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A place of inspiration and information to help you live better in your home

Welcome to More Than A Beautiful Home where we blend the art of home and the science of better to help you get more from your home without sacrificing beauty.  Go ahead. Picture your dream home – the bold paint colors, coordinating fabrics, vibrant countertops, polished appliances, and stunning floors.We are on a mission to improve the environment by empowering women to create better homes.  Now, envision a better home. Say good bye to uncomfortably hot or cold rooms, musty smells, drafty windows, ice dams, high utility bills, toxins and chemicals, and wanting to do something better for the environment but not knowing what to do.
We know what to do. We are here to help you make healthy and informed decisions about your home. Be sure to share us with your designer, contractor, retailer, family, and friends.  It will make it easier for them to help you create more than a beautiful home. START HERE


 

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More Than A Beautiful Home–Blog

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LEAK-PROOF BOOTS AND GOOD DUCT DESIGN

July 21st, 2014-Our previous blog “Furnace Facts for Comfort and Health” provided some great pointers to help you select the right furnace for your home and a good installer to ensure the job is done right. To truly maximize comfort and reduce your utility bills, however, you have to think beyond the furnace and consider other components of the system such as ducts, grilles, filters, ventilation, and maintenance.

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CHOOSING GREENER FLOORING

June 26th, 2014-Hardwood. Tile. Stone. Concrete. Bamboo. Linoleum. Cork. These are just some of the endless flooring options that can transform any room from ordinary to memorable. But, why stop at memorable when you can have more? Simply add green features when you choose your flooring and you get benefits beyond beauty.

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WHAT GREEN MEANS

June 20th, 2014-We’ve always had a need for shelter and a desire to make it beautiful. Now we have options to make our homes better: we can use our homes to improve our health, our comfort, and our bank account while decreasing our impact on the planet. The past fifteen years have produced an astounding amount of knowledge on how.

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CHOOSING GREENER PAINT

June 5, 2014-Harmonic Tan, Lemongrass, Rainwashed, Natures Choice, and Thrive are just a sampling of the thousands of luxurious, timeless, warm, and welcoming paint colors to adorn your home and compliment your personality. But, don’t just love the name. Live the name. Choose paint that is better for you, your health, and the planet. Simply choose paint that has one or more green features.

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CHOOSING A GREENER COUNTERTOP

May 21, 2014-Apple Martini, White Platinum, Midnight Iron, Copper Peak, Cabernet. These are just some of the simple, sexy, and modern countertop colors you might find in the architectural designs of EcoDEEP Architecture and the homes of their eco-smart clients. You, too, can have beautiful countertops that make a difference and provide value beyond beauty. Simply choose countertops with green features. Start your journey by using our “1+1=MORE” method where you look for countertop options that offer one or more green features that align with your goals and values.

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HIRE THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL FOR A HOME THAT REFLECTS YOU AND YOUR VALUES

From the Series: Hiring Professionals

May 16, 2014-Forty-seven seconds into Bob Michels’ book Right From the Start: Insights into Building and Remodeling Your Custom Home I found the words to summarize our first meeting and my first impression, “My clients often tell me they feel that their home is truly their own because I cared enough to ask the questions that they didn’t even know to ask.”

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THE SECRET TO LONG-TERM BEAUTY

FROM THE SERIES  “GREEN FEATURES OF BETTER HOME PRODUCTS – REPAIRABLE”

May 1, 2014-Centered over the island hung the kitchen chandelier with two burned-out bulbs. With no other options to reach it, Peggy climbed a ladder and gingerly walked onto her Silver Birch solid surface countertop to change the bulbs and clean the glass.  Crack went the countertop. Heavy went Peggy’s heart. The countertop was ruined. Or, was it?

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MAXIMIZING YOUR HOMES RESALE VALUE

March 16, 2014- Do you know the most common concern people have when remodeling or building new?  If you guessed resale value you guessed right!  No one wants to price their home out of the neighborhood yet everyone wants to keep their home salable. Oddly enough, the fear of resale value has also kept people from improving the comfort and health of their homes.  Many would rather live with rooms that are too hot or too cold, damp basements, moldy smells, and ice dams than put money into insulation, sealing air leaks, or an energy efficient furnace.

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Some ingredients aren’t pretty but without them you might not be satisfiedSoup

Cream of mushroom soup isn’t pretty.  But, can you imagine creating Green Bean Casserole without it?  Every year, the Campbell’s Soup Company sells enough soup to make 132 million servings of this simple, tasty, and reliable recipe at the holidays!

Energy might not be pretty, but creating a beautiful home without stirring in energy efficiency could leave you with hot/cold rooms, drafty windows and floors, unhealthy air, mold and mildew, and unreliable utility bills.  How good is beauty if you are uncomfortable, dissatisfied, and sick from your own home. Now imagine what we could accomplish together if we all stirred water, product, and community-wise solutions into our homes? We would enjoy a great quality of life while leaving a legacy of the same for our children.PLUS-3-CIRCLE

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MORE is a community of women improving their homes to change the world.
By pressing Start Here below, you can join the movement and live better in your home.

 

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Copyright 2012. All rights reserved to Cindy Ojczyk. Development and Design by Denielle Johnson

Million +3 Better Home Challenge

Challenge Logo-NEWThe Million Plus 3 Better Home Challenge believes in the power of home to make a difference – and the power of women to lead the way.  Simply stated – one million women taking 3 actions each will create better homes and the biggest energy movement the country has ever seen.

 

Start Now

Pledge To Create A Better Home
YES! I Pledge to Create a Better Home

Get Informed

Call a Certified Energy Professional
Find an Energy Professional – Existing Home

OPTION 1: Simple solutions to reduce energy use and solve basic comfort problems.

Call your Utility Company to request an energy audit and request these four services:

  • Blower door depressurization test: To determine how much air your home leaks through the walls, roof, and foundation – a high number may lead to Option 2 below
  • Infrared thermal imaging camera scan: To locate air leaks that can be improved with caulk, foam, or weather stripping. To determine if windows are performing properly before considering replacement. To find insulation voids in walls, floors, or attic spaces so they can be improved
  • Carbon monoxide testing: To ensure your gas-burning mechanical systems and appliances are not leaking deadly poisons into your home
  • Utility bill review: To understand more clearly where you are wasting energy

Read More
Door-2If you are looking for simple solutions to reduce energy consumption, begin with a basic energy audit. This can be arranged by calling your utility company to schedule an energy auditor visit to your home. Think of the energy auditor professional as a family physician – someone who can diagnose common problems. Energy audits subsidized by utility companies are often less than $100. If your utility company does not offer energy audits, see Option 2 below. It includes a list of resources for finding a certified energy professional.  Costs for hiring a certified energy professional to conduct basic tests to help improve comfort and energy use will vary but typically range from $350.00 to $500.00. option1

Ask the energy auditor to conduct the following four services:
  • Blower door depressurization test: To determine how much air your home leaks through the walls, roof, and foundation – a high number may lead to Option 2 below
  • Infrared thermal imaging camera scan: To locate air leaks that can be improved with caulk, foam, or weather stripping. To determine if windows are performing properly before considering replacement. To find insulation voids in walls, floors, or attic spaces so they can be improved
  • Carbon monoxide testing: To ensure your gas-burning mechanical systems and appliances are not leaking deadly poisons into your home
  • Utility bill review: To understand more clearly where you are wasting energy

The energy auditor professional should provide a list of recommended actions to improve the energy performance of your home. You will need to find contractors and/or material suppliers to help with the improvements. Some utility companies are also offering programs that pair the recommendations for your home with a contractor and bid to make it easier for you to act on the recommendations.

OPTION 2: More complicated problems (high energy bills…) require professionals with greater problem solving skills.

The following resources will help you find the right professional for your home problems:

  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters  to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes. RESNET also trains and certifies RESNET EnergySmart contractors to do the work recommended by a RESNET Rater. Learn More
  • Building Performance Institute–BPI trains and certifies BPI raters to perform energy audits and in-depth home performance assessments for existing homes. BPI also trains and certifies contracting companies to do the work recommended by an audit or in-depth home performance assessment. Learn More
  • ENERGY STAR–Most people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy.  ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. ENERGY STAR has a program in many states called Home Performance with ENERGY STAR that uses energy professionals to assess an existing home and provide recommended contractors to perform the work. Learn More
  • Search the internet for “Building Performance Contractors” or “Home Performance Professionals” in your state

Read More
IMG_2136If you are seeking solutions to problems that are more complicated than Option 1 (high energy bills; ice dams; moisture and ice on windows; hot and/or cold rooms; water seeping into your walls, ceilings or basement; mold and mildew; or a desire to be as environmentally responsible as possible) a professional with greater experience diagnosing problems and prescribing solutions may be needed. This step is similar to going to a medical specialist. Hiring an Energy Professional with experience addressing problems similar to yours will most likely cost more money than a simple energy audit. The good news is that beautiful design solutions often exist to help offset some of the cost of the home solutions. Read the homeowner stories throughout the website to see how they balanced beauty, budget, and peace of mind.

Energy Professionals typically start their work with an energy audit and add additional services including, but not limited to:
  • Duct Blaster testing: To determine if duct work needs to be improved to prevent air loss and poor delivery to rooms
  • Moisture Assessment: To locate causes and sources of interior moisture, building rot, mold
  • Ventilation System Assessment: To determine if systems that remove bad air (bath fans, kitchen fans) or provide fresh air to occupants (air exchangers) are installed and working correctly
  • Scope of Work: A thorough plan specific to your home’s needs that defines the work a contractor should do to properly address the problem.
  • Third-party verification: Inspection of your contractor and sub-contractors’ work during and after installation to provide greater assurance that products have been installed correctly for optimal performance and longevity–a requirement of many energy and green home certifications programs. (Often this professional is required to have specific professional credentials. Check the program requirements to determine what type of professional to call)
The following list will help you find an Energy Professional with experience to handle your needs:
  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters  to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes. RESNET also trains and certifies RESNET EnergySmart contractors to do the work recommended by a RESNET Rater. Learn More
  • Building Performance Institute–BPI trains and certifies BPI raters to perform energy audits and in-depth home performance assessments for existing homes. BPI also trains and certifies contracting companies to do the work recommended by an audit or in-depth home performance assessment. Learn More
  • ENERGY STAR–Most people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy.  ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. ENERGY STAR has a program in many states called Home Performance with ENERGY STAR that uses energy professionals to assess an existing home and provide recommended contractors to perform the work. Learn More
  • Search the internet for “Building Performance Contractors” or “Home Performance Professionals” in your state

Find An Energy Professional – Building a New Home

Option 1: Build an energy efficient home.

Work with your architect, designer, builder to calculate how energy efficient your home is projected to be.

To find a RESNET Rater contact:

  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes.Learn More
  • ENERGY STARMost people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy. ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. The most efficient process for achieving certification is to hire an ENERGY STAR builder. Every ENERGY STAR builder uses a RESNET Rater to ensure they are building energy efficient homesLearn More

Read More
Work with your architect, designer, and/or builder to hire a RESNET Rater to perform energy calculations based on your house plans and proposed scope of work (insulation, heating and cooling, windows, house size, appliances, orientation to the sun…). The Rater can estimate the predicted energy efficiency of the home from the plans. Knowing how energy efficient the house is projected to be once built allows you the opportunity to design more energy efficiency into the plans if you desire – which is much easier to do before construction than during construction or after you have moved in.

The RESNET Rater can:

  • Calculate a HERS (Home Energy Rating Score) Index – a nation-wide scoring system that tells how energy efficient your home is predicted to be based on a scale of 0 to100. A “0” score is the most desired home as it means the home is creating as much energy as it is using.
  • Provide the HERS Index documentation to a lending organization to help you qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) that helps fund the cost of the energy improvements.
  • Certify a home as an ENERGY STAR Home – a nationally-recognized certification that is the foundation for many green building programs and real estate multiple listing systems.

During construction and at completion, the RESNET Rater can visit the jobsite to inspect the installation of energy-related materials and systems. This is called third-party verification of the work and helps to ensure that the products and systems you paid for are installed correctly for optimal performance and longevity. If you are looking to certify your home through a green certification program, third-party verification is almost always used in the process. There is a cost to having a RESNET Rater come to the jobsite and perform tests, but think of it as “insurance.” The Rater’s eyes and expertise help solve problems while it is easy to fix them.

Some of the additional tests that can be performed by a RATER include:

  • Blower doorDoor-2 depressurization test combined with infrared thermal imagining to: locate air leaks so they can be improved and to find insulation voids in walls, floors, or attic spaces so they can be improved
  • Carbon monoxide testing: To ensure gas-burning mechanical systems have been installed correctly
  • Duct Blaster testing: To determine if duct work needs to be improved to prevent air loss and poor delivery to rooms
  • Ventilation System Assessment: To determine if systems that remove bad air (bath fans, kitchen fans) or provide fresh air to occupants (air exchangers) are installed and working correctly

To find a RESNET Rater contact:

  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes.Learn More
  • ENERGY STAR–Most people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy. ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. The most efficient process for achieving certification is to hire an ENERGY STAR builder. Every ENERGY STAR builder uses a RESNET Rater to ensure they are building energy efficient homesLearn More

Option 2: Build a green home. Energy efficiency is part of every green building program.

Contact your local green building program to learn more about the energy solutions and professionals needed in your program.

Read More
Work with your architect, designer, and/or builder to hire a RESNET Rater to perform energy calculations based on your house plans and proposed scope of work (insulation, heating and cooling, windows, house size, appliances, orientation to the sun…). The Rater can estimate the predicted energy efficiency of the home from the plans. Knowing how energy efficient the house is projected to be once built allows you the opportunity to design more energy efficiency into the plans if you desire – which is much easier to do before construction than during construction or after you have moved in.

The RESNET Rater can:

  • Calculate a HERS (Home Energy Rating Score) Index – a nation-wide scoring system that tells how energy efficient your home is predicted to be based on a scale of 0 to100. A “0” score is the most desired home as it means the home is creating as much energy as it is using.
  • Provide the HERS Index documentation to a lending organization to help you qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) that helps fund the cost of the energy improvements
  • Certify a home as an ENERGY STAR Home – a nationally-recognized certification that is the foundation for many green building programs and real estate multiple listing systems.

During construction and at completion, the RESNET Rater can visit the jobsite to inspect the installation of energy-related materials and systems. This is called third-party verification of the work and helps to ensure that the products and systems you paid for are installed correctly for optimal performance and longevity. If you are looking to certify your home through a green certification program, third-party verification is almost always used in the process. There is a cost to having a RESNET Rater come to the jobsite and perform tests, but think of it as “insurance.” The Rater’s eyes and expertise help solve problems while it is easy to fix them.

Some of the additional tests that can be performed by a RATER include:

  • Blower doorDoor-2 depressurization test combined with infrared thermal imagining to: locate air leaks so they can be improved and to find insulation voids in walls, floors, or attic spaces so they can be improved
  • Carbon monoxide testing: To ensure gas-burning mechanical systems have been installed correctly
  • Duct Blaster testing: To determine if duct work needs to be improved to prevent air loss and poor delivery to rooms
  • Ventilation System Assessment: To determine if systems that remove bad air (bath fans, kitchen fans) or provide fresh air to occupants (air exchangers) are installed and working correctly

To find a RESNET Rater contact:

  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes.Learn More
  • ENERGY STAR–Most people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy. ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. The most efficient process for achieving certification is to hire an ENERGY STAR builder. Every ENERGY STAR builder uses a RESNET Rater to ensure they are building energy efficient homesLearn More

Take 3 Actions

Install 2 Solutions & Test Your Home For Radon or Lead
Why Test for Radon?
Radon is an odorless, invisible, radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is found all over the U.S. and seeps into homes through cracks and crevices.  As the second leading cause of lung cancer in America, nearly 20,000 people die annually from radon-related illness. It is a health problem with a simple solution – test your home then get rid of it. (As far as health goes, long-term success is so much easier to achieve than trying to lose weight or stop smoking.)

Radon threat grabs attention of lawmakers–Kare11

Check the website of your state health department to purchase a low-cost radon test kit or visit a hardware store or lumberyard to buy one off the shelf. If you discover elevated levels of radon in your home (4pCi/l or more), refer to your state health department for strategies to remove radon from your home.   If you are building a new home, install a radon-ready system that can be activated if radon is discovered after construction is complete (this is part of the building code in many states).  If you are remodeling, test your home before beginning the design phase so you can weave in lower-cost solutions that can help offset any extra costs associated with radon mitigation.  Just remember, your goal is to create a beautiful home that gives you more.  In this case – more good health opportunities.

Read Up On Radon

Why Test for Lead?
If your home was built before 1978–the year lead was banned from paint – your home could be at risk for lead contamination. Exposure to lead paint chips and lead dust (windows, doors, trim and moulding, railings, fences and playsets) and contaminated soil can create nervous disorders and sometimes death. Children are especially vulnerable.

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Ask your pediatrician to do a simple blood lead test if you have concerns.  Lead poisoning can occur without noticeable symptoms.  If you are doing renovation work yourself, visit www.epa.gov/lead to learn how to keep yourself and your family safe from lead contamination. If you are hiring a contractor to remodel or renovate your home, be aware that all contractors are required to be certified through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule to ensure that you are protected during the work.

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 Tell Your Story

Tell us your Plus 3 Story  and we will tell the world
See What Others Did Tell Your Plus 3 Story

Invite Your Friends

Encourage 3 friends to join the Million Plus 3 Better Home Challenge

Million +3 is an energy initiative of More Than A Beautiful Home.  We are focusing on energy solutions first as they are the gateway to improving your home, your health, your comfort, and the environment.  Check in with us often – we will add more great things to help you and your family.

Plus 3 Story

We are so excited you are visiting this page.  It is your ticket to the community of women who are living better in their homes and changing the world.

It is also your guide to sharing your Plus 3 Story.

Click each circle to read a Plus 3 Story

MORE Tips

ENERGY SMARTS

GREAT WINDOW AND DOOR TIPS
If the thought of selecting windows and doors for a new home or replacing them in your current home gives you knots in your stomach, you are not alone.  Windows and doors are complicated, and expensive, systems.  No one wants to feel ripped-off or disappointed after installation – or even five years down the road. Take some time to get acquainted with the info below. It will help you go into a sales process feeling empowered to ask for what you need and get what you want.

DETERMINE IF YOU REALLY NEED NEW WINDOWS OR DOORS BEFORE YOU BUY THEM

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If you are building a new home, you can skip to the next tip. If you are buying for an existing home, hire a certified energy professional [See Tip: Find an Energy Professional – Existing Home] to do a blower door test with infrared camera imaging to help you determine if you need new windows/doors to improve comfort and energy efficiency. Maybe, you just need some help sealing out the drafts between the window/door and the wall.  The information from a certified professional might keep you from buying something you really don’t need.

BUY GOOD, ENERGY EFFICIENT WINDOWS AND DOORS THAT COORDINATE WITH YOUR HOME STYLE

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Start by putting yourself in the frame of mind to “buy the best you can afford.” Then realize you won’t know what that means or the cost until you do some discovery.

Think long-term
  • Windows and doors with higher costs may be designed to last longer or they may have extra features. Ask what you get for a higher cost so you know whether the expense is a value to you.
  • How long a window/door lasts is also dependent upon how well it is installed: A less energy efficient unit that is installed properly could out last a high-cost unit that is installed poorly.
Read Warranties Before Buying

You need to know what the window warranty includes and excludes before you buy. The “exclusions” may affect your material selection and/or design.  For instance, some warranties will not cover dark paint on steel doors that face south due to warping. Some warranties may require you to include exterior shades or overhangs on south facing wood windows and doors to protect them from sun exposure. Reading the fine print of a warranty may be time consuming, but it could save you from sticking your head in the sand while saying “I didn’t know that” and writing a check for an expensive repair.

Include Energy Features
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label for basic energy efficiency.200px-Energy_Star_logo.svg
  • If you can afford even GREATER energy efficiency, look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label to understand the SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient), U-Factor and Air Leakage ratings.  These ratings and why they are important are explained very clearly in the following graphic:

 

InfoGraph

 

Choose SHGC, U-Factor, and Air Leakage numbers that are BETTER than ENERGY STAR for your climate zone:

http://www.energystar.gov/?fuseaction=windows_doors.search_climate

 

Co-ordinate Window Style with House Style

The style of your house will help determine the style of the window/door.  However, you will need to think about what you want windows to do –  be non-operable (fixed), open by sliding up and down (single/double hung), open from a top hinge (awning), open by side hinge (casement), have a dual action opening (tilt and/or swing), or let light in through the ceiling (skylight).  Many window companies have illustrations of these window styles for you to see.

You will be asked to think about the material that makes up the window/doorframe:  wood, metal, vinyl, fiberglass, combination (often called “composite”).  Materials will impact the cost of the window as well as the longevity.  It is difficult to say which material is best as that may depend on the climate you are in and how much weather a window will experience – sun, rain, wind, heat, cold…  The resources below will give you much more background as you explore specific window features for your region of the country.

If you are planning to build a new home or remodel, ask the design professional, builder or contractor you plan to use if they have preferred window/door vendors.  Most of them do, and this is who you will have to use. Research the vendors to determine if you like what you see.  If you don’t like what you see, ask if you can use another company.  If not, it may be time to work with a different professional who is more flexible or has a vendor you like.

Make sure to visit a couple of showrooms so you can touch and operate installed windows/doors.  Visit more than one showroom to see how different companies sell their features.  You will be amazed at the differences in operation and feel.  You will also be amazed at your own reactions to what you see.  Your gut feeling might be the best guide when deciding on a company or product.

Window/door showrooms can be located in independent stores, lumber yards, design centers, or at a manufacturer’s headquarters.

Consider Environmental Features

Some window/door manufacturers are including green attributes as optional upgrades. In addition to energy efficiency you can look for:

  • FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood label.  This is a global mark of responsibility in forestry, manufacturing, indigenous peoples’ rights, and workers’ rights that starts where the tree is cut down and follows the wood through manufacturing and to your home.
  • Recycled content can be found in the glass, the frame, and metal components.  There really are no minimum standards to say how much recycled content is best.  Post-consumer recycled content is most desirable as the original product was used as intended and went through the recycling stream.  Post-industrial (pre-consumer) content means the product never made it to market.
  • You can also investigate the manufacturing practices of a company by visiting its website. Look for discussions on recycling of materials and electronic waste, handling of hazardous waste, solar energy, water reuse, efficiencies in transportation, jobsite recycling…

DEMAND THE BEST INSTALLATION AND HAVE IT INDEPENDENTLY INSPECTED

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The sage advice for buying a used car is to pay a trusty mechanic to give it a “once-over” before closing the deal.  The same can be said for window/door installation.  Hire a certified energy professional [See Tip-Find an Energy Professional – Existing Home & New Home] with expertise in window/door installation to ensure the exterior and interior details have all been done correctly BEFORE the exterior siding or interior trim is applied.

Don’t assume an installer knows what they are doing and don’t assume you will get high quality installation because they tell you that’s what they do.  The only way to determine high quality installation is to have it independently reviewed and tested. You are paying for a very technical service that done right will protect your home for a long time from driving rain and drafts.  If done incorrectly, a window/door that leaks can lead to rot, mold, and expensive repairs to your home.

TEST YOUR HOME AFTER INSTALLATION TO BE SURE IT IS SAFE

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New advances in window installation improve comfort by stopping drafts. This could mean your home “leaks” less air than before – a good thing for comfort and energy efficiency.  However, your safety and that of your family needs to be considered as well.  Have a mechanical contractor or certified energy professional check your gas burning systems – water heater, furnace/boiler, fireplace, clothes dryer – for carbon monoxide poisoning and be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector. It would also be wise to check the safety of wood burning fireplaces and stoves.

If you would like to read more about the dangers of carbon monoxide , check out this link from the U.S. Fire Administration http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/co/fswy17.shtm

CLAIM FREE MONEY

learn more
Many ENERGY STAR windows and doors are eligible for utility rebates and federal tax credits.  Check with your utility company and the www.energystar.gov website.  If energy efficient windows/doors are part of a bigger project such as an energy efficient new home or remodel, you may qualify for low-cost loans through your city, state, or utility as well as the ENERGY STAR and Home Performance with ENERGY STAR certification programs.

MAINTAIN YOUR WINDOWS AND DOORS

learn more
Windows and doors are complex systems that can last a long time OR fail early.  Success or failure is dependent on how well the unit is made, installed, AND maintained – which is where you come in.  Listed below are a few items to get you started:

  • Refer to the manufacturer’s website of owner’s manual for recommended maintenance.
  • Clean sand, dirt, and dust from hinges, sills, thresholds and tracks
  • Clean flexible weatherstrip as directed.

DO MORE RESEARCH

Great Resources for the Mildly Curious

MN Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources Home Envelope Guide (page 31)
http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/images/Building-Envelope-Guide.pdf

National Fenestration Rating Council website
http://www.windowratings.org

Websites of individual window manufacturers

 

Great Resources for the DIY enthusiast

Efficient Windows Collaborative
http://www.efficientwindows.org

Find An Energy Professional – Building a New Home
Work with your architect, designer, and/or builder to hire a RESNET Rater to perform energy calculations based on your house plans and proposed scope of work (insulation, heating and cooling, windows, house size, appliances, orientation to the sun…). The Rater can estimate the predicted energy efficiency of the home from the plans. Knowing how energy efficient the house is projected to be once built allows you the opportunity to design more energy efficiency into the plans if you desire – which is much easier to do before construction than during construction or after you have moved in.

The RESNET Rater can:

  • Calculate a HERS (Home Energy Rating Score) Index – a nation-wide scoring system that tells how energy efficient your home is predicted to be based on a scale of 0 to100. A “0” score is the most desired home as it means the home is creating as much energy as it is using.
  • Provide the HERS Index documentation to a lending organization to help you qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) that helps fund the cost of the energy improvements
  • Certify a home as an ENERGY STAR Home – a nationally-recognized certification that is the foundation for many green building programs and real estate multiple listing systems.

During construction and at completion, the RESNET Rater can visit the jobsite to inspect the installation of energy-related materials and systems. This is called third-party verification of the work and helps to ensure that the products and systems you paid for are installed correctly for optimal performance and longevity.

If you are looking to certify your home through a green certification program, third-party verification is almost always used in the process. There is a cost to having a RESNET Rater come to the jobsite and perform tests, but think of it as “insurance.” The Rater’s eyes and expertise help solve problems while it is easy to fix them.

Some of the additional tests that can be performed by a RATER include:

  • Blower doorDoor-2 depressurization test combined with infrared thermal imagining to: locate air leaks so they can be improved and to find insulation voids in walls, floors, or attic spaces so they can be improved
  • Carbon monoxide testing: To ensure gas-burning mechanical systems have been installed correctly
  • Duct Blaster testing: To determine if duct work needs to be improved to prevent air loss and poor delivery to rooms
  • Ventilation System Assessment: To determine if systems that remove bad air (bath fans, kitchen fans) or provide fresh air to occupants (air exchangers) are installed and working correctly

To find a RESNET Rater contact:

  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes. Learn More
  • ENERGY STAR–Most people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy. ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. Hire an ENERGY STAR Builder. Every ENERGY STAR builder uses a RESNET Rater to ensure they are building energy efficient homes. Learn More
  • Search the internet for “Building Performance Contractors” or “Home Performance Professionals” in your state

Find an Energy Professional – Existing Home

OPTION 1

Door-2If you are looking for simple solutions to reduce energy consumption, begin with a basic energy audit. This can be arranged by calling your utility company to schedule an energy auditor visit to your home. Think of the energy auditor professional as a family physician – someone who can diagnose common problems. Energy audits subsidized by utility companies are often less than $100. If your utility company does not offer energy audits, see Option 2 below. It includes a list of resources for finding a certified energy professional. Costs for hiring a certified energy professional to conduct basic tests to help improve comfort and energy use will vary but typically range from $350.00 to $500.00.

option1

Ask the energy auditor to conduct the following four services:
  • Blower door depressurization test: To determine how much air your home leaks through the walls, roof, and foundation – a high number may lead to Option 2 below
  • Infrared thermal imaging camera scan: To locate air leaks that can be improved with caulk, foam, or weather stripping. To determine if windows are performing properly before considering replacement. To find insulation voids in walls, floors, or attic spaces so they can be improved
  • Carbon monoxide testing: To ensure your gas-burning mechanical systems and appliances are not leaking deadly poisons into your home
  • Utility bill review: To understand more clearly where you are wasting energy

The energy auditor professional should provide a list of recommended actions to improve the energy performance of your home. You will need to find contractors and/or material suppliers to help with the improvements. Some utility companies are also offering programs that pair the recommendations for your home with a contractor and bid to make it easier for you to act on the recommendations.

OPTION 2

IMG_2136If you are seeking solutions to problems that are more complicated than Option 1 (high energy bills; ice dams; moisture and ice on windows; hot and/or cold rooms; water seeping into your walls, ceilings or basement; mold and mildew; or a desire to be as environmentally responsible as possible) a professional with greater experience diagnosing problems and prescribing solutions may be needed. This step is similar to going to a medical specialist.

Hiring an Energy Professional with experience addressing problems similar to yours will most likely cost more money than a simple energy audit. The good news is that beautiful design solutions often exist to help offset some of the cost of the home solutions. Read the homeowner stories throughout the website to see how they balanced beauty, budget, and peace of mind.

Energy Professionals typically start their work with an energy audit and add additional services including, but not limited to:
  • Duct Blaster testing: To determine if duct work needs to be improved to prevent air loss and poor delivery to rooms
  • Moisture Assessment: To locate causes and sources of interior moisture, building rot, mold
  • Ventilation System Assessment: To determine if systems that remove bad air (bath fans, kitchen fans) or provide fresh air to occupants (air exchangers) are installed and working correctly
  • Scope of Work: A thorough plan specific to your home’s needs that defines the work a contractor should do to properly address the problem.
  • Third-party verification: Inspection of your contractor and sub-contractors’ work during and after installation to provide greater assurance that products have been installed correctly for optimal performance and longevity–a requirement of many energy and green home certifications programs. (Often this professional is required to have specific professional credentials. Check the program requirements to determine what type of professional to call)
The following list will help you find an Energy Professional with experience to handle your needs:
  • Residential Energy Services Network–RESNET trains and certifies RESNET raters to perform energy audits, in-depth home performance assessments, and energy calculations for new and existing homes. RESNET also trains and certifies RESNET EnergySmart contractors to do the work recommended by a RESNET Rater. Learn More
  • Building Performance Institute–BPI trains and certifies BPI raters to perform energy audits and in-depth home performance assessments for existing homes. BPI also trains and certifies contracting companies to do the work recommended by an audit or in-depth home performance assessment. Learn More
  • ENERGY STAR–Most people are familiar with the square blue sticker that indicates products that use less energy. ENERGY STAR can also certify new homes as energy efficient. ENERGY STAR has a program in many states called Home Performance with ENERGY STAR that uses energy professionals to assess an existing home and provide recommended contractors to perform the work. Learn More
  • Search the internet for “Building Performance Contractors” or “Home Performance Professionals” in your state

ENERGY STAR
There is a lot of handy information on saving money and making your home better on the ENERGY STAR website. The best way to start learning is to use this room-by-room personal tour: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=popuptool.atHome
You can also find ENERGY STAR products, rebates, tax incentives, home builders, and contractors at www.energystar.gov
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“75% of Americans who purchased an ENERGY STAR product or home would recommend doing so to others.”

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Fashionably Warm
Air conditioning too cold? Your house too drafty? Need a sweater but not just any ‘ole sweater? Don’t buy new. Give consignment a chance. Shop where the shoppers shop. Resale is considered one of the fastest growing segments in retail! The recession brought about a 180° turn in how pre-worn clothing is displayed and sold. upscale consigment2Many stores look and act like high end boutiques – because many of them attract a discerning client looking for designer names and quality clothing with better price tags. Many even have concierge services where a personal attendant can help you find your style. A quick internet search for “consignment” or “resale” will help you find what you need.
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Squeeze the Savings from a Programmable Thermostat

This ENERGY STAR video will help take the mystery out of choosing and programming a programmable thermostat

Read More
A programmable thermostat can help you save $50 to $150 per year on your heating/cooling bill according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Doesn’t sound like much and not worth the effort? Do the math. After ten years you could save $500 to $1,500. Combine heating/cooling savings with other energy saving solutions, and you could save enough for a nice vacation or kitchen update. Start the saving early: See if your utility company offers a rebate on programmable thermostats.

The first step to saving is to get in the habit of programming your programmable thermostat with each change in season. In the summer, set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible. A good summer temperature for when you are home is 78 degrees F (or slightly above). When you are away, set the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees warmer. In winter, reverse your thinking. Keep your home as cool as comfortably possible. Sixty-five (65) degrees (or slightly lower) is a good winter temperature. Cool it down 10 to 15 degrees when you are away or sleeping. The best part about programmable thermostats is they help you avoid discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you awake or return home.

Better Appliances

PATH 1:

There are plenty of options for beautiful, energy efficient appliances. There are also several pathways to find them.
LookIntro #4 for the blue ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR is a label of the Environmental Protection Agency that highlights appliances that meet the requirements for improved energy efficiency and cost savings. Appliances that use water, such as dishwashers and clothes washers, can also earn an ENERGY STAR certification if they use less water as well as less energy. The www.energystar.gov website has numerous product locators that list appliances by type, brand name, and model number to make it easy for you to find ENERGY STAR labeled appliances. Retailer websites often display the ENERGY STAR logo next to appliances that have earned the rating.

As you shop for ENERGY STAR appliances make sure to look at product performance as well as energy and water efficiency. Great places to check for performance and customer satisfaction are the customer reviews on retailer websites. Www.consumerreports.org and the printed magazine provide laboratory tested reviews to help ensure your next purchase will meet your expectations. If you don’t subscribe, visit your local library to review current and back issues. An internet search of the words “appliance performance reviews” will also help you read what other businesses and consumers are saying about appliances.

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PATH 2:

Intro #7If you are interested in finding the most energy and water efficient appliances on the market, search the Consortium for Energy Efficiency website, www.cee1.org, for a list of super-efficient home appliances http://library.cee1.org/content/cee-super-efficient-home-appliances-initiative-2012 This non-profit organization works with ENERGY STAR to inform consumers of appliances that exceed the ENERGY STAR standards. There is no special label that indicates higher efficiency than ENERGY STAR, so all of these products will have the ENERGY STAR label even if one is more efficient than another. The energy and water efficiency of qualifying products are indicated by a tier structure from 1-3 with 3 being the most efficient.

This is a great website link to provide to a retailer when you are in their store. Have the retailer access the website and tell you what products they sell that meet the different tiers and any specials that go along with the appliance – such as sales, delivery, installation.

As you shop for super-efficient home appliances make sure to look at product performance. Great places to check for performance and customer satisfaction are the customer reviews on retailer websites. Www.consumerreports.org and the printed magazine provide laboratory tested reviews to help ensure your next purchase will meet your expectations. If you don’t subscribe, visit your local library to review current and back issues. An internet search of the words “appliance performance reviews” will also help you read what other businesses and consumers are saying about appliances.

Appliances-2

Finding the Top Ten Energy Saving Products
A new program called Top Ten USA is run by an independent lab that tests appliances, electronics, and lighting against industry standards for efficiency to determine which ones rank in the top ten.  This makes it easy to choose the most energy efficient models without doing much homework but a click to a web page.  Don’t forget to read Consumer Reports and chat forums.  These resources provide insight into performance and repairs so you are sure to get the most energy efficient, high performing product on the market. www.toptenusa.org

COMFORT AND HEALTH

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Why Test for Lead?
If your home was built before 1978 – the year lead was banned from paint – your home could be at risk for lead contamination. Exposure to lead paint chips and lead dust (windows, doors, trim and moulding, railings, fences and playsets) and contaminated soil can create nervous disorders and sometimes death. Children are especially vulnerable.

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Ask your pediatrician to do a simple blood lead test if you have concerns. Lead poisoning can occur without noticeable symptoms. If you are doing renovation work yourself, visit www.epa.gov/lead to learn how to keep yourself and your family safe from lead contamination. If you are hiring a contractor to remodel or renovate your home, be aware that all contractors are required to be certified through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule to ensure that you are protected during the work.

Why Test for Radon?
Radon is an odorless, invisible, radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is found all over the U.S. and seeps into homes through cracks and crevices. As the second leading cause of lung cancer in America, nearly 20,000 people die annually from radon-related illness. It is a health problem with a simple solution – test your home then get rid of it. (As far as health goes, long-term success is so much easier to achieve than trying to lose weight or stop smoking.)

Radon threat grabs attention of lawmakers–Kare11Check the website of your state health department to purchase a low-cost radon test kit or visit a hardware store or lumberyard to buy one off the shelf. If you discover elevated levels of radon in your home (4pCi/l or more), refer to your state health department for strategies to remove radon from your home. If you are building a new home, install a radon-ready system that can be activated if radon is discovered after construction is complete (this is part of the building code in many states). If you are remodeling, test your home before beginning the design phase so you can weave in lower-cost solutions that can help offset any extra costs associated with radon mitigation. Just remember, your goal is to create a beautiful home that gives you more. In this case – more good health opportunities.

Read Up On Radon

From Damp to Dry
Danby PremiereHot and humid. Cold and clamy. Neither situation is desirable. Nor are the unhealthy by-products of high humidity – dust mites, mildew, and mold. Remedy the situation by using an ENERGY STAR qualified dehumidifier. This link to the ENERGY STAR website provides an overview of choosing the right size unit for your home or individual space. The site also includes a product locator to find ENERGY STAR dehumidifiers by manufacturer and product name. www.energystar.gov

THermaStor SantaFe RXA quick check of prices found quite a range from $130.00 -$250.00 for a room dehumidifier to $1,250.00 – $2,250.00 for a whole-house dehumidifier that looks like a piece of furniture.

Before you make your purchase, be sure to check with Consumer Reports – online or from the library – to see which dehumidifiers they recommend based on performance.

SMART HOMES

Dollars and Sense

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START HERED&S Circle 1

Use this great website to search financial incentives per state:

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE): http://www.dsireusa.org

D&S Circle 4

LOOK LOCAL

Ask your utility company about:

  • Rebates for high efficiency appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and water heaters
  • Free energy efficiency equipment such as CFL D&S Circle 7light bulbs and low-flow shower heads
  • Cash incentives
  • Low-interest loans for energy efficient products or home improvements
  • Low-cost energy audits

Ask your city/town/D&S Circle 2municipality/county/state about low-interest loans, rebates, tax credits* for:

  • Energy efficiency programs and incentives
  • Green remodeling programs and incentives
  • Green building programs and incentivesD&S Circle 3
  • Storm water incentives: rain gardens, living roofs
  • Weatherization assistance programs (or energy assistance programs) for aid-eligible residents

LOOK NATIONAL

Federal Tax Credits* – http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index

D&S Circle 6*Always check with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be certain a product or service qualifies for a tax creditD&S Circle 5

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wspromolabel_look

An easy way to identify water-saving products is to look for this label the next time you shop. You can find it on toilets, showerheads, faucets, and landscape irrigation products

HELP, I Need A…

HELP- I Need a FURANCE

1. Hire an installer that will properly size your furnace based on your home’s design, size, construction type, and climate.

• A good contractor will use an industry standard such as the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) Manual J. Think twice before hiring someone that sizes a furnace based on the current furnace size or a “guesstimate”, “rule of thumb” or “what the neighbors did”.

• Check with your utility before hiring an installer. They may offer rebates for energy efficient furnaces but only if you use an installer “qualified” through their program.

2. Choose the most energy efficient, highest performing model you can afford. These typically have an “ECM” fan motor (electronically commutated motor).

• Look for a gas furnace with an ENERGY STAR label. You can browse for products on the www.energystar.gov website.

• Check Consumer Reports and chat forums to see which energy efficient models perform the best.

3. Choose a gas furnace that greatly reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by choosing a “sealed combustion” unit.

• Sealed combustion units have special pipes that bring fresh air in from outside and expel toxic gases directly to the outside.

4. Be sure to buy a furnace designed to use a better filter system than you currently have – AND, commit to changing the filter or cleaning it as prescribed.

• This step is important if you want to reduce dust, allergens, mold spores, and bacteria that can impact breathing.

• Dirty filters are not good for your health or the furnace.

5. Be sure the installer will seal all accessible ducts and joints to ensure the heated air is delivered to the rooms you want rather than having heated air leaking into the area that houses the furnace.

6. Do not leave a water heater “orphaned”. If the furnace shared a chimney with a water heater, replace the water heater and stop using the chimney. The chimney may be too big to safely expel the toxic gases from the water heater. Purchase a power-vented or sealed combustion water heater to ensure toxic gases are expelled outside the home to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

7. Claim your rebate if your utility company offered one for the furnace you bought.

HELP – I Need a WATER HEATER

1. Choose the most energy efficient, highest performing model you can afford.

• Look for a gas water heater with an ENERGY STAR label. You can browse for products on the www.energystar.gov website.

• For even greater energy efficiency, look for a Tier 2 gas water heater on the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE1) website. www.library.cee1.org

• Check Consumer Reports and chat forums to see which energy efficient models perform the best.

• Check with your utility company before hiring an installer or doing it yourself. They may offer rebates for energy efficient water heaters but only if you use an installer “qualified” through their program.

2. Choose a gas water heater that reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by choosing a “power vented” or “sealed combustion” gas water heater.

• Older gas water heaters were often “atmospherically vented” which meant they relied on the hot exhaust air to carry toxic gases up the chimney/flue. These units are often linked to carbon monoxide poisoning in homes. You can still buy this type of unit today but it poses a greater risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Power vented and sealed combustion units use a fan to expel toxic gases thus greatly reducing the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

3. If the old water heater was the only appliance being vented into the chimney/flue, the chimney/flue should be removed (at least below the upper ceiling plane) and all holes/gaps properly sealed and insulated to prevent heat from leaving or entering the home.

4. Claim your rebate if your utility company offered one for the water heater you bought and had professionally installed.

More Community Fund

 

More Community

More Than A Beautiful Home helps women do what they do well–HELP OTHERS!

The MORE Community Funds will be part of a social entrepreneur effort to channel profits and volunteers from More Than A Beautiful Home to improve low-income housing so that all families may enjoy the benefits of energy efficient, healthy housing.

 

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Meet The Team

Cindy Ojczyk (O-Check)

…is not a steamed oatmeal kind of gal. She prefers yogurt parfaits layered with brown-sugar oatmeal and fresh mixed berries.  For 20 years, her passion for beautiful, tasteful food was captured in photographs that graced the magazines, cookbooks, and packages you brought into your home. As a food designer, recipe writer, and cooking demonstrator, she was able to blend the science of cooking with the art of presentation to give people confidence to cook.

Nearly a decade ago, Cindy changed course to blend the science of better with the beauty of home. She replaced strawberries and chocolate with maple flooring and LED lighting and seasoned homes with better living strategies.  She created a successful recipe that marries client need with personal value to capture the growing desire to have more than a beautiful home.

Today, Cindy is an accomplished interior designer, green building program designer, residential energy researcher, trainer, speaker, and writer.

A Portfolio of Food and Home
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Christine Bleyhl (Bly-l)

…practices architecture with passion and enthusiasm, bringing her creativity and problem solving skills to each project.  Ranging from specialty retail to home renovations and new homes, her work takes her from the bluegrass hills of Kentucky to the Rocky Mountains and back to the north woods of Minnesota.  In addition to leading her small practice, Christine’s current endeavor with fellow sustainability professional, Cindy Ojczyk, is creating a program designed to help women make smart decisions about their homes.

At least one third of Christine’s time is dedicated to pro bono pursuits, consulting with organizations involved with low-income and affordable housing and public policy development.  She was an author of the MN GreenStar Certified Remodeling Program, and currently sits as the chairperson of its Technical Advisory Committee.

Christine is a licensed architect and is affiliated with the American Institute of Architects, NCARB, and USGBC’s LEED Accredited Professional designation.

See some of Christine’s work

 

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Press and Events

After a decade of proving there is no need to sacrifice beauty for a better home, better health, and better future, Cindy has an insight into the process of marrying energy, sustainability, comfort and wellness like no other. She has shared that insight through engaging presentations to professional, corporate, and consumer audiences.

Events by Cindy

Minnesota GreenStar Professional Training

Plymouth, MN March 31, 2014 8:00-4:30
www.mngreenstar.org

Century College Interior Design Program

White Bear Lake, MN  April 24, 2014
“Design Like the Climate is Changing”

24th Annual Energy Design Conference and Expo
Don’t Sell Energy Efficiency. Solve a Problem Instead
February 25, 2014 10:30-12:00
http://www.duluthenergydesign.com/
Building-Arts Workshop
Saint Paul, MN October 23, 2013, 7:30pm
Design Beyond Beauty: The Art and Science of HomeLearn More
Minnesota GreenStar Professional Training
Plymouth, MN August 5, 2013, 8-4:30
MN Goes Green
Union Depot, St. Paul, MN–Saturday May 18, 2013
So You Think You’re Creative – Repurposing Contest
Minnesota GreenStar Professional Training
Plymouth, MN May 13, 2013, 8-4:30
KFAI.org FM Radio’s “TruthToTell” Program
90.3 FM Minneapolis, 106.7 FM Saint Paul, April 22, 2013
“EARTH DAY 2013: A Wise Entrepreneurial Approach” Listen Now
Energy Design Conference and Expo

Duluth, MN, February 26-27, 2013
Bringing Trends Home: The Latest in Décor and Green Inspiration for Your Clients
Home Sweet Home or Home Sick Home: What are You Leaving Your Clients
Remodeling Strategies for Green Bathrooms and Laundry

Writings by Cindy

Getting Ahead of Our Homes Read Article
Project Overcoat—An Exploration of Exterior Insulation Strategies for 1-½ Story Roof Applications in Cold Climates Read Article
Selling Energy Conservation: The Art of Educating, Listening, Partnership and Flexibility  Read Article
Kitchen Remodeling Tips from Leading Green Architects   Read Article
 Practices and Processes of Leading High Performance Builders in the Upper Midwest  Read Article

Hire Us to Speak

Call today or complete and submit this simple form to have compelling speaker, Cindy Ojczyk at your next event:

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Cindy Ojczyk

651-206-4651
cindy@morebeautifulhome.com

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