How we build our homes impacts the health of everything around us. They can be costly to maintain and emit substantial waste. Green initiatives, however, can offset those consequences by using fewer resources. Some are simple swaps while others are long term investments that will ultimately save both money and valuable resources.
“Many green investments help save the planet, but they can also save you money over time as you spend less on energy or water,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Even if you decide to sell your home in a few years, potential buyers may be willing to pay more for your home if they know that their energy or water bill will be less than home next door.”
Read on to get started with eight ways to transform your home to be environmentally friendly, with insight from Redfin and Eco-friendly experts.
1. Use sustainable, locally-sourced materials whenever possible
This eco-friendly practice uses resources that are abundant in a given region, such as stone, wood, and other natural materials. Other methods include re-purposing and recycling products and reclaimed wood and furniture that previously served another purpose. Many architects and contractors use this process in construction to reduce waste and construct homes with a stronger conscience.
Pro Tip: Use eco-friendly flooring. Utilize bamboo, cork, or FSC-certified oiled wood for as many flooring surfaces as possible.
2. Invest in energy-efficient appliances
If you’re looking to buy a home, look for Energy Star certifications, which indicate a home, or the appliances within the home, meet standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These can include energy-efficient appliances, such as energy-efficient refrigerators, designed to require less electricity in the kitchen, as well as HD TVs, heating and cooling devices, and doors and windows. Also known as smart home technology, these amenities include thermostats like the popular Nest system, which enables homeowners to create an environmentally friendly (and budget-friendly) ecosystem that conserves energy for heating, cooling and lighting.
Pro Tips: Upgrade to “Smart” Devices. With the help of technology, your home can be more energy efficient starting with a sophisticated thermostat. – Green Hill Solar
Homeowners can easily reduce their demand for energy by changing their laundry practices. For example, consider washing all your laundry with cold water. GE Appliances estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all the energy your washer uses goes to warming up the water. By switching to cooler water less energy is used and this can result in a lower bill for you! It’s a win, win for the homeowner and the planet. –The Honest Consumer
Just as Nest has allowed simplicity through automating your thermostat, the same type of automation exists today through your Amazon Alexa (when using compatible Ambient Series LED Controllers). Consider setting up your home to dim the lights at sunset, or wake up gradually with light to mimic a sunrise. Not only does it help conserve energy, but it also provides a more comfortable, more enjoyable home experience with a light switch that never has to be turned on or off. – Ellumiglow
The light bulbs in your home are one of the greatest consumers of electricity. Our recommendation is to convert to LED. Even changing CFLs and fluorescent tubes will reduce electricity and eliminate mercury in our environment. – Century Lighting
Use ENERGY STAR certified battery chargers for a variety of cordless devices. On average they will use 30 percent less energy than standard models. ENERGY STAR certified chargers also have the potential to save Americans more than $170 million annually while preventing the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 200,000 cars. Of course, 1 Green Planet Electronics Recycling can recycle and properly dispose of the old chargers. – 1 Green Planet
3. Consider powering your home with solar panels
Solar panels tap the energy of the sun for an inexpensive way to boost a home’s energy earning and saving potential. Once the initial investment in panels is made, the power of the sun is quite literally free, and can be harnessed to supply the home when you need it most. Adds Redfin agent Paul Reid, “Tech that helps your home use energy more efficiently is more likely to enhance your home’s value. A fully interconnected solar panel system that generates power to backup batteries has a very real and direct impact.”
In addition to powering your home, the sun can also heat it. Solar thermal systems can heat water (or glycol in cold climates) for showers and bathing, as well as doing the dishes and other household activities. Using a solar thermal system is ideal for conservation, as they tend to save owners between 60 to 70 percent a year on heating and utility bills.
Pro Tips: Installing a solar system on your home allows you to harness the power of the sun and produce your own clean energy, moving away from the dependence on fossil fuels and reducing electric cost at the same time. – REP Solar
The Earth’s atmosphere is exponentially increasing in carbon dioxide levels, so now may be the best time ever to invest in renewable solar energy. Going solar has been proven to reduce your carbon footprint, and is an investment that will pay itself back over time. Now is the perfect opportunity for everyone to make an impact by saving our planet. – Altair Solar
4. Use an electric car and install a port to charge it at home
Did you know that if you own an electric car and charge it at home, the cost to run your car over a year can be less than operating your air conditioner? That’s pretty cool stuff. Also cool is knowing that residential charging is convenient, inexpensive, and saves energy from not having to go back and forth to public charging stations. “Electric cars are better for the environment than traditional cars because they don’t emit harmful exhaust fumes that contain carbon monoxide,” said Fairweather. “And you get bonus green points for charging your electric car in your home using electricity from a renewable source like solar panels.”
5. Heat and cool your home efficiently
When heating or cooling your home, it’s easy to let energy go to waste. Poor insulation is often the core factor in determining whether environmentally friendly heating and cooling choices have an impact. Insulation reduces energy expenditure by containing the elements needed to make a home comfortable. Some windows reflect UV rays and heat to keep homes cooler but not darker–like SPF for the house! “I installed tints on the windows of my home,” said Fairweather. “In the summer months it really makes a difference when the sun is beating down. There isn’t nearly as much glare and it keeps the house cooler too.”
You can also save on heating costs by heating only the rooms you use instead of the whole house. “My home was built in the 1950s and originally had an oil-heater,” continued Fairweather. “We replaced that dirty heating system with mini-split electric heat pumps that have temperature control for each room. The carbon impact from electric heat is less than oil, and we are able to use less energy because we only heat the bedrooms at night and aren’t wasting energy heating empty rooms.”
Pro Tips: If you’re considering getting new windows as this year’s home improvement project, make sure you consider getting ones that are triple pane. Not only do they provide superior energy efficiency and comfort in the winter, but they do so in the summer as well. A much cooler and comfortable home coupled with lower air-conditioning costs will be the result. – Denver Replacement Windows
Instead of regulating your indoor temperature with your furnace or AC unit, take advantage of your HVAC fan, ceiling fans, and natural sunlight. Turn on your house fan at your thermostat, which allows air to flow through your house. Just make sure you adjust the thermostat temperature so that the air condition or furnace doesn’t kick on. If your home needs to heat up, open shades on the south side of your home; and if your home needs to be cooled off, make sure those south side window shades are drawn to keep heat out. – Healthy House on the Block
6. Conserve more water
While droughts are most prevalent in certain areas, water is still a precious resource we all need. Rainwater harvesting and investing in water conservation tools helps protect it, and will save money if you plan on gardening in summer. Smart irrigation systems are tailored down to soil and light conditions and may even know to prepare for impending inclement weather.
Pro Tip: Invest in a faucet filter for your kitchen and reusable bottles. By avoiding single-use plastic water bottles, an average family of four can reduce plastic pollution by 5,840 bottles a year. Also, the manufacturing of reusable items uses less water and produces less CO2. To make a disposable 16oz water bottle, it requires 32oz of water, and with each ton of product produced, it generates 3 tons of CO2.
7. Look for LEED certification
LEED, or, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, means that a building is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as built using efficient, sustainable materials. If you’re considering buying a new construction home, look to work with architects and contractors who specialize in environmentally friendly LEED building. A global symbol of sustainability, holding the certification may a higher resale value, while also supporting healthier and cost-efficient living.
8. Replace traditional bulbs with more efficient lighting
LED stands for light-emitting diode, and is a smart way to light your home. Highly energy efficient, they have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs, delivering anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours. Because they are replaced less frequently, they can lower your carbon footprint while saving cash. And of course, there’s always natural light, which is gorgeous and free.
Pro Tip: Switch to LED lighting in your home. ENERGY STAR-qualified LED bulbs can last about 25,000 hours or more, 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs and 2.5 times longer than compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. You can save more than $65-$100 per year in energy costs just by replacing the bulbs in your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures, while also reducing your carbon footprint. – District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility
Want more help going green? Redfin recently ranked the “greenest” cities based on metro areas according to the percentage of all homes for sale mentioning the keyword ‘green.’ We also incorporated Redfin’s Transit Score® to highlight the places where public transit is available, convenient, and in effect, environmentally friendly. Click here to read the full report.