10 Simple Practices for Saving Energy in Your Home by Jamie Briesemeister

Saving energy in your home can be as simple as flipping a switch, turning down a thermostat, or changing a light bulb. Here are a few statistics, gathered from a 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Energy that may open your eyes to how energy is spent in your home, with suggestions to decrease energy expenditures.

FACT: 42% of a home’s energy is ‘spent’ on space heating and cooling. 
Reduce your consumption and save when you:
1. Set back thermostats in seldom used areas of the home.
2. Set back thermostats when you leave the house and at night.
3. Heat home to a lower temperature (68°) ~ cool to a higher temperature (78°).

FACT: 13% of residential energy is spent on heating water.
Again, energy savings can be realized through a few simple practices:
4. Insulate your electric hot-water tank, but be careful to NOT cover the thermostat.
5. Lower the temperature on your water heater: a setting of 120°F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
6. Install a timer on your water heater to turn it off or lower the temperature, when you are away from home for the weekend or on vacation.

FACT: 11% of a home’s energy is taken by lighting.
Decrease your lighting expenditures:
7. Dimming lights by 25% reduces energy consumption by 20% and can extend the life of the light bulb by 4 times or more.
8. Replace interior lighting with light-emitting diode (LED) lights – these are dimmable, have a nice light quality, use less energy, and last longer than compact fluorescent lights (CFL).
9. Open window drapes and blinds to allow natural light to illuminate the space – and when designing a home from the ground up, talk to your architect about positioning windows to use as much natural light as possible.
10. And the most obvious, but often most overlooked: turn off the lights when not needed. Vacancy sensors or a master ‘AWAY’ button can turn the lights off automatically when they are unnecessarily left on.

These simple practices can significantly lower the amount of energy you spend powering ‘the basics’ of your home: heating and cooling, water heating, and lighting. However, it often becomes cumbersome to do these tasks daily, when adjusting to ever-changing living conditions. In this case, home automation may be the key to managing these systems easily, without needing to think about it.

Here’s a realistic example of how this happens in a 4,500 square foot home:

In a three-story home, all of the lights are tied together with one communication system, allowing a press of a button in the Mudroom to ‘talk to’ the rest of the lights in the home. When the home-owner leaves to go to work for the day, she presses ‘AWAY’. All of the lights and electronics in her home turn off, even the ones in the kids’ rooms on the third floor…

This same button press adjusts the thermostat to ‘energy mode’ while the house is vacant and an hour before the kids are scheduled to get home from school, the thermostat adjusts again.

When the home-owner comes home, the garage door opens and a well-lit path turns on from the garage to the kitchen. Since the lights have been replaced with LED lighting, a whole room uses the same power that was once taken by one 100-watt light bulb on at full blast.

At the end of the night, the ‘SLEEP’ button ensures the garage doors are closed, the security system is armed, the entertainment system turns off, the interior lights turn off, the exterior lights dim to 50%, and the whole-house thermostat adjusts again to ‘night mode’. Home-owners fall asleep knowing their home is secure while using the least amount of energy possible.

Green in a Very Big Way
Home automation, coupled with careful selection and design of electronic systems, can have a profound impact on one’s energy consumption – and on our environment. Imagine knowing how many pounds of carbon emissions you save from entering the environment by simply turning your thermostat down a few degrees… you will be amazed at how simple, daily changes can have a huge impact on energy consumption while cutting carbon emissions. If you would like to know more about home energy management through home automation, check out the web articles listed below. You can also contact me directly at Integration Controls: Jamie@integrationcontrols.com


The Healthy Abode: Cabinets by Melanie Holden

When you make the decision to implement sustainable practices into your life, education is critical in order to understand what you’re truly looking for in sustainable products. So far, I’ve brushed on water-saving plumbing fixtures and countertops. Let’s chat about cabinets for a while…

Cabinetry is an important investment that creates a significant impact on your space. Not only the comfort-of-your-home kind of space, but also the environment where it was manufactured, all the way to the forest where it came from kind of space.

What’s the first thing you think when considering “green” cabinets? The material? Bamboo? Bamboo is a beautiful, durable, option; just remember to be very cautious of where it originates and how it is harvested. There are a few reliable resources for it, but many are not. Smith and Fong’s Ply-Boo is an excellent one. A very scrumptious one, actually…


How about cabinets made from reclaimed materials? Are those reclaimed materials local? How far have they been transported to get to the manufacturer, then to you? If your cabinets are made from virgin lumber (wood that has come directly from trees that have been cut down to make them), is that wood FSC Certified? So much to consider! Luckily, we have an excellent local resource called Greenhaus Cabinetsthat can meet any and all of those requests.

So, let’s go back to the responsibly harvested bamboo or hardwood. Remember, it is often manufactured as a veneer in lieu of solid wood. Why, you ask? There are a few reasons, but a notable one is to minimize the natural expansion and contraction that wood goes through with changes in temperature and humidity. Some solid wood cabinets aren’t particularly practical in a kitchen or bathroom. Especially in the Midwest. Want more to consider?

What is the cabinet made of under that veneer? How is the veneer attached to the substrate underneath? How is that veneer actually finished? It doesn’t make much sense to take a smart product like Ply-Boo, FSC Certified Maple, or Missouri Red Oak – only to use a smelly adhesive to attach the substrate that is laden with more VOC-purging chemicals – then smother it with a beautiful finish that happens to be loaded with yet more VOC’s! The horror!

Back up…not so sure what’s so awful about VOCs…or what they are for that matter? VOC stands for volatile organic compound. They are (often toxic) gases omitted from various products. They constantly vaporize into the atmosphere around you, polluting and infringing on your fresh air space. You know that new carpet smell – blame VOCs. Its no surprise that concentrations of many VOCs are higher indoors than out (one great reason for a well-ventilated house or building). Some common health effects are headaches, various irritations, nausea, or worse.

Thankfully, there are products like formaldehyde-free Pure Bond, a nontoxic soy-based plywood. Water and Soy-based finishes are available as well. Combined, these factors contribute to a VOC-free end product. Locally, Centorbi Custom Cabinetry does beautiful work, using formaldehyde-free plywood upon request.


When seriously considering new products to put into the sanctuary of your home, you need to open yourself to the idea of spending a little more money up front. These cabinets are not always price competitive with the throw-away cabinetry you can pick up at homecenters. However, in return you invest in lifetime quality and contribute to healthy living.

All of this, above and beyond your contribution to a healthier environment.

Guest Post: Infuse 2010 Color Trends Like a Pro by Cary Baumann

My mother deliberated endlessly between harvest gold and avocado green when selecting the appliance color for our new home. Those were the current color trends–burnt orange was as well-but it had already been eliminated by my father. He hated the other two less, but equally, that is why my mother got to choose.

My father was an artist, and matters of color were usually decided by him. This color decision put a lot of pressure on my mother. I encouraged her to go with the harvest gold. I knew that it would look great with this sunflower pendant fixture I saw at the lighting store. (Convincing my father to buy that sunflower light fixture remains one of the toughest sales of my life.) My father never appreciated the qualities of the smaller matching sunflower fixture I wanted for over the sink.

My mother and I didn’t stop there; canister set, spoon rest, towels, etc. If it was in that kitchen for more than 5 minutes it was harvest gold.

Now when I go to homes that have embraced trends like items in an “Oprah’s Favorite Things” show, I wonder two things: How much fun must this have been at the time? And how much time did it take for the fun to wear off?

Trends exist for two reasons: We like to refresh and upgrade our surroundings, and advertisers entice us to purchase the latest and greatest. Sometimes trends become classics. More frequently, trends have become trash. Color trends are perennial. Some linger, while others lose their bloom faster than a spring tulip. Since color is the easiest and least expensive way to transform a room, color trends are the most frequent changes.

Color Trends for 2010

A few years ago, the brown and blue combo hit the scene, and has, perhaps, worn out its welcome. Last year, Pantone and others were declaring that yellow was the color to conquer the palette. The Color Marketing Group went so far to say that mauve would make a comeback.

This year Pantone’s Color of the Year is Turquoise, number #15-5519 to be exact. Pantone feels that Turquoise has earned this honor in part because it “inspires thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a comforting escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well being. ” I believe that not all turquoise colors conjure the same feelings in everyone.





Have Color Guide, Will Travel

What’s the best way to use trends to refresh your interior without looking like you got stuck in a time warp? Determine the color palette that works for you. A color consultation with a designer is a great place to start and will leave you with a practical tool for selecting color for your spaces: a customized color palette.

Armed with your custom palette as a shopping tool you can begin to transform your surroundings. Having a color guide that fits in a purse or glove compartment allows you to easily compare your palette with possible purchases and quickly eliminate costly mistakes. The infusion of trends then becomes deliberate.

If during your color consultation you discovered your preferred palette is warm neutral, rather than incorporating turquoise #15-5519 you would choose colors from Sherwin Williams paint strip #32 or #33. The trend color then slips comfortably into your space like a friend rather than an intruder. Long after the turquoise trend has been sent packing, your interpretation of the trend is still welcome because you have made it a part of your authentic style.

Designer fabric manufacturer Robert Allen/Beacon Hill has collaborated with Sherwin Williams for the past two years by coordinating; fabrics, trims, and paint colors in their Colormix collections. Colormix 2010 has four new offerings; Treasured, Rooted, Inspired and Refreshed. Your customized color palette will steer you to make the appropriate adjustments to these sets. Robert Allen/Beacon Hill products can be purchased through a professional designer.

Everyone knows that grocery shopping without a list can result in massive overspending and mis-selection. By shopping for your home with a list and a color palette, you’ll save because of the mistakes you won’t make. You won’t believe how comforting your home feels once your surroundings are in harmony.

Cary Baumann, ASID, will be on the Better Living Theater and in the ASID Design Solutions area at the St. Louis Builders Home and Garden Show.For more tips, read these green home design ideas.

Think Big! Using Accent Colors in Your Home by Kimberly Reuther

So, you love to wear that blue sweater and it really makes your eyes sparkle.  You always get lots of compliments and basically deep blue is your favorite color.  How do you incorporate that into your decorating scheme?  Bold accent colors are not for the faint of heart!  For those of you that love color, here are some great ways to use them in your home!

As with anything, it is all about balance.  When you use a bold color on an accent wall, make sure it is the focal point of the room and that the rest of the pieces complement the intensity.  For instance, this blue wall is deep and rich.  The collection of white furniture gives it the bold contrast and, in conjunction with the chocolate accents, the weight needed to counteract the depth of color.  The result is perfect balance.

The same is true for the red accent in the photo below.  The black and white color palette, along with the beautiful pattern of the rug, visually moves your eye around the room and ìlandsî on the deep red headboard.

Below, is an example of 2 accent colors.  The deep khaki, almost chocolate, color is basically a neutral since it encompasses the entire space.  The soft French blue door, along with the punch of pink on the settee jolt life into the space and instantly make it a more interesting place to arrive.

Here, they have used a more subtle accent color because the entire palette is subdued.  The color is used in smaller things but it is repeated enough to be effective.

This kitchen is anything but subdued!  How fun and bright is this blue island and matching floor?  In the case of this ìaccentî color, it is used so much that it is almost considered a ìneutralî.  Notice, how they still balanced it with lots of white, natural light and high ceilings.  Beautifully done, it is definitely eye-catching!

Originally written for AT HOME‘s website by Kimberly.  To read more of Kimberly’s work, visit her website!


New Inspirations by Kimberly Reuther

So, the groundhog saw his shadow and we have 6 more weeks of winter, blah! Time to start planning for spring while we wait…I’m a huge planner! Getting things done is another story, but at least I have a plan :)

In searching for unique things to admire, I came across a few global items and a few right here in St. Louis. Here are my inspirations for the last days of winter.

If you have stepped into Pottery Barn (link to www.potterybarn.com) lately, you may mistakenly think you are in the Butterfly House, but alas it is just the season for birds! Pillows, dishes, napkin rings, you name it, they are selling it. Not to mention, the cages that house the birds. There is one that is bigger than my dining table, I swear!

bird embroidered pillow

3 gable birdcage

Map furniture
I’ve always been fan of the subtle texture of map wallcovering and it’s ability to transform a space into a destination. See one of my favorites from Ralph Lauren below.

map wallcovering

Now, Wisteria has come out with a piece of furniture with the map wallcovering applied. You could probably do this yourself to an old dresser or parsons style table. Love the look!

map chest

Colorful outdoor chairs
I have always been a huge fan of these recycled plastic Adirondack chairs from Polywood’s South Beach Collection. I saw them on display last year at Suburban Leisure Center. They are extremely durable and reasonably priced considering they will last for centuries. And in the fun fiesta colors, they can’t be beat!

polywood south beach chair

Until I just fell in love with these adorable children’s chairs from Tolix, a French company that will hopefully be selling these in the U.S…keep your fingers crossed!

tolix childrens chairs

Also, I was browsing the Janus et Cie website for new introductions and saw these fabulous chairs. Not sure which ones they are but so freaking cute!

janus et cie

That’s all for now, as I find more things, I’ll be sure to pass them along!

Previously written by Kimberly for St. Louis AT HOME’s website.  Read more of Kimberly’s work and view her portfolio at www.kimberlyreuther.com.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...