Not only are sustainable homes good for the environment and your wallet, they can put you ahead of the competition when it comes to real estate. In fact, half of realtors in a recent survey said that sustainable features contributed to their sales, and over half said that buyers were somewhat or very interested in green features. Not to mention, many “green” features also make your home more beautiful, comfortable, and luxurious. So, whether you’re selling a new property, creating your dream home, or just want to make your house a little greener, look no further! Here are 10 ways to make a more eco-friendly home.
1 | Energy Efficient Lighting
Installing lighting that has the ability to dim, timeout when not in use, and automatically adjust brightness can make a huge difference on your home’s energy output. Add LED light bulbs to the mix and you could save a whopping 90% more energy than incandescent bulbs. Typically, energy efficient or “smart” lighting comes with an app that allows you to control your lighting from anywhere in your home. Changing to energy efficient lighting is an easy green fix that has the added benefit of making your home feel more luxurious and high tech.
2 | Solar Panels
Solar energy has become more and more popular in both commercial and residential projects- and it’s no wonder why. Solar energy is “the most renewable form of energy existing today” and produces zero emissions, improves air quality, and reduces water use from energy production. On top of that, it can save you a lot of money on your electricity bill. On average, you can expect to save between “$20,000 and $97,000 over the lifetime of your solar panel system.” Although solar panels tend to be more expensive (an average of $14,850 not including tax incentives in California), cheaper alternatives like thin-skin solar panels are an option. For more about thin-skin solar panels and solar innovation, check out my article here.
3 | Skylights and Natural Light
Skylights and natural light are a great sustainable addition to any home. Skylights “emit over three times as much light as a same-sized vertical window,” making them an easy way to achieve more natural light. Natural light can reduce your use of electricity throughout the day by lessening the need to have your lights, AC, and heater on. In fact, it is estimated that you can save an average of $2,500 in monthly energy costs with skylights. Of course, this all depends on the type, placement, and material used to make your skylight- so be mindful when planning for installation. Skylights are great for a variety of budgets. On average, they cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Additionally, since natural light is well known to boost serotonin, your new skylights might just make you happier and healthier.
4 | Proper Insulation
Proper Insulation is the most obvious, potentially overlooked way to achieve a greener home. Good insulation can make your home stay warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and consume a lot less energy year round. The EPA estimates that the average homeowner can save 15% on heating and cooling costs by using proper insulation in their attics, crawlspaces and basements. This can reduce your overall energy consumption and carbon footprint. However, not all insulation is created equal when it comes to health and sustainability. Traditional insulation uses fiberglass, which can pollute the environment. Exposure to fiberglass via inhalation can cause and worsen asthma, bronchitis, and lung injuries. Some safer and more eco-friendly insulation materials include sheeps wool, cotton, aerogel, rigid polystyrene, and icynene.
5 | Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats might just be the thing that sells your property. According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of buyers consider the cost of heating and cooling a major factor in their purchase decision. Smart thermostats, or programmable thermostats, are a high-tech way to control temperature in your home for optimal comfort and energy efficiency. Most smart thermostats allow you to remotely control your heating and AC and automatically shut off when you leave and turn back on when you return. Some can even learn your schedule to automatically adjust to your preferences. This increased control can save 10-12% off your heating/cooling bill and lessen your overall carbon footprint.
6 | Sustainable Flooring
Creating an eco-friendly home involves all aspects of the built space- that includes what’s under your feet. The right type of floor can not only be sustainable in material, it can help maintain a desirable temperature and reduce your energy bill. Bamboo, reclaimed wood, cork, recycled linoleum, and engineered wood are all great options for eco-flooring. The best eco floor for you largely depends on your project, where you live, and your goals for your space. For example, If your home is in a hot, humid environment, cork is a great option to prevent mold and bugs.
7 | Geothermal System
A geothermal system essentially uses the ground’s natural temperature to heat and cool your home. This is because a few feet below the surface of the earth, the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature compared to the air. Geothermal heat pumps (GHP’s), can take these ground temperatures and convert them to high efficiency heating and cooling for your home. GHP’s can reduce your home’s energy output by 25-50% compared to traditional heating and cooling systems.
Of course, GHP systems are more expensive and complicated to install (they involve extensive drilling) than your average HVAC system. However, these “costs may be returned in energy savings in 5 to 10 years.” Additionally, geothermal systems are quieter, longer lasting, need little maintenance, and do not depend on the temperature of the outside air. To top it all off, geothermal systems don’t use fossil fuels to burn heat, so they can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.
8 | Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant floor heating is a high-tech, luxurious (albeit expensive), and eco friendly way to heat your home. Radiant heating systems essentially supply heat through the floor or walls via infrared radiation. This is the same kind of heat you may feel when standing near a hot stove top. There are three different types of radiant floor heating: air heated, electrically heated, and water heated floors. Each type has its use, but water is by far the most common type of floor heating for residential homes.
Water heated, AKA hydronic flooring, pumps water heated from a boiler through to piping installed beneath the floor. Although this method of heating is pricey ($7 to $22 per square foot), it can save you money and energy in the long run – an average of 15% off of your heating bills. It can also reduce allergens from forced air that can circulate in your home all while making your feet extra toasty.
9 | Cool Roof
Cool roofs essentially use materials that reflect heat away from your roof. This helps keep your building cool and reduces the need for air conditioning. Cool roofs can be made from a variety of materials including solar panels, tile, metal, clay, and slate. Perhaps the coolest (no pun intended) cool roof is made out of plants! Living roofs use a thin layer of soil and any variety of sun-loving plants to create a beautiful and very sustainable roof. The plants look great, and they reduce heat in your home as well as CO2 in the atmosphere.
This is an excerpt from my article Top Sustainable Construction Technologies.
Adding a cool roof to your home can save you around 7-15% off your average heating/cooling bill, reduce the strain on your HVAC system, and might even make you the envy of the neighborhood…
10 | Garden
If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, planting a sustainable home garden can be beneficial to the environment and your well-being. According to the National Library of Medicine, a home garden can “contribute to halt habitat degradation/destruction and biodiversity loss, mitigate locally ongoing climate change, and contribute to several human wellbeing and health benefits of experiencing nature.” Some ways to make your home garden sustainable include: choosing native and drought tolerant plants, installing a drip irrigation system to water your plants, and avoiding pesticides (which can contaminate groundwater).
Iplementing these tips can help you sell your house and appeal to homebuyers or simply make your home more planet friendly. The future of real estate will certainly lean toward green, don’t get left behind… invest in an eco-friendly home this summer!
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