Can This Home Be Greened? A Pennsylvania Pick-Me-Up—Completed!

Our eco-experts helped Joe Keleher make his 1920s Dutch Colonial home energy-efficient. Now he's saving $150 a month.

| November/December 2010

  • "If my home is happy and healthy, so am I." —Joe Keleher
    Photo By Lisa R. Howeler
  • By making our experts' recommended improvements, Joe doubled his home's efficiency.
    Photo By Liam Goble
  • After peeling away layers of old carpet, Joe refinished his home's original wood floors with linseed oil and black tea.
    Photo By Lisa R. Howeler
  • Joe's driveway tilts toward his house, directing rainwater to an already unstable foundation.
    Photo By Lisa R. Howeler
  • Joe stopped basement floods by replacing crumbling foundation bricks and installing a sump pump.
    Photo By Liam Goble
  • Joe saved money by tackling many projects himself.
    Photo By Lisa R. Howeler

Last year, when reader Joe Keleher dedicated himself to making his 1920s Dutch Colonial home in Pennsylvania toxin-free and energy-efficient, he turned to Natural Home for advice (“Can This Home Be Greened?” November/December 2009). We set up a consultation with two of our green building experts and, after following their renovation recommendations, Joe is feeling healthier and saving $150 a month on utility bills.

Liam Goble and Shaun Pardi of Envinity Design and Construction in State College, Pennsylvania, found several areas where Joe could increase efficiency and improve indoor air quality. His aged carpet harbored toxins; the home lacked insulation; the gas boiler was inefficient; and the foundation’s drainage issues led to frequent basement flooding. Joe immediately got to work, tackling many projects himself.

Joe made renovations last fall in preparation for the harsh Pennsylvania winter—the test to see if his energy-efficiency retrofits worked. The home’s previous tenants paid a monthly average of $250 for utilities. After incorporating Goble and Pardi’s suggestions, Joe paid less than $100 in utility bills during the cold months.

1. Remove potential toxins. 

Joe’s biggest concern was removing toxins to improve his health.

Problem Solved: Pardi suggested Joe remove his carpet and refinish the wood floor found underneath to improve the home’s indoor air quality and Joe’s quality of life. Joe sanded the original floor, refinished it with linseed oil and stained it with a homemade product made from brewed tea (see instructions below*). Joe also painted the walls with low- and no-VOC paint and installed water filters on his shower and kitchen sink.

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