The home channel’s seeing green
It’s no longer simply considered the right thing to do. With a greater number of consumers, builders and retailers reaching for green products, manufacturing with an eye toward the environment also makes great business sense. The U.S. Green Building Council estimates that the number of LEED-certified homes doubled globally between 2011 and 2012. Ranging from such simple fixes as energy-efficient light bulbs to advanced implements like an Energy Star-rated clothes dryer, here are 14 innovative products from the tree-hugging corner of the home-building industry.
1. Hunter Savoy Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans can make a significant impact on a home’s energy efficiency — for instance, with Hunter Fan models like the Savoy, which is Energy Star-rated and can save up to 47% in home cooling costs. (hunterfan.com)
2. BarkClad SmartBark
For those who love the look of bark, SmartBark is a sustainable siding alternative made of a polymer blend that’s designed to mimic the look of natural bark. A high R-value also helps homeowners save on energy costs. (barkclad.com)
3. Native Trails Morro’s Bowl Sink
The makers of the Morro’s Bowl credit artisans in Vietnam for inspiring them to create what they call Native-Stone, a cement and jute fiber material. The jute — which is a renewable vegetable fiber — strengthens the sink and boosts its sustainability credo, generating less waste and requiring less energy to produce. (nativetrails.net)
4. AFM SafeCoat Zero VOC Custom Color Paint
Not only is this a zero-VOC paint — not emitting any toxic fumes of its own — it also seals in any harmful emissions that could be coming from the wall. It’s also completely non-toxic and odorless when dry. (afmsafecoat.com)
5. Makita 18V Lithium-Ion Battery
Makita has demonstrated that it’s not just the product specifications — it’s the company policies surrounding it that make it green. The company earned a Call2Recycle Leader in Sustainability Award in June for its efforts to promote battery recycling among consumers. (makitatools.com)
6. GE Energy Smart 9-Watt LED Bulb
This bulb was recognized early on for its efforts to replace the standard 40-watt incandescent bulb. In 2010, it became the first standard A-line LED bulb to get the Energy Star stamp of approval. At 77% energy savings and a lifespan of 22 years, we’d say the advantage is clear. (gelighting.com)
7. Zielinsky Universal Stone All-Purpose Concentrated Cleaner
It seems there’s little this all-natural cleaner can’t do. From removing stubborn marks on stovetops, pots and pans to renewing the look of cars and boats, Universal Stone has the strength and the gentle composition, made from non-toxic ingredients like green soap, vegetable oil and glycerin. (universalstein.com)
8. Panasonic EcoVent
Panasonic celebrated its 2014 Energy Star Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence designation earlier this year. It thanks, in large part, its ventilation fans, which are often rated as being among the top energy-efficient fans on Energy Star’s list. (panasonic.com)
9. Newcandescent Rough Service Bulbs
Just in case you thought you’d never see one of these again, Newcan-descent has proven the might of the market with a line of incandescent bulbs that fulfill all U.S. Department of Energy regulations. The Made-in-USA bulbs are rated for 10,000 hours — compare that with a traditional 60-watt incandescent, which was rated for 1,000. (newcandescent.com)
10. Masonite Safe ‘N Sound Doors
Masonite has stepped up to prove doors can get into the sustainability game. Safe N’ Sound doors are FSC-certified, formaldehyde-free and built with Dor-Cor, a low-density fiberboard made of renewable wheat straw. It’s not just good for the environment — it also reduces sound and mimics the look and feel of real wood. (masonite.com)
11. Whirlpool Duet WED87HED Steam Dryer
Whirlpool made waves recently when it became the first appliance maker to earn an Energy Star certification in the clothes dryer category. The Duet Steam Dryer uses moisture sensors and dual element modulation technology to use the lease amount of energy required. (whirlpool.com)
12. Sun-Mar Garden Composter
Sun-Mar has devised a way to go green, for the green. Its AutoFlow design rotates the drum so that material goes in the top and exits out the end as compost. It’s also built to keep out pests. (gardencomposter.com)
13. Ecobatt Glasswool Insulation
Ecobatt has arrived onto the scene to remind builders that it’s not just a high R-value that gives insulation its green credentials. Ecobatt’s Glasswool Insulation is made with 30% post-consumer recycled glass bottle content, and one of its primary ingredients is the ever-abundant sand. What’s more, its ECOSE binder relies on renewable materials (rather than petroleum products), and it’s totally formaldehyde-free. (ecobatt.us)
14. Osmo Deck Oil
For a deck that’s in utter harmony with its surroundings, Osmo makes an oil finish based on natural, renewable vegetable oils that contains no biocides or preservatives. It’s also said to be effective, resisting cracking, flaking, peeling and blistering and maintaining the shape of the wood with its microporous composition. (osmona.com)
15. PureColor Even-Grain Wood Stain
A sustainably sourced entry door is a moot point without an environmentally friendly wood stain. PureColor offers a zero-VOC, non-toxic stain for all kinds of doors, including veneered and composites. (purecolorinc.com)
16. Viridian Reclaimed Wood
Reclaimed wood is nothing especially new to the building industry, but Viridian is noteworthy for its success at up-cycling wood from shipping pallets and crates, which are notoriously difficult to recycle. The result is a swath of flooring, paneling and decking offerings with a cool, vintage appeal. (viridianwood.com)
Products in the golden spotlight
The sun has set on this year’s installment of the National Hardware Show — and with it, HCN’s 2014 Golden Hammer Awards, which took place quite literally under the sun, poolside, at the LVH.
Online at HCN, however, the festivities haven’t stopped. HCN has been spotlighting several of this year’s 31 Golden Hammer winners with mini Web profiles, detailing each company’s history and current trajectory.
Of course, there’s one thing that brings all these disparate companies together, and that’s the ability to churn out products that answer specific problems presented by the marketplace.
What’s an example? For one, Leviton’s Universal Dimmers, which make intuitive work out of matching frequently incompatible dimmers and bulbs (whether they’re LED, CFL or incandescent). Additionally, there’s the USB Charging Device, which makes it possible to charge one’s electronic gadget of choice without taking up a wall outlet. The Slim Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter was invented as a space-saving solution, taking up 25% less space in the wallbox than other GFCIs.
Whirlpool recently made headlines when it introduced the first-ever Energy Star-rated clothes dryer to the market. The Whirlpool Duet WED87HED Steam Dryer uses moisture sensors and dual element modulation technology to optimize the drying cycle, using no more heat (and no more time) than is required.
Therma-Tru’s entire legacy is solution-based. The company originally exploded onto the scene in 1982 when it invented the fiberglass door category, answering the call for an entry door that mimicked the appearance of natural wood but was tough enough to withstand the elements.
Fluidmaster, the Golden Hammer winner for Plumbing Supplies and Equipment, is a contender with its Flush ‘N Sparkle system, which automatically adds cleaning solution to the toilet bowl with each flush and more than likely answers the prayers of customers who like cleaning to happen on autopilot.
In the realm of pool supplies, Little Giant Outdoor Living’s parent company, Franklin Electric, may have roots in answering the demand for portable generators during World War II, but the company today is enlisting its wares building other kinds of solutions — namely and most recently, a user-friendly fountain kit that contains the basin, fountain, Little Giant pump and needed plumbing hardware.
“Pool cover pumps are trending back to the basics with mechanical float switches rather than computerized electronics,” said Bobbie Grider, marketing specialist at Franklin Electric. “Consumers and contractors are also branching out and adding decorative water to their outdoor living space, which is why we just released an extensive disappearing fountain line.”
The Wooster Brush Company, winner of the 2014 Golden Hammer Award in the Paint Supplies & Tools category, takes credit for introducing all kinds of new things to the market: the angle sash paintbrush, nylon filaments for use with latex paint, and the creation of a special process to cement bristle into paintbrushes.
That’s not to say that novelty trumps quality and effectiveness, especially in an industry quite so utilitarian as the home improvement trade. But HCN tips its hat doubly this year to the products that changed the game in some way, answering the needs (and sometimes the wants) of the home channel.
Some keys to smart-home security
Unlocking the digital home has its advantages.
Traditionally, the most effective way to reach a home buyer’s heart was through the kitchen or the bathroom. For most home buyers, a lock was a lock.
But today, home buyers and home builders are seeing locks a little differently. In fact, with the increasing popularity and affordability of home automation technology, smart electronic locks are nearing the top tier of difference-making features.
What’s the buzz?
The “digital” home, a home replete with home automation devices and a central control system, is right behind the green home in terms of industry buzz and consumer excitement. Digital homes are more than just sexy: They deliver interoperability of home electronics from control panels and often, the home electronics themselves, in ways that enhance security, convenience, comfort and overall livability. In digital homes, devices like alarms, lighting, thermostats and entertainment systems — as well as locks — all communicate with each other and provide maximum control along with a trail of information.
In their earlier iterations, home automation systems were viewed as complicated and expensive, because in most cases they were. They were an installer’s dream, responsible for racking up many man-hours of wiring and connection work. But in recent years, these networked systems have become simpler to install and use (even for the do-it-yourselfer), more modular for adapting to changing needs and, perhaps most importantly, more affordable.
One of the most sought-after elements of today’s digital home among home buyers is the electronic lock. This is a dramatic change from the days when the primary competitive advantages for a door lock were quality, style, finish and price. While these traits are still important, the role that smart locks can play in a digital home has pushed this once-humble device into an entirely new level of desirability.
Over the last five or six years, there have been huge technological advances in the world of door locks:
- Advanced technology provides the flexibility for homeowners to re-key their own locks quickly and easily, without having to remove the locks from the door.
- Electronic locks take the key, and the possibility of losing it or having it stolen, out of the equation altogether. Enter a personal code with just a few simple button pushes and you can enter your home. You can also assign temporary codes to select individuals, granting them access for a specific length of time.
- With smart locks and home connectivity technology, your locks can wirelessly talk with other devices in your home. And you can remotely communicate with and control your lock.
The ability to grant home access from anywhere in the country, or even the world, is a significant selling tool. Suddenly, the lock is not just another potential aesthetic upgrade, like flooring or faucets.
Building a hardware niche
If home builders are not comfortable with smart locks yet, they likely will be soon. The builder’s No. 1 focus is still building a house that people would want to live in — at the right price. When price and location are similar, most builders welcome any element that will make the home more appealing and allow their homes to stand out from the other choices.
But in the end, it is the consumer who will drive the increased use of home automation and smart locks. It’s highly likely that once people have a smart lock on their door, they will never return to standard locks. When they move into their next home, they will be looking for a home that has a high level of automated connectivity; in fact, they may be looking for an upgrade. And with exciting features like Bluetooth-operated locks on the market, technology-craving home buyers will not have to wait very long.
David Seeman is the director of builder development for Kwikset, Weiser and Baldwin, part of the Spectrum Brand Hardware and Home Improvement Group (HHI).