects over the course of years or decades is able to recommend other people to me who do good work. One example of such a person who I've worked with for a long time is Mike Evangelisti, the foundation contractor who brought his big machines in to dig the hole where my new home will go. Not only is Mike proficient at digging precision holes, he was also able to help me with the septic system, grading, and moving topsoil to a location on the property where I can use it later.

In many instances, the contractors and specialists you'll use for a project in an area may know each other well and know who to call if you're in need of someone for a part of your project.

However, it's good to keep all of your options in mind when it comes to finding qualified experts to work with. If you move to a new area and you don't know anyone, there are some services available online like that can provide you with some names and phone numbers. It's also possible to hire contractors and builders from an online classified service like Craigslist, but I'm a bit from the old school and generally don't procure my services this way.

What do you think? Have you had an experience where you've used Craiglist or another service to find a contractor or licensed professional? I'm curious to know about your experience... join the conversation and let us know!

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Looking through panes of glass

Back in our "Windows and Doors" episode, I walked through a showroom packed full of different examples of windows that I could have installed in my new home. From single to double pane, from solid glass pane to casement windows, I knew that I wouldn't be selecting just one style of window for my new home and that I would have to make some choices about what manufacturer to use.

Before I installed my sets of windows, I had the framers finish most of the frame and install our housewrap and flashing system so that I could install the windows and casements at the end of that process. Since I plan on hanging four inches of ridged insulation (2 layers of paper faced polyisocyanurate insulation) on the outside of the frame, I designed the extension jambs to protrude out about four inches so that when the insulation is hung and the siding installed, the windows won't stick out like a sore thumb.

I built the extension jambs myself out of PVC lumber. In order to accomplish this task I've temporarily converted my garage space into a miniature sawmill, with appropriate sawdust collection and ventilation systems. I feel more like a lumberjack already!

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Electrifying Green Comfort

Now that the framing and insulation of my new eco-friendly home is nearly complete, I have the opportunity to shift my attention to the interior. My wife and I haven't quite made our final decisions about the cosmetic details, but one area that I'm moving forward on right away is developing and implementing my electrical plan.

Planning the electrical system for my new home is where some of my professional engineering skills come in handy. Knowing exactly where to drill holes and how much wire I will need are a couple of the details that I've filled in even before I hang an electrical box. For practical and safety reasons, I've made sure that every detail of my electrical system has been planned out before I start wiring up my house.

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The latest in geothermal at AHR Expo 2017

Geothermal heating and cooling technology is without a doubt one of the most efficient and eco-friendly ways to bring comfort into your home. It goes without saying that using a geothermal heat pump is better for the environment - geothermal eliminates the need for fossil fuels and provides a level of year-round comfort that is the same or better than fossil fuel systems.

When I got to Las Vegas for AHR 2017, one of the first people I went looking for was Jay Egg, one of our country's foremost experts on all things related to geothermal. Jay and I sat down for an interview at last year's AHR show in Orlando, where he talked to me about the benefits of installing a geothermal heating and cooling system. Now that a year has passed, I wanted to catch up with him and learn what’s changed over the past year, what the developments in the industry have been, and whether or not financial incentives remain for me to install such a system in my new home.

I haven’t made any final decisions yet about what’s going to go in the basement as far as heating and cooling, but a geothermal system drives a hard bargain as far as long-term energy savings and reducing my carbon footprint.

What do you think about geothermal heating and cooling? Do you think I should install a system in my new home? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Q&A - Managing your project in the best way

Through the course of this blog so far, I've written some zany analogies about building a new home. I've compared it to being the conductor in a symphony orchestra, because all the parts of your project must work well together in order to assure optimal and predictable results.

I think it's more than that, though - I think that having a home-building project go well also requires a certain degree of emotional intelligence. I have a friend whose family grew up with an African Grey Parrot - if you're not familiar with these majestic animals, these parrots are highly intelligent and require constant time and attention from their owners. My friend's family showered the bird in love and attention, and in return the bird sang and made the house a happy place to be.

Like the African Grey, a home-building project is long-lived experience and potentially a life-long companion - if you plan to live in the house you build, then I think it's important to build with heart - treat the people you work with well, and they'll make your house a happy place to be. Love your project, and it will love you back.

I hope my tip helps some of you to have great home-building projects. What's your advice for managing a project in the best way possible? Join the conversation and let us know!

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AHR 2017 - Everyone's a winner!

This year's AHR show in Las Vegas was fantastic. In between my booth dury for Taco Comfort Solutions, I got to catch up with a wide range of professionals across the HVACR industry. Energy efficiency is still the name of the game, and the drive to make more eco-friendly mechanical systems that consume less power is stronger than ever.

On the show floor, I ran into a few old friends and a couple of new ones, and I'll have some special content for you in the weeks to come. I had the pleasure of having a few conversations with some folks whose knowledge you'll find interesting including Robert Bean, recipient of this year's Dan Holohan Lifetime Contribution to Comfort Award. Be sure to check the blog regularly for these special feature updates. Did you attend this year's AHR Expo? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below!

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The right ingredients for a great kitchen

One of the biggest areas where I can save money on energy costs for my eco-friendly home is in the kitchen. Even though I’m still working on the skeleton of the room that will become our kitchen, I think that planning the details of what appliances I want to include and what materials to use is important to do early on in the process.

The kitchen is one area of my new home that I’m pretty excited about, just because kitchens are fun to design and there is a myriad of options out there that can really spice things up. One of the latest trends in kitchen design is to hide appliances - that is, cover up the refrigerator, dishwasher, and other appliances with cabinetry so that the whole space blends seamlessly together. Whether or not this will look good in 20 years is debatable - if I decide to hide my appliances behind cabinet veneers, only time will tell.

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