They say it’s not easy being green, but when it comes to your home, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While making the switch from a conventional home to a more sustainable one can be a big task at first, the results of going green can provide significant benefits, including financial savings, increased home value, better air quality and overall health, reduced maintenance issues, and much more.
Why Go Green?
Savings on energy costs.
Because green homes are designed to use less water and other natural resources, they save you money on utility costs. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified homes, for example, use 30% to 60% less energy than conventional homes, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which can result in thousands of dollars of savings in just a few years.
Improved air quality and better health.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, exposing people to a number of air contaminants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold, and emissions from heating and cooling units, among others. Green homes improve indoor air quality by reducing these contaminants and improving ventilation, which reduces illnesses commonly caused by poor air quality.
Better for the environment.
In addition to creating a better indoor environment, a sustainable home can help you minimize your carbon footprint. They use fewer natural resources, produce less waste, and help limit pollution. Green buildings in the U.S., for instance, have reduced CO2 emissions by 34% compared to traditional construction, according to the USGBC.
9 Ways to Go Green at Home
Making your home more eco-friendly doesn’t have to be done overnight. You can implement small steps over time or take on a larger renovation project, depending on how green you want to go and how quickly you want to make it happen. Below are some changes, big and small, that you can implement to help make your home more sustainable.
Install solar panels. If your home has sufficient sun exposure, installing solar panels is a great way to capture renewable energy while cutting your utility costs. You can choose from grid-tied solar power systems, which tie into your local utility company’s electrical grid, or choose to remain off-grid. Some systems include batteries that allow you to store excess solar power to use as a backup or feed back into the grid. Innovative products, such as Tesla’s new solar-powered shingles or wall-mounted battery packs, are emerging constantly, making your options for home solar power plentiful.
Get a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable thermostats are a simple way to reduce your energy consumption and save money. Simply program your HVAC system to match your schedule, so it uses less energy while you’re away and picks up again when you’re home. Opt for a smart thermostat that allows you to control the temperature from anywhere via mobile device, and for optimal efficiency, choose one that gives you room-by-room temperature control and automatically adapts to your behaviors and preferences.
Seal air leaks. You’d be surprised how much energy gets wasted due to air leaks in windows, doors, and other openings. Caulking and weather-stripping are fairly simple and inexpensive projects that can help minimize wasted energy, cut costs, and improve air quality. Check for leaks around windows and doors and anywhere plumbing, ductwork, and electrical wiring comes through the wall. In addition, make sure you have proper insulation to resist heat flow.
Ditch the incandescent bulbs. Let’s face it; incandescent bulbs are a thing of the past. Because they create so much heat, they waste a lot of energy and have a short life span. For energy-efficient, long-lasting lighting, LED (light-emitting diode) and CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) are the way to go. Not only do LEDs and CFLs use 75% to 80% less energy than incandescent, they also last 3 to 25 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While they cost more up front, they save you money in the long run thanks to their energy efficiency and long life span.
Upgrade to Energy Star appliances. Think of how much energy you consume each time you start the dishwasher or do a load of laundry. Your fridge and freezer are constantly plugged in, resulting in ongoing energy consumption. To be more eco-friendly, upgrade your appliances to those with the Energy Star symbol, which is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. Energy Star appliances use 10% to 50% less energy than standard appliances, which helps you save money and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
Save water. Did you know that only 1% of the earth’s water is suitable for use? The rest is 97% salt water, and the other 2% is trapped in glaciers and ice caps. That means it’s important to conserve this precious resource, not only in drought-stricken areas, but anywhere you live. A few ways you can do this include switching to low flow showerheads, installing aerators on your faucets, and fixing leaks.
Choose sustainable building materials. If you’re building a new home or are planning a renovation project, selecting sustainable building materials is a great way to make your home more eco-friendly. Consider recycled steel beams in place of wooden ones, which saves the numerous trees it usually takes to build a home. Composite lumber, a mixture of wood fiber and recycled plastic, is a great option for decking, and low-E windows can be installed to help regulate temperature.
Use low VOC products. VOCs are gases that get emitted from a variety of products, which introduce harmful chemicals into the air and can contribute to a host of health issues. VOCs are commonly found in paints, wood preservatives, carpets, building materials, and cleaning products. The good news is, most of these products have a low VOC equivalent to help limit exposure.
Get LEED certified. For the ultimate green home, LEED certification is the crème de la crème. It can also be difficult to achieve, because the qualifications are so stringent. However, a LEED certified home encompasses everything that a green home should be. They use less water and energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money. Plus, LEED certification usually increases your home’s resale value.