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Green Has Never Looked So Good

Ridgewood resident turns his home green.

When members of the Ridgewood Historical Society heard Ed Schwartz was renovating his 18th century Victorian mansion into a fully sustainable and eco-friendly living space, they didn't exactly share his enthusiasm.

“When they heard 'green,' they did not envision the same plan that I did,” Schwartz said. “It is hard for people to believe that you can keep the original foundation and style of a historical home when you make it sustainable.”

But after three years of struggles with the town, contractors, and permits, he was able to completely refurbish his 1767 home, with modern amenities, while still keeping his monthly utilities bill under $7. 

It's hard to believe that a 5,000-square-foot home is so self-sufficient, but Schwartz made some bold moves to reduce his carbon footprint.

As the owner of Green Living Solutions, an energy efficiency consulting company, Schwartz leads by example. He not only advises others on how to make their homes better for the environment, but he successfully made his own East Glen Avenue home a prime example of how easy it is to reduce living costs while making less an impact on the planet. 

“Being sustainable has many components,” Schwartz said. “It is a combination of leaving the planet in good condition, while using salvaged or sustainable resources.”

Most of the renovations in his house used preexisting materials that were already there. For example, the original wood flooring is still in use throughout the entire home. Instead of bringing in new wood to replace the damaged sections, he replaced the holes with planks from other parts of the house. Most of the doors and moldings he sanded and repainted.

On the other hand, there are definitely some modern additions to the home. The kitchen, a newer section of the house that was added in the 1880s, is fitted with energy efficient appliances. The hall lights and antique chandeliers found throughout the rooms all carry LED light bulbs, instead of florescent. And when new materials were added to the house, the sustainability of those resources was evaluated beforehand.

Additions like Lyptus countertops and cork flooring were used instead of more common supplies. Solar panels were also added on the roof. 

“We wanted to do things right,” Schwartz said. Instead of going the cheaper route, he decided to make longtime investments in the house the first time around.

However, the most important change in the house was the heating system. Although the original gilded radiators are still intact throughout the structure, they are no longer the main heat source. The original system was a coal fire combustion converter that used coal and oil to heat the entire house. The entire system was replaced with geothermal units that use minimal energy throughout the year to keep the three-floor mansion cool in the summer and warm in the winter seasons. 

The simplest, but most efficient, change to the house is the solar tubes that were installed on the third level. Solar tubes are literally reflective tubes installed in the ceiling that lead directly to the roof. They transfer direct sunlight to the inside of the house without using much energy—similar to a sunroof, but without the transfer of heat from the room.

Additionally, the Schwartz family has uncovered historic treasures while constructing their dream home. 

“Once you are in the home, it talks to you,” explains Julie Tung, Schwartz's wife. 

Not only did they discover a cannon ball and newspaper clipping from the 1880s within the foundation, but they also realized a little about their own family history during the process.

With a little bit of research, Schwartz discovered that his son, Kyle Bogert, is actually a descendant of the Bogert family, one of the Dutch colonists to first come to this area and develop it. 

The house has come full circle since it was first built in the late 1700s.

“It was first built with the help of slaves, then it was semi-burned while under attack during the Civil War, and now it is being brought back to life under the Obama administration,” Schwartz said. 

Schwartz demonstrates the ability to both preserve the history and beauty of Ridgewood while keeping it alive and green. 

For more information on how to make your own living space greener, go to www.greenlivingsolutionsnj.com and to read about Schwartz's 10 sustainable ideas for your home.

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