As environmentally-conscious building practices become the norm, more homeowners are choosing to approach their next remodel with a green mindset. There are now many options for those who want to add value to their home in a smart, sustainable way. A home inspection may identify other ways to make your home more sustainable, as well as address any concerns with new features. If you're interested in making a difference on your environmental impact, follow these basic guidelines.
Planning is everything
Sometimes living sustainably is much easier than using the right materials and installing energy-saving appliances. You can reduce your impact on the environment by just staying modest with your remodeling. In an article about sustainable remodels, This Old House pointed out the drawbacks of adding significant square footage to your home. Adding more onto your home than you really need doesn't just mean a higher cost and more materials required, but also will require additional electricity for heating, cooling, and lighting the extra space. This all adds up to a home that's wasteful instead of sustainable. Consider energy costs as well as how you will use the new space when planning an addition or major renovation.
Find the right floors
One of the best ways to go green is to start from the bottom. Traditional wood flooring contributes to deforestation, making it one of the least green choices for your home. Instead, consider switching to bamboo or cork flooring. Both plants grow much faster than trees used for lumber, making less of an impact on the environment. According to DoItYourself.com, harvesting cork does not impact the health of the tree, which helps preserve a habitat for wildlife. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants known, and will return to its full potential in just five years. Cork flooring comes with many unique benefits over wood other than its environmental impact - it is also more scratch resistant, naturally mold and insect resistant and quieter. Cork tends to be slightly less expensive than bamboo, but the latter is more stain resistant, and any scratches can be buffed out. Take these characteristics into consideration when picking your flooring material.
While renewable energy for large scale use is still in its infancy, homeowners can harness the power of the sun to reduce their carbon footprint by supplementing their traditional electricity intake with solar energy. Solar panels (also known as photovoltaic cells) create energy from sunlight, and that electricity is then sent to an inverter and into your home's power grid. As you can imagine, this is a complex process that's more involved than your typical weekend project, so make sure to research local companies that can install a solar power system for you. Many states and the federal government will offer a tax incentive for households who install these devices. According to Houzz.com, solar energy can save you as much as $84 per month on electricity costs, and contribute to a reduction in your carbon footprint equivalent to planting 88 trees. While the upfront cost may be prohibitive for some - as much as $17,000 for a permanent installation, the cost can be significantly offset by tax credits offered not only for the purchase of the solar panels, but also credit toward your energy bill and property taxes in certain municipalities. Make sure any zoning laws in your area allow for the installation of solar panels.
A bright future
Depending on the size of your home, a significant portion of your energy bill may be going toward lighting, and that doesn't even include the annual cost of replacing old bulbs. The latest technology embraced by green enthusiasts is LED lighting. While more expensive than traditional incandescents, LED bulbs can last 20 years or more according to CNET, and use much less power than most other kinds of lights. A 12 watt LED bulb, for instance, provides about as much light as a typical 60 watt incandescent. That means they also produce less excess heat than incandescents as well. LED bulbs can be placed just about anywhere in your home, but their lifespan is considerably reduced when placed in an enclosed fixture. Make sure to buy bulbs made specifically for these situations. LEDs may also not be fully compatible with dimming circuits, but this can be modified. If you're hesitant to make the switch, LED bulbs continue to get cheaper and more efficient anyway and it won't be long before they become the norm.