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The word “green” is a pretty common term today — and for a good reason. More people are looking to make life more environmentally friendly to mitigate the effects of climate change and make the world cleaner and safer. And they’re starting with their homes.
Still, you may be new to the concept of a green home and what it involves. This article lays out all you need to know, from the term’s definition to how you can start living a green lifestyle in your current home.
Green homes minimize the impact on our planet while improving the lives of all who live in them. They do this by being environmentally and physically sustainable and reducing their reliance on outside resources.
Traits include sustainably sourced and durable building materials, energy-efficient environmental systems and additions, improvements in indoor air quality, and even small, incremental energy improvements that offer big benefits.
Why are homeowners focusing so intently on going green? Turns out that environmental factors aren’t the only reason. Today’s green homes provide benefits for environmentalists and non-environmentalists alike.
Energy from nonrenewable sources like coal and oil creates air pollution and environmental damage. Prioritizing efficient systems and renewable energy sources reduces these negative aspects while reducing carbon emissions.
Green homes also reduce water usage and waste pollution. Increased droughts are making clean water harder to come by, and waste in the ground from non-eco products ends up in rivers and oceans, damaging ecosystems. Additionally, less water in reservoirs leads to more dangerous chemicals in the available water, leading to health issues.
You also benefit financially. Overall, any action you take to reduce energy and water usage lowers your utility bills in the short and long term.
For example, one solution is upgrading your systems. According to the Department of Energy, U.S. homes and commercial buildings consume 40% of the country’s energy. Of that, 10% to 20% may come from ineffective or outdated home systems and construction. By addressing these issues, you stand to save some serious money.
A green home improves the mental and physical quality of occupants. Some home pollutants are two to five times worse inside than outside. Green homes help improve indoor freshness and work to combat pollutants while reducing issues like mold, moisture, and pest infestations. They create a more comfortable living environment. Altogether, this work reduces symptoms of respiratory disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, and even depression.
Boosted demand for green homes is leading to increased home profits. Building owners are reporting a 10% or greater increase in asset value. More than 80% of residential home builders also report that consumers will pay more for a healthier green home. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) says that energy efficiency-rated homes sell for 2.7% more than unrated homes, a 10% or greater increase in asset value.
Shifting to environmental products supports jobs in this field and brings costs down by increasing competition. Environmentally friendly products become cheaper each year, and with added initiative, the costs will come down further.
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the most common energy-efficient upgrades in the U.S. are insulation, energy-efficient windows and doors, smart thermostats, energy-efficient hot water heaters, and energy-efficient lighting. Some of these solutions may look familiar since we covered them in a previous blog (that is still worth a look,) but this article includes the full list plus a few more solutions worth considering.
Heating and cooling are 30% to 50% of a home’s energy consumption. Maintaining more moderate temperatures with insulation goes a long way to decrease those costs. Some common home areas are walls, floors, basements, and crawl spaces, but one area to prioritize is the attic. It’s a prime area where interior heat is lost during winter and gained during summer.
For more about attic insulation, see our article Energy Efficiency: Save Money – and Earth – With These Easy Changes. To know more about what type of insulation we recommend, read our article on other sustainable changes you can make now at home.
Be sure to seal any gaps or holes in your windows, doors, ducts, flooring, and fireplace. Like insulation, sealing cracks and openings brings more moderate temperatures and year-round energy savings.
You can improve the efficiency of your windows and doors by replacing them entirely. You can purchase ENERGY STAR windows and doors and use dual-pane designs to help moderate temperatures and reduce your energy bills.
Smart thermostats help keep you from overcooling your home — especially while you’re out. You can operate it with an app to turn it on while driving home or program a pre-cool time for when you typically arrive home from work. This helps you save money and use fewer resources.
A tank water heater regularly reheats water 24 hours a day and 7 days a week so that warm water is readily available in kitchens and bathrooms. However, all that heating takes energy. Alternatively, a tankless water heater can heat water quickly without needing to store the water. The Department of Energy shows tankless systems are 8% to 34% more efficient than storage water heaters and can last five years longer.
LED bulbs use at least 75% less electricity without sacrificing light quality. In fact, you get even more color and brightness options. They last 25 times longer, translating into less waste and more cost savings. Combined with other lighting solutions like smart lighting and ENERGY STAR fixtures, you can reduce lighting energy by 50% or more.
Some good daily habits help. Turning off lights when not using them and installing lights that automatically shut off when room doors are closed, such as in closet doors, keep costs down.
Today there is a wide range of energy-saving appliances to meet growing demand. A great way of making choosing products easy is selecting ENERGY STAR appliances, such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, water heaters, and HVAC systems. For a full range of ENERGY STAR products, click here.
Solar power has proven to be a reliable and clean energy source — and a profitable one. Local rules may allow you to sell the energy you create back to your local power grid. Solar has an upfront cost, but you may benefit financially over the long term, making it a win-win. Proper positioning is important to get the most energy from the sun.
The goal of a green roof is to reflect the sun’s heat and cool down quickly. Some examples of roof materials include slate, terra-cotta, advanced membranes, and even some metal designs.
Another solution is to plant the top of your roof. Called a “green roof” or “living roof,” this design reduces storm runoff and extends water and energy efficiency while reducing your carbon footprint.
For more information on re-roofing, see our article on Re-Roofing vs. Roof Replacement.
Every part of your home can be environmentally friendly. From frames to flooring, paint, and cabinetry, there is an eco alternative for it. Examples included reclaimed lumber, recycled plastic, recycled glass, and natural products like cork and bamboo.
You don’t have to go into the red to go green. Here are some ways to transition to an environmentally-friendly home affordably.
One way of generating money is doing it the old-fashioned way: saving it. This may be painful, but one thing to remember is that any future green changes you make will save you money over the short and long term. You can still implement some sustainable solutions at little cost to help boost your savings. Tricks like sealing ducts and windows, using smart systems for your HVAC and lighting, adding plants for shade, and changing your water usage and energy habits go a long way.
Called a home equity line of credit (HELOC), this mortgage supplies you with the cash you need based on your home’s value. You can borrow against your equity or if you already own your home outright.
Green insurance helps you replace your standard systems and materials with green alternatives after a loss. You can rebuild with green insurance after a total loss, aiding with costs for inspections, recertifications, replacing planted roofs, and more.
Your city, state, and federal government offers programs worth looking into:
Green mortgages, also called Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs), are offered through banks or mortgage lenders to homebuyers and provide better terms, such as a lower interest rate or higher loan amount for purchases of homes that meet specific environmental standards.
These are also known as personal loans. In addition to a standard loan, you can apply for a HUD Title/Property Improvement Loan for $25,000 in home repairs. If you’re a veteran, you can apply for a cash-out refinance loan to take cash out of your home’s equity.
You can make the most of green strategies based on the type of home.
Cities and green building developers have made huge strides when it comes to building multifamily communities focused on sustainability. Moving into a green rental unit can reap the same benefits without as much overhead for upgrades. But you can adopt strategies into an existing building.
With a green lease, a landlord can pay for the green improvements and include them in the monthly utility costs. If the actual costs end up less than the estimated amount, the renters split the savings with the owner. Both benefit.
Construction of tiny homes has boomed in recent years due to the increasing costs of buying or building a traditional-size home. If this option sounds interesting to you, there are some significant benefits to owning one:
An off-grid home is a home that doesn’t connect to public utilities. This provides instant savings, though there is some debate about whether living off-grid is more sustainable than other options. Still, it has a positive impact. These homes often join solar and passive design principles to stay independent.
This building strategy provides benefits similar to sealing your ducts and adding insulation but takes it to the next level with tighter construction and intelligent placement of elements. Passive design principles let nature do most of the work for you and make use of green products to benefit you and the environment. Examples include:
Global warming and related water shortages are making the mission of going green critical for keeping life more comfortable, healthy, and safe for all. Though it may sound like a big undertaking, you won’t need to commit to every aspect of a green home to make a difference. You can pick and choose the ones that matter to your most.
If you are interesting in learning how we can support your green initiatives or consult on designing a space for your home be sure to contact our team of professionals today!