With fall officially underway, now is the perfect time to start crossing off some of those long-overdue home improvements on your to-do list. Before you break ground, it’s important to consider how sustainable or ‘green’ solutions can factor into your renovation plans.
Whether you’re improving your forever home or something less permanent, eco-friendly home improvements provide a large range of eco-friendly benefits, from reducing your carbon footprint to cutting utility costs. Here are some green improvements you can do this season that’ll increase your home’s efficiency and sustainability.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that personally matches homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we talk to homeowners every day about ways to make their homes more environmentally friendly – here are some helpful tips.
Assess Your Energy Usage
The first step toward any environmentally-friendly renovation is to get an accurate estimate of your home’s energy usage per month. This will allow you to establish a baseline of what your home is currently using and how you can improve it.
Although often overlooked, minor home defects such as drafty windows or poor insulation can turn out to be major culprits in terms of home energy inefficiency. By taking the time to identify problem areas around the house, you can make the best plan of action in eliminating these inefficiencies. In turn, you’ll be able to save yourself money by avoiding unnecessary renovation efforts due to a misdiagnosis of the issue.
A home energy self-assessment can be a simple process. Start by:
- Checking for drafts or air leaks (looking around windows, doors, and baseboards)
- Make note of the lightbulb wattage within the home
- Replacing air filters and inspecting the home’s HVAC system
Completing this home energy assessment will provide you with a starting place to begin your eco-friendly home improvement efforts. For more complex situations or a more thorough inspection of your home, hiring an outside contractor to conduct a more comprehensive assessment may be smarter than doing it yourself.
Revitalize Your Insulation
If you find that thin or inadequate insulation is causing your home to be losing heat after conducting your home energy assessment, this issue should be tended to before the others. Given that insulation is a key factor in helping to regulate the climate of your home, fixing this issue should be the top priority on your list of renovations so you can save more money while keeping your home warm.
Poor insulation will result in an increase in energy consumption to be able to properly heat or cool your home as you’ll have to keep adjusting your thermostat on a constant basis. The first area that should be thoroughly checked is the attic, as most residential heat is lost through the roof.
Other places you’ll want to be sure to vet and reinforce are basements, as well as around your windows and doors to the outside. Insulation products are widespread and easily available, but in the interest of making more sustainable home upgrades, consider sourcing environmentally-friendly insulation materials to complete the job.
Modernize Your Appliances
It’s no secret that the bulk of home energy costs can be attributed to the things we use in our everyday lives. Appliances such as the furnace, air conditioning system, refrigerator, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and cooking appliances can take up a majority of your home’s total energy consumption.
If one or more of your appliances are outdated, there’s a good chance that they’re not up to the latest industry standards, and may even be considered inefficient in terms of energy usage. You’ll want to reference current ENERGY STAR ratings to determine the conditions of your home’s appliances. Upgrading to newer equipment may be costly upfront, but can help save you money over time as the appliance will use significantly less energy and water.
Completing these appliance upgrades and staying within your budget may take some additional consideration, but it could be beneficial for you to complete these upgrades over time or seek external financing options such as home improvement loans.
Install Energy-Efficient Lighting
When it comes to sustainable home upgrades, something as minor as changing your light bulbs can make a real difference. Perhaps the easiest eco-friendly upgrade you can make is to swap out your home’s traditional incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient options such as LEDs or CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs).
Traditional incandescent bulbs are incredibly wasteful as they only convert 10-15% of their energy usage into light, while the rest is lost in the form of heat. On the other hand, LED bulbs can convert 95% of their energy consumption into light, making them a much more cost-effective and environmentally-conscious choice.
Aside from swapping out your lightbulbs, another cheap alternative is to use brighter paint for your home interior. This is a smart and carbon-free way to reduce the need for excess lighting, especially during the day when your walls retain more natural light. In choosing to do so, be sure to choose an eco-friendly product such as acrylic-based paint.
Consider Going Solar
Now more than ever, homeowners are turning to renewable sources of energy due to the benefits of cost-effectiveness and carbon footprint reduction. The most common solution for residential renewable energy is solar through the installation of solar panels.
Despite the upfront cost of solar panels, the return on investment over time more than makes up for the initial investment. Solar panels pay themselves off after four to eight years and typically last for upwards of 25 to 30 years, meaning that over two-thirds of their lifespan will provide your home with completely free energy.
In many states, the government even offers rebates and tax incentives to homeowners who decide to go solar. It’s also worth noting that if you decide to sell your home, real estate listings with solar panels typically garner greater interest at higher resale value.
When considering solar panels for your home, be sure to account for the amount of sunlight you get daily and what part of your house will be the most effective area to install panels. You’ll likely want to put them on your roof, but for instances where other areas of your home get more sun exposure, solar panels can be placed on other surfaces – such as a barn or garage, or even in the yard.
Make Your Home “Smart”
Making energy-efficient or eco-friendly upgrades to your home comes with the ability to control home features at the touch of a button. This is where smart devices come into play. Smart home devices such as thermostats and lighting are a great way to create a more interconnected home environment. These types of devices can allow you to better regulate your residence whether you’re at home or on the go.
Smart lighting and thermostats are simple to install and most often can be controlled remotely with any smartphone. If you’ve already swapped out the light bulbs in your home for energy-efficient options, the next step is to add them to a smart home ecosystem. The ability to turn these lights on and off remotely will help you bridge the gap between smart home functionality and eco-friendly products.
In addition, when things in your home aren’t working properly, your system will send you alerts – allowing you to both diagnose and fix the issue with ease.
When it comes to planning eco-friendly renovations for your home, you shouldn’t have to do it alone – GreatBuildz can help simplify your contractor search.
GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish. Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with our local team about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com