When building or renovating a house, there are so many decisions to be made. From the doorknob finishes to the stain of the beams, the choices add up quickly. Some people love the process and tailor everything to be exactly what they envision for their dream home. But others can become easily overwhelmed by the thousands of decisions that bog them down.
Either way, one of the most important decisions that you definitely need to make time for are the green elements you want to incorporate into your home. These are the choices that will be good for the environment as well as good for your wallet in the long run.
Everything from fixtures, tile, flooring and carpet all have greener, eco friendly options for you to consider when shooting for a greener home. Many people buying or renovating an older home might not think you can make an old house eco friendly but you definitely can. And there are ample opportunities to improve the efficiency of older homes. Even if you’re not building or fully renovating a home, at any time you can make improvements that are worth it and can have big impacts.
What Does It Mean To Make A Home Green?
Having a green home means you work toward achieving an energy efficient, waste-reducing, water conserving, less toxic and overall environmentally-friendly household. There are many ways to achieve this through green home designs and environmentally conscious upgrades.
Some consider doing aesthetic-only home improvements as wasteful. But as long as you’re replacing things with more efficient options and recycling old materials correctly, your conscience can be clear.
Why Make Green Home Improvements
Green improvements can equal green cash. And who doesn’t want to save money?! The improvement recommendations below can definitely come with an upfront price tag- but they pay off! When building, you can expect to pay about 5% more for low-energy homes than homes built to minimum code. But it’s important to look at this cost as an initial investment that will see great returns. Cheaper electricity bills, lower water bills, and more money in your pocket monthly, these improvements pay for themselves in savings.
Even small changes can make a big impact. If more people made green home improvements, we could combat climate change head on. It might seem like a drop in the bucket, but with more participation, that’s a lot of drops! For the bigger picture, more home developers are even taking matters into their own hands and shifting to net-zero energy construction. Some states, like California, are leading the charge by requiring all new homes to have solar panels.
10 Green Home Improvements
1. Avoid the Open Lawn
In America, we’re very used to the open grass lawn that we see perfected in the suburbs. But we’re one of the only countries who have this. Why is that? Open lawns are actually bad for the environment and ecosystem.
Having smart landscaping, instead of an open lawn, is the best option for your home. That means having more native plants, plants that are good for pollinators, and even food creators is a much better move for the environment and your pocket book. If you find that this is more maintenance than you desire, there are still alternative options, like artificial turf, ground covering plants, rock gardens.
2. Tankless Water Heaters
Including a Tankless Water Heater in a build or replacing your old traditional storage water heater with this better version is a big improvement to your home’s efficiency. Plus, gone are the days when you have to yell at your family for using all the hot water as your shower goes cold on you. Tankless water heaters give endless hot water to your home. They’re more energy efficient, which means more energy savings. You could receive around 27-50% greater energy savings with an on-demand tankless water heater at each water outlet to be precise!
3. Wise Flooring
What is the most environmentally-friendly flooring? Cork (unfortunately), which isn’t the prettiest or the most durable flooring. A great option for flooring that uses sustainable materials and has a beautiful finish is bamboo flooring.
If you’re still on the carpet train, there are more eco-friendly options for you as well. Wool carpet is one of the top choices among those made from natural fibers. But be mindful of this common environmental culprit when it comes to carpet- the padding. Make sure the padding and any underlayment is green and non-toxic. Reclaimed wood that’s already had a life of its own and is being upcycled is a great option as well.
4. Alternative Roof Types
If your area is exposed to large amounts of heat and sunlight, it might be worth it for you to consider a “cool roof.” And I know what you’re thinking – roofs are boring, how can they be cool? But we don’t mean cool as in “hip,” we mean cool as in “it can reflect the sun’s rays.” Made of a mixture of white glue and gravel, this type of roof has the ability to greatly reduce the amount of heat that penetrates your home. This will allow you to run your AC less and save money on cooling costs.
Metal roofing is another popular option. This type of roof can be taken a sustainable step further and be made from recycled metal. They reflect light and come in different styles based on homeowners’ tastes. They also last a long time (and sound beautiful when it rains.) If you want to stick to the tile route but want something more sustainable than traditional asphalt tiles, look into alternative types of tiles, such as clay or slate. A clay tile’s benefit is that it allows circulation of hot air, instead of remaining traps, and they’re also low maintenance! Slate tiles are some of the sturdiest and last a long time. Slate allows you to double up on your effort as well with various coating options to make slate roofs even more green and efficient.
5. Smart and High Efficiency Toilets
Go green when you go. Installing smart or high-efficiency toilets throughout your home can lower your water usage, thereby lowering your utility bills. High efficiency toilets use less gallons per flush, and some even come with the option to choose the amount of water you need (based on if you go #1 or #2). Water conservation is one of the best ways to ensure you’re ticking the boxes of green home improvements.
6. Smart Thermostats
Did you know that HVAC systems account for almost half the energy usage in the home? For a better way to help you control your heating and cooling, consider a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats, like the Google Nest Thermostat, can improve your comfort and reduce your energy use. These usually come with coordinating phone applications that teach you how to save even more energy and money. They’ll implement tricks, such as raising the temperature when you leave your home and don’t need the air conditioning running. On average, users of the Nest save 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling.
7. Upgrade Your Kitchen Appliances
Appliances count for about 15% of your total monthly energy consumption, and if you look around your kitchen, it’s likely been a while since they’ve been replaced. In fact, there have probably been great strides in the improvement of the efficiency of your appliances since that 15-year-old-refrigerator or dishwasher was built. These improvements will lower the amount of energy used to power them. Look for Energy Star Qualified Products to switch out in your home to save money and use less energy.
8. Add Insulation
One of the biggest ways you can improve the energy efficiency of a home is by installing proper insulation. The amount of insulation you use will correctly lock in your desired heating or cooling. Another factor to consider is the type of material you use. Insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your energy usage – and the quickest! If you’re going the green home improvement route, there are greener materials to consider for insulation purposes that are better for the environment and emit less waste to create. These are typically natural and free of chemicals, like formaldehyde. Other examples include soy, sheep’s wool, aerogel, denim, thermacork, cellulose and more.
9. Harvest Rainwater
Tap into the tap less by collecting your own water. Reusing this natural resource is a great thing to do for Mother Earth and is becoming more popular in eco-friendly residential homes. Tap water can be used directly for things, like watering outdoors, irrigation, flushing toilets and more. But you could also go as far as getting a sizable storage tank, then filtering and disinfecting the water to be used for other purposes. By harvesting your own rainwater, you’ll be able to relieve some of the burden from your city’s water system and infrastructure. You can also limit your water use and do your part to save this precious resource.
10. PV Solar Panels
Big utility companies can be very harmful to our environment due to the way they traditionally produce energy and the amount of energy produced.
Lower your carbon footprint with your own home solar panel system installation and use the sun to power your home. What’s better than making your own clean electricity through renewable energy? The cost of installing solar panels has greatly decreased since the last time you might have looked into it. Solar panels have become more realistic than ever for your average person. Generous tax credits and incentives can help you offset this initial cost. Schedule a free solar consultation to learn more.