When the idea of improving a home’s energy efficiency comes up, it’s usually motivated by a desire to help the environment or save money. After all, making a home eco-friendly potentially increases its value.
There are a handful of upgrades that are relatively simple that reduce a home’s environmental impact. Some our fairly obvious and you’ve probably heard them before; some are a bit more obtuse. But for the consumer trying to go green, it’s a confusing world out there with volumes of disinformation. A few reminders can’t hurt.
Use Renewable Materials
Flooring is a popular upgrade and one of the most important in a home renovation. Bamboo is more renewable compared to conventional wood. Moso bamboo, the type used most often to make flooring, takes about three to five years to grow. The typical trees used to make wood floors take 10-20 years.
Saving on Heating and Cooling Costs
Installing programmable thermostats saves energy over more conventional thermostats that operate only based on temperature. With a programmable thermostat, heating and cooling can be scheduled to be off (regardless of temperature) when the parents are at work and kids are at school. Different scheduling for the weekend when the house is more likely to be occupied is also possible.
According to Energy Star, the average cost of heating and cooling a home is about $1,000 annually. Upgrading to a more efficient heating and air conditioning system can improve energy efficiency by nine percent over a non-rated system. Following their quality installation guidelines can add to the savings.
Being More Green with Electricity and Water Use
Motion sensitive switches are another energy saving option, especially for those who tend to leave lights on. These are based on motion detectors that will switch lights off if no motion is detected after a certain time. If anyone leaves a room with the light on, it will automatically shut off after a few minutes, minimizing wasted energy.
Tankless water heaters are a new water saving feature, eliminating water waste from shower takers waiting for the hot water to come out on cold days. Cold water gets heated as it passes through an electric coil. You only get hot water when you need it.
Low flow plumbing fixtures are another great way to reduce water waste. Low-flow toilets use about half as much water as their water-wasting predecessors. Low-flow shower heads and faucets are also available.
Other Savings for Eco-Friendly Remodelers
Upgrading heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing systems helps save on energy costs and efficiency, but what about home entertainment and your office uses? People rarely factor in the energy costs of consuming entertainment and working from home, as if those subjects are immune to environmental awareness. But for those of you who want to and are able to work from home, faster Internet speeds are crucial to avoiding the morning commute, which studies show drastically reduces carbon emissions. Look into high speed wireless routers that run at 50/25 Mbps. Many of the providers are currently discounting residential Internet and you can even save money by bundling your home services.
The demand for greener homes is increasing; a McGraw Hill Construction report estimates that green homes are more popular and will make up 29-38 percent of the residential construction market, reaching $87-114 billion by 2016.
For those who cannot make the jump to a new eco-friendly home, upgrading to greener features is still a viable option. It will save costs in the short term, reduce the home’s environmental impact and make the home more attractive to buyers once it’s time to sell.