This is a view of the front of the house. We have added a front porch and some very craftsman-like posts. Notice the lack of roof.....and think about all the rain that has DUMPED on San Diego the last few months. Total Murphy's Law. Although the plaster walls in the existing house have taken a lot of water, we are hoping we don't have to replace with drywall. I guess this is one of the downsides of not tearing down everything and rebuilding.
I wanted to focus on HVAC systems and green building. There are certainly a lot of options out there, but I only have researched a few of them. Radiant floor heating is supposed to be the most efficient and best for the environment, but unfortunately for us it was not really an option. We have a lot of existing flooring that we aren't re-doing and the cost to put in radiant heat is not within our budget. The option we went with is to use two electric heat pumps. They are meant for moderate climates (hello, San Diego), are Energy Star approved for their efficiency and as a bonus for us....they are electric. Since we are putting up solar panels to generate our electricity....viola! Check out this link for some suggestions on heating and cooling. http://www.energystar.gov/
Okay, just a few more points and this exciting topic will be over. Zoning is a great way to make things efficient. We chose to get two heat pumps instead of one so that we could "zone" our heating needs. We have a split level house and the thought of heating the entire house when we only need a portion of it heated made no sense to me. After SEVERAL discussions with our HVAC contractor, we opted for two heat pumps. One provides heat to the bedrooms and upstairs and the other to the living space and downstairs. The other viable option for us was to get individual heat pumps for each room. It would have cost a bit more but honestly, vanity kicked in. I just couldn't accept the aesthetics of room heaters. I applaud those of you out there that have taken things a step further than we have.
My second point is the importance of which model you choose once you decide on the type (i.e heat pump, furnace, etc.). Each brand name sells various models and not all are created equal from a green standpoint. It is essential to look at the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) for the heating component and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for the AC component. The higher the number the more efficient it is. Go as high as you can afford as it will mean savings in the long run.
Third, look at the refrigerant that the unit uses. R-22 has been used for decades and is being replaced with R-410a as the latter is not an ozone depleting source. Check to make sure the model you choose is compliant with new regulations that will take effect in the next few years.
And last, most HVAC contractors are not hip to the green movement. This is based on interaction with our HVAC guy whom I assume is pretty typical. It was cool to see him get the fact that efficiency was important to us (as was not having R-22 in our home surrondings). You may have to be persistant and have more discussions than you ever thought possible, but it is worth it in the end. Good luck!