Even in a volatile economy, homeowners are making home upkeep a priority. While the number of projects annually had been on the decline in recent years, a study from BuildFax, a resource for building, remodeling and repair information, found remodeling activity was up in 2011 over 2010. Additional data shows homeowners are opting to invest in what matters most with projects that benefit their wallets, personal comfort and the environment.
Know the facts
Before buying anything, shoppers are taking time to learn more about the products they put in their homes. For one in four consumers, knowing and understanding what makes up general household products is important. As options continue to increase, this attention to research is key to finding efficient products that offer maximum value. For instance, homeowners will find that a few newer home insulation products that help provide greater energy efficiency also boast new sustainable formulations. Owens Corning EcoTouch insulation is made from 99 percent natural materials, contains a minimum of 58 percent recycled content and is verified formaldehyde free.
According to the 2010 Home Improvement Research Institute Trends Program Report, reducing household energy usage and bills through energy-efficient improvements continues to be the No. 1 reason homeowners make home improvements. That same report also indicated six out of 10 consumers need help identifying what they can do to be more environmentally conscious.
"Now is the right time to make efficiency improvements around the home because homeowners will see an immediate impact on their monthly utility bills, and will reap even greater benefits in the long term," says Frank O'Brien-Bernini, chief sustainability officer at Owens Corning.
"According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use more energy in the United States than either transportation or industry, accounting for the consumption of 40 percent of our nation's energy resources. On a more granular level, the primary use of energy in a home is for heating and cooling. In many homes, excessive energy is wasted through poorly sealed and insulated attics, walls and ductwork - all problems that can be solved by handy do-it-yourselfers or through experienced contractors."
The Home Improvement Research Institute reports roughly one in three homeowners plans to purchase more energy-efficient doors, windows or HVAC systems in the coming year. Sealing all openings around doors and windows can help homeowners make the most of their investment. Air ducts should also be inspected to ensure they are clean, are free of leaks and holes and direct air to the right spaces.
While recycled content is commonly focused on, recyclable materials are also important. Often with home improvement projects, old materials are thrown out and replaced with the new.
What many homeowners may not know is that many building materials and appliances are recyclable. Recycling is a better solution for the environment, and may be less costly than taking material to a landfill.
"There are more recyclable materials on and in a home than you might first assume. Millions of tons of shingles torn off from roofs end up in our country's landfills each year. Fortunately, the technology now exists for all those shingles to be recycled instead," says O'Brien-Bernini. "In 2009, Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt, LLC formed an alliance with Heritage Environmental Services to create a Shingle Recycling Program with roofing contractors to make recycling convenient, cost-competitive and differentiating and have since recycled more than 90,000 tons of asphalt shingles."
Homeowners looking for more information about shingle recycling and other types of recycling can turn to Earth911.com, with whom Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt, LLC recently also formed an alliance. The site hosts the largest and most accurate recycling directory in North America and provides information about what materials can be recycled as well as lists of recyclers in local markets.