What role does insulation play in a “Green” home?

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We all know that energy efficiency is a big component of a “green” home.  Properly sealed, moisture protected, and insulated walls help increase comfort, reduce noise and save energy.

The keys to an effective wall are:

  • Airtight Construction
  • Moisture Control
  • Complete Insulation Coverage

Most people know that the different levels of insulation are measured in R-Values.  But, there are also many types of insulation which provide different qualities of performance.


Insulation level is specified by R-value.  R-value is a measure of the insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it.  The higher the R-value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. Generally recommended R-values = R-38 for ceilings, R-21 for walls and R-10+ for foundations.

Types of Insulation:

  • Fiberglass and rock wool batts- generally the most inexpensive wall insulation
  • Cellulose insulation – made from recycled newsprint, usually loose-fill
  • Fiberglas and rock wool loosefill insulation – full coverage that involves blowing insulation into open stud cavities
  • Rigid foam insulation – higher R-value per inch than fiberglass or cellulose insulation.  Stops air leaks.  More expensive.
  • Foam-in-place insulation – blown into walls, reduces air leakage.  It is preferable to use Carbon Dioxide in the manufacturing process than more environmentally harmful gases such as pentane or hyrofluorocarbons.

With the increased interest in the “green” movement, many insulation products that are green-friendly and have higher rates of energy efficiency have gained in popularity.  At the most recent North Carolina Home Builders Association Convention in Charlotte I was able to go from booth to booth collecting information and observing demonstrations of many “green” and high efficiency types of insulation.  Here is a summary of the most notable:

Nu-Wool Premium Cellulose Insulation…Green Since 1949: Made from recycled newspaper, this product is blown in for maximum reduction of air leakage and claims to save a homeowner up to 40% on utility bills. Nu-wool is an Energy Star product and adds significant points toward a LEED Certification. www.nuwool.com.

Sealection Agribalance Spray Foam Insulation: Is another highly energy efficient spray foam insulation with approval by “Energy Choice”,  a member of the US Green Building Council and an Energy Star partner.  They offer several products including Heatlok Soy spray polyurethane foam.

BioBased Insulation is an energy efficient, soy-based spray foam insulation that is said to be ” the most environmentally friendly insulation” because of it’s use of soy-based technology and a minimum of petroleum.

NCFI polyurethanes Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation claims to be “simply the best insulation you can install”.

Low -E Reflective Insulation: “Reduces your carbon footprint”.

BioFoam Insulation (919.821.3288): ” A healthier, more durable, energy efficient and environmentally responsible insulation.”  It is applied as a liquid which quickly expands, conforming and filling cavities,and voids to create a sealed thermal envelope. Named “Outstanding Green Product of the Year” in 2003 by the National Association of Home Builders.

Green Fiber is also made of recycled newsprint and is sprayed in for improved sealing and energy efficiency.  It also claims to be more fire resistant than more commonly used insulation

Clearly there are many insulation products available with varying degrees of energy efficiency and additional benefits in comfort, sound proofing and even health.  If you are interested in learning more about how to make your home more energy efficient, I highly recommend that you work with a Certified Green Builder.  You can contact the Lake Norman Home Builder’s Association for a list of CGB’s in our area.

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It’s Time to ‘Green Up’ your Lake Norman Landscaping!

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By Betty Houston:

It’s time to “Green Up” the landscaping at your home. How do you achieve lush, green grass organically without spending a lot of “green”?

Myth: Organic lawns are not as green as synthetically, chemically maintained yards.

Fact: A lawn that is maintained properly using natural fertilizer and organic pest control is not only safer for the environment, but will likely have a deeper green color, better drought tolerance and will be more pest resistant (weeds are pests, too).

Myth: Organic lawns are expensive to maintain.

Fact: Any lawn that has been neglected is relatively expensive to rejuvenate (organically OR synthetically), and once an organically maintained lawn is healthy, with proper pH levels, appropriate amounts of Macro and Micro nutrients and microbial activity, it will actually SAVE you money on fertilizers, pest control and water.

You’ve Gone Green…How do you convince your Yard to Get Green without chemicals?

  • Get a soil test and make sure you understand the results. Have it done by a professional landscaper or ask your extension agent for help. North Carolina Department of Agriculture Soil Test Information
  • It’s almost too late to apply a winter fertilizer to your cool season grass (like Tall Fescue), but if you haven’t yet, you should do so as soon as possible.
  • Use a lime to raise your pH level. Instead of Dolomitic Lime, if you have a good amount of magnesium in your soil, you may need to use calcitic lime, like Solu-cal or Verde-cal.
  • Loosen your compacted clay soil with Gypsum and top dress with organic matter.
  • Remove leaves and debris from your lawn during the fall and winter to keep your lawn healthy – recycle the leaves as compost or mulch for natural areas
  • While the ground is wet after a rain, look around to see if you have water standing or washing. Repair right away to prevent loosing healthy organic material on the top layer of your lawn and to keep lawns and landscaping healthy and pest free.

There are many variables in creating a healthy, pest resistant landscaping, but the first thing you must do is analyze the soil and the health of the plants growing in it. Too much fertilizer or other amendments could be just as bad (or worse) than not enough. Find out what you have first before starting any new program so that you don’t waste valuable money, time, or inadvertently contaminate our water and environment.

Link to Landscapes in Harmony, your organic landscape resource in Lake Norman:


Betty Houston

Horticulturist, Landscape Designer




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Lake Norman Green Homes: Green Holiday Resources!

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Looking for that last minute gift or some cheerful holiday decorations for your home?  Why not make it a “green” holiday?

I have been collecting websites and ideas for the past several weeks.  Here they are:

Decorations: Check out Holiday LED for a great selection of Christmas and Holiday LED lighting


  • Eco Fabulous offer myriad eco-friendly gifts and everyday products from Organic Hot Chocolate by Dacoba to eco-accessories for the whole family at Pottery Barn.
  • Why not give a gift that keeps on giving for a whole year?  GreenDimes is a service that will get rid of 90% of your junk mail.  I have used it for almost a year and I barely got any gift catalogues in the mail this year…it works!  And, when you join, they will plant 5 trees on your behalf.  They also offer other “green” gift ideas.
  • Another GREAT gift idea is from Eco Hatchery where you can get an Eco Hatchery Starter Kit complete with an Energy monitor, Compact fluorescent lightbulb, Reuseable shopping tote, Reuseable Filtered water bottle, HOme Tap Water Quality Test, Faucet Aerators, Toilet Leak Detectors, Refrigerator Coil Brush, Refrigerator Thermometer, Water-based Removeable Caulk, Outlet Sealers, Light Switch Sealers, Waterpipe Insullation Samples, Recycled Coffee Filters and a Renewable Soy  Candle for $97.50.  This website has great resources and information as well.


Finally, a great present for children:  Leave it to Dr. Seuss to write an insightful “Earth Friendly” book for children way back in 1971 called The Lorax. The message is wonderful and it is even printed on recycled paper!  I got my copy on Amazon.com but I’m sure it is available in bookstores everywhere.

Have a happy, “Green” holiday season and a very “Green” New Year!


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Lessons Learned Building A Lake Norman Green Home

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If you are new to the Lake Norman area you may not know that Jennifer Pippin is THE area expert in green housing.  She is chairperson of the Lake Norman Home Builders Association’s Green Building Council and is a frequent speaker in the greater Charlotte area about both environmental and green housing issues.  Below is a list Jennifer prepared for a presentation for the Center for the Environment at Catawba College.  It is her personal list of things she learned while converting her modest waterfront home into a spectacular green home.  Enjoy!


Lessons Learned Building a Green Home

By: Jennifer B. Pippin, AIBD, CPBD, CGP – Green Building Consultant  704-895-0000 

www.pippinhomedesigns.com        www.projectlivegreen.com


  • *        Choose a builder who is familiar with building Green or is willing to learn about it – they will more readily help you achieve your goals

  • *        Educate each sub-contractor on their role in greening your home, their individual tasks will ensure the energy efficiency of your home

  • *        Obtain current proof of insurance from each sub-contractor’s insurance company, not from the sub. This will verify that their coverage is up-to-date

  • *        Don’t hire the least expensive subs for your HVAC, Plumbing and Electric. These are all items that will be hidden after construction and you want to make sure they are all functionally properly, to avoid costly repairs later

  • *        Insist that everyone who makes a hole in your building, seals it, to make sure your Lake Norman home is as energy efficient as it can be

  • *        Do not remove your roof, until you’re ready to build over it. Removing it too early in the demolition process leaves you vulnerable to the weather

  • *        When tarping your home, make sure it is tented, to shed water. If not tented, it will collect water, pond and flood your home

  • *        Hire the best trim carpenter you can afford. They will be able to hide and fix a lot of things that others have done poorly along the way

  • *        The HVAC installer goes in first, then the plumber and then the electrician. The HVAC contractor has the most difficult job, so he must have the maximum flexibility to install his product, then the plumber has the next most challenging task and the electrician can usually install wires around anything

  • *        Verify that your plumber has installed shower heads at the right height, so it’s not too short for the people using it and has not left a big hole under your tub, which will be a huge energy waster if not sealed properly

  • *        Photograph the plumbing! If you have issues with it later, it should be easier to resolve with pictures

  • *        Did the Plumber remove the sewer vent caps? The plumber must cap off the vent stacks when testing the system and sometimes these caps will be forgotten

  • *        Ask for Low Sone Bath fans, which are quieter and ask for programmable thermostats, which cost a little more, but are worth it in energy savings

  • *        Supply the paint for your painter, so they will not be tempted to buy paint with VOC’s, which cost less and will be less likely to water down the paint

  • *        Provide your electrician with combo smoke and carbon detectors, otherwise they may install only smoke detectors

  • *        Housewrap and flashing must be installed properly, for it to work effectively

  • *        Do you understand how your whirlpool tub works, so that you’ll know what to do when it turns itself on in the middle of the night?

  • *        When buying skylights, order the proper flashing kits, to match your roofing material. This is critical to having skylights that will not leak

  • *        Hire a flooring installer who is familiar with installing your flooring type, otherwise, you may hear your trim guy saying “this is the worst flooring installation I have ever seen”.

*        Work with an experienced Lake Norman Green Building team!  


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Lake Norman Green Homes: Awaken to the Power of Home

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Awaken to the Power of Home

By Jennifer Pippin, CPBD, AIBD

Lake Norman, N.C.

Green can mean many things, depending on who you talk to. Each person must define for themselves what Green means to them.

For this Lake Norman homeowner, Green is living in a sustainable home they love, which will in turn protect and shelter them literally, for many generations to come in a healthy environment.  If you don’t love your home, you will not take care of it and you may not keep it.

A sustainable home is one that will last; it is durable, flexible, accessible, healthy and loveable.

The available Green features for Lake Norman homeowners are numerous and reflect the many choices a homeowner can make to build and live Green. Many of these choices can provide a home which has an instant return on their investment. This can be achieved by creating a home with the following 11 elements:

  • Healthy indoor air quality, from incorporating an HVAC air cleaning system and installing interior materials with low or no VOC’s, such as paints and formaldehyde free cabinetry.

  • A reduced annual energy bill, over other houses of similar size, due to energy efficient techniques used, such as foam insulation, housewrap and Low E, Energy Star rated windows. In addition, all the hot water needs for the home can be generated by solar panels or tankless gas units, not electricity;

  • A stable, minimally fluctuating indoor temperature, provides improved occupant comfort, due to the tightly sealed building envelop;

  • Reduced noise level from outside disturbances, due to better quality insulation and a tighter building envelope;

  • No maintenance exterior finish materials on all surfaces;

  • Additional power can be generated by solar photovoltaic panels to provide a back-up power source, from a battery bank, to keep the household functioning during an outage from the utility company;

  • Reduced water usage from water efficient fixtures and a rainwater harvesting system from capturing roof run-off;

  • Abundant daylighting, which allows for literally no electric lighting needed to function in the home during the day, which also improves productivity and the occupant mood.

  • Include a live – work home office / studio space, which allows for no commuting time, reduced gas useage, reduced carbon emissions and a much happier homeowner.

  • Landscaping which is drought tolerant, incorporating native plantings, which require minimal watering and are beautiful to enjoy year round.

  • Lighting control system provides the ability to dim the lights, which reduces the electricity needed to power the bulbs and lengthens the life of the bulbs. In addition, this control system also provides for a safer home, where you never need to enter a dark house, one button control on the car visor garage door control turns on a pathway of lights through the home upon arrival.

The time has come to go back to our beginnings, where home was more than a shelter; it works within its surroundings, with its local climate and nurtures the inhabitants. Homes are places to be respected for their power to rejuvenate, refresh and restore our energy. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to provide healing spaces for our bodies, mind and spirit. To bring balance to our lives we must consider the importance of our personal space, to bring peace and harmony to our soul and our planet.

If we will change our thought processes about home, open our minds and condition ourselves to respect our home as much as our planet, giving ourselves time to relax in a home which has the ability to nurture us in so many ways. Your home must give you joy to be in it and a healthy home you love, will provide you more than that. Consider how your space makes you feel, incorporate nature, and find access to happiness. Embrace your home intentionally, incorporating the natural elements available to you and allow it to embrace you – for it is a powerful energy source and resource. Live Green Lake Norman!

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