10 ways to turn your home green without worrying about the budget
Eco-friendly homes are getting more and more popular these days, which is a big deal – and great news. Some people are starting to understand they can help the environment by making some changes at home, while other are more practical and see green homes as a way to cut their energy bills. Be that as it may, a greener way to remodel is all the rage now. The best of all is that such alternative is possible for anyone, regardless of budget restrictions.
Gone are the days when greening up a home was a pricey ordeal. Today, it takes just a few simple steps to turn your house into an energy-efficient home. Here we’ll list 10 of them which can fit almost any construction budget and that will change the way you live.
Get rid of energy vampires
Appliances are among the main reasons why your energy bills are so high. There are two causes for that. The first is that the appliances you have might not be the most energy-efficient out there. Perhaps you own an old refrigerator that’s worn out or a cheap water heater that uses too much energy to run. Having newer and more efficient models can dramatically reduce your energy consumption. That’s why you should learn a little more about how efficiency is measured and use that knowledge the next time you need to replace an appliance.
The second reason is that perhaps you own an appliance that, regardless of its energy efficiency, isn’t the right for you. A big freezer can feel great but if you only keep it half full while running all day, you’re spending much more energy than what you would need with a smaller freezer. Ask yourself if the appliances you have are either too small or too big for what you need –and try to replace them ASAP.
Identify your home’s weak points
One of the things we’ve always said in this blog is that every homeowner out there should get a home energy audit. And we’ll keep insisting on that for a simple reason – such inspection will lead to major improvements throughout your home that will give a major boost to your home’s efficiency. In these audits, a professional will analyze your house looking for leaks, heat flow and the behavior of your heating and electrical systems.
With such analysis, the expert will be able to determine where are you wasting energy and how that’s making an impact on your house. Of course, the contractor will provide you with suggestions for improvements that will reduce your energy use and save you some serious money. Ideally, all houses should be audited – especially older ones.
Insulate, insulate, insulate
If you got an energy audit, then you definitely seen the professional take a closer look at your home’s insulation (or lack of). Insulation is a must for those inspections because a properly insulated home will have lots of benefits. The materials used for it will keep the indoor temperature with minimal losses, prevent drafts and limit your HVAC use.
Naturally, the insulation you’ll need will be up to your home’s particular needs. Perhaps a few studs or fiberglass batters will be enough to cover the weakest points. Maybe you’ll need a more complex work, such as blowing cellulose fill into your walls. Regardless of what you need, insulating your home is one of the smartest investments you can do, because it will translate into major energy and money savings in the long run.
Prepare your home for hotter months
While insulation on your walls is a huge step towards your home’s energy efficiency, there’s an extra insulation alternative you should consider – reflective insulation. This option is great for people living in houses that get too hot in sunnier months, since it can reduce the sun effects to a minimum while limiting the amount of time the air conditioning will have to stay on.
Reflective insulation controls solar radiation, which penetrates your roof and heats your indoor air. Normally, this type of insulation bounce the sunlight away to prevent the heat from coming in. There are other more sophisticated types of reflective insulation, but there are more expensive ones. Be that as it may, reflective insulation usually needs to be combined with the insulation options described above for a stronger impact on your home’s energy use.
Keep the airflow under a vigilant eye
You can insulate all your walls and roof but if fail to control the drafts around your doors and windows, the effort will amount to nothing. Sealing them is key to control your energy costs and keep your energy use in line. And control should be your focus here, because poor sealing in any of your doors will end up in an undesired airflow that will certainly make you spend more energy to counteract the impact.
What should you take away from this? That you should check all your windows and doors to check how efficient their sealing actually is. Don’t restrict that inspection to outside openings – interior doors can also create a negative airflow, bringing cool or hot drafts from damp, cold or hot rooms. Additionally, you should check gaps around outlets, switches and ducts to detect further air leaks.
Buy better windows
Perhaps this will cost a little more than you expected but its benefits will certainly make up for the price. That’s because better models are better prepared to keep the controlled climate inside your home separated from the outside air. Multipane or tinted windows are great options that reduce heat losses and which can be measured easily through the U-factor.
If you have the money, then there are windows that mix several of these treatments to produce custom windows that are designed specifically for your home’s needs (depending on the window’s size and position). If you don’t have enough budget, then you can always go with the cheaper alternative – non-metallic openings, which help in keeping the heat inside.
Control your water
Did you know that heating the water you use accounts for almost a third of your energy consumption? Such a fact is enough to state the obvious – controlling how you heat your water and distribute it in your house will improve your energy efficiency by a mile. This is certainly easier to get done when you’re building a new house than when you’re remodeling an old one. That’s because you’ll have to make several adjustments in your current home if you want the most effective distribution possible. In other words, it’ll be more expensive than some of the other alternatives listed here.
However, if you have the money to do it, you should go ahead. The options to improve your water heating are purchasing a tankless water heater, relocating your current heater, making sure you have the proper size and insulating the pipes, among others. As you can see, there’s plenty to be done here and you should really consider spending a few extra bucks here to really make a difference.
Go the smart route
Home technologies have come a long way in recent years and the latest trend is a great way to prove it: the new generation of smart thermostats. While we’re used to thermostats that are activated solely by variations on temperature, there are newer models that can do a lot more than that. They can now monitor the energy use of individual appliances, their functionality and their energy cost.
The new thermostats can be scheduled to run appliances when it’s least expensive to do so, they can notify you remotely when something is going wrong with any appliance and they can even turn off appliances that aren’t being used, just to save some extra energy. You may be thinking that such level of sophistication is surely expensive – and it can certainly be. But it’s surely a sound investment that will have a major impact on how you deal with your appliances and how you use energy at home, so you should at least consider having one.
Create an eco-friendly lawn
Chemical fertilizers, fuel-powered lawn mowers and lots and lots of water. Having a green lawn that’s the envy of all your neighbors certainly comes with a high cost, a cost of which our planet ends up paying the most part. Even if you don’t care that much about the environment (which, let’s say it, it’s oh so very wrong), having a lush green lawn certainly cost you a lot of money – money you could save if you chose the way of the eco-friendly lawn.
The alternative to that water-thirsty lawn is to use native plants as ground cover, more stones to frame your wildflowers and smaller patches of grass. That way, you won’t need that much water or chemical fertilizer and you’ll definitely have the chance to change to an electric or manual mower, a great news for your wallet. That’s not all. If you strategically place your plants and trees, you can prevent drafts from entering your home and create shade to keep it cool during summer.
Use salvaged materials
Salvaged materials are key for any green project on a budget. Whether you’re remodeling your current home or building a new one, using salvaged materials doesn’t just save money, but also helps the environment by reducing the demand for new materials. Besides, you can use these materials for almost anything you can imagine. You can decorate rooms, create pavers and even use them for energy efficiency projects.
For instance, you can use salvaged mineral wool, recycled cotton or cellulose for your insulation; glass, plastic or wood for your landscaping; and even recycled paper for your drywall. There are lots of materials that are eco-friendly and have a great functionality, so you should research online to find out your options when remodeling and building.
Though some green options remain expensive and are somewhat exclusive for higher budgets, eco-friendly practices are widening their offer to reach all budgets. You just have to search for the alternatives out there to make your next home improvement project a greener and more responsible one.