Energy Efficiency Begins with Your Home’s Core

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Remodeling can be a down and dirty business – far less sexy than what you see on DIY shows that glorify our craft. 

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At Ethos Design + Build | Remodel, our approach starts by examining a home’s core, ensuring its inner bones are sound before moving to updates of its more cosmetic aspects. For clients concerned about their carbon footprint and the environmental health of the home for residents, working from the inside out offers numerous ways to save money and live out more earth-friendly values. 

Recently, we were hired to remodel an entire home and add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) for a Boise family. When we opened up the ceiling and walls in their existing home basement, we found knob-and-tube wiring – an outdated and unsafe way to conduct electricity through the home. Once the family learned this was the case, they asked us to rewire the entire house. That process revealed paper-wrapped wiring that was not only unsafe but far from being up to code, as well as some uncapped “hot” wires that could pose a fire danger. 

If you live in a home that was previously remodeled by its owners and not professional contractors, it may be worth a look to be sure your home’s electrical envelope is safe. There’s no shortage of DIY disasters around the Treasure Valley, and it’s worth consulting a professional if you don’t know the history of your home.

Another question that often comes up among our clients is how to improve the energy efficiency of their home. Particularly if you live in a home built before the 1990s, it’s important to recognize the changes in building codes and materials so you can build in the most efficient choices into your next remodel or addition. 

Think of your home as being held by an outward-facing container, like an envelope. You want that envelope to retain heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. One relatively easy and affordable way to improve your home’s efficiency is by updating your appliances. A home’s water heater and refrigerator are huge energy sucks, particularly if they are more than ten years old. It may not as sexy as building your dream kitchen, but it is fundamental to helping your home’s energy efficiency. Updating a refrigerator means your food will stay fresh longer, and can help with temperature moderation in the home, eliminating its “cold zones” or “hot zones.”

Tightening a home’s envelope can mean adding insulation. If you are opening up walls for a remodeling project anyway, ask your contractor what is possible to help you recapture the heat in your home during the winter and avoid sending that cool A/C out in the summer. We’ve had numerous clients ask us to insulate their foundations and even add a conditioned crawl space, which is pretty unique for Idaho.

If you live in a newer home or are confident your historic home’s electrical structure is up to date, you may want to consider its fixtures. We love scouring thrift stores and even scrap yards for the perfect chandelier or pendant fixture, but before you grant it a second LED-compatible life, make sure the old wires are stripped and cut down by a professional electrician. Adding LED lights is something we do with every Ethos project and can save hundreds of dollars annually on your power bill. 

We’d love to help you dream your next remodeling project, and we’re happy to be a resource if you’re concerned about the inner workings of your home. Email for a consult or visit our website to learn more. 

Erin Sorensen

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