Buying a home is a major long-term investment, which means homeowners have to spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Of course, it’s impossible to consider your future without also considering the future of our planet. You might have the world’s greatest retirement plan, but that won’t do you much good unless there’s a planet to retire on, will it?
Unfortunately, in matters of sustainability or financial security, some people feel caught between a rock and a hard place. One common attitude is that average citizens are forced to choose between a fiscally responsible future and an environmentally responsible one, due to the expense commonly associated with eco-friendly technology and consumer products. The good news is, that’s not always true. For proof, just look at the four green home renovations we’ve described below. Each of these projects has been demonstrated to both reduce the carbon footprint of the people who use it and add value to their properties in the process.
How Your Home Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Chances are, your home generates a pretty significant amount of carbon each year. The average regular-size house produces 28,000 pounds of C02 annually, which is equivalent to burning almost 14,000 pounds of coal (or using 519 propane cylinders for backyard barbeques). In other words, it’s a lot of pollution — but it doesn’t have to be. Studies have shown that downsizing to a tiny home can reduce your carbon usage to a mere 2000 pounds per year. Let’s be honest, though: do you really want to give up all that living space? We didn’t think so.
Fortunately, tiny homes aren’t the only solution. You can keep the home you love and significantly reduce the emissions it produces just by making certain specific improvements to the property. Better yet, these projects will also increase the value of your home. Maybe that’s because over 60% of respondents in a survey by the National Association of Realtors identified sustainability as an important consideration for their millennial clients, who currently represent the largest portion of the home buying market. It’s not hard to connect the dots here: younger generations are carbon conscious, and they’ll pay higher prices for sustainable homes — so invest in green renovations now and they’ll help pay for themselves over time.
Of course not all green renovations are equal, whether you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint or increase the value of your property. That’s why we’ve selected four of the best projects for your consideration.
Four Green Renovations for Your Home
Passive Floor Heating
Passive floor heating is a popular alternative to forced air heating systems. It is generally accomplished with either electric wires or tubes filled with heated liquid. The wires or tubes run underneath the floor of a home, radiating heat throughout the surface. This eliminates the possibility of heat energy being lost through ducts, which is a common problem with forced air systems. Floors that are heated this way are also called radiant floors.
Radiant floors are generally more efficient in smaller homes with lower roofs than they are in large buildings. However, Scientific American recommends using an ENERGY STAR-approved programmable thermostat in conjunction with a passive floor heating system in order to make it as efficient as possible. Keep in mind that the installation costs of radiant floors are usually $8-12 per square foot including labour, so the more you put in the more expensive it gets. However, it’s also a commonly requested feature in new homes, so it can help you sell a home quickly if you’re dealing with picky buyers.
Energy Efficient Windows + Whole-Home Sealing
Windows, doors, and other portals to the outside world (like skylights) account for as much as 35% of the energy lost by the average home. Fortunately, there are products designed specifically to mitigate these effects. ENERGY STAR approved windows reduce a home’s energy bills by an average of 8%, and their most efficient models are up to 40% more efficient than typical windows.
Improving your sealing and adding more insulation to areas such as attics and crawl spaces can also help, bringing down a home’s total energy costs by an average of 11%. Best of all, such projects offer a surprisingly high ROI, with energy-efficient windows bumping up the asking price of a house by 85% of their original cost. Install them a few years before you sell, and the money they save you could easily cover the rest.
Rooftop Solar + Battery Storage
Solar energy is getting a lot of attention in Canada these days, and for good reason. Electricity costs in many cities throughout the country are on the rise, which has homeowners looking for ways to cut back on the power they draw from municipal grids. It also has potential new homebuyers on the lookout for houses that can produce some — or all — of their power by themselves.
Many current residential solar energy systems rely on batteries to save excess power generated during particularly sunny periods of weather so that it can be used as needed on darker days. Companies like ours have taken that approach even further, using a combination of solar battery storage and miniature generators powered by natural gas to completely remove our office from Edmonton’s electrical grid. For many homes, however, a simple 5 kW solar panel array will be enough to reduce their electricity consumption by 50-75%, and costs for these systems are projected to be 90% lower in 2020 than they were at the start of the decade. A recent study from the U.S. also showed that solar power systems increased the value of the homes where they were installed by a national average of 4.1%.
Rainwater Capture + Storage
There are many ways to collect and store rainwater, which can in turn be used for many purposes. Some homeowners simply purchase low-cost rain barrels and position them beneath gutters to catch runoff, which can be used for numerous outdoor applications. Other properties use cisterns to store larger amounts of water for longer periods of time, but these are considerably more costly and regulations in Edmonton prevent the water they collect from being used indoors.
Still, there are advantages to collecting and reusing storm runoff. Small buildings that capture and store rainwater can completely eliminate their carbon footprint from water consumption, while multistory buildings can cut it by up to 35%. While this doesn’t add up to massive carbon savings per building, it could have an incredible impact if implemented on a collective scale. Rainwater catchment systems can also help a home become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which has been shown to increase resale value for properties.
Saving Money Can Help Save the Planet
Spending money to renovate a home can be a tough decision because it often takes time before you recoup your initial investment — but that’s not a good reason to avoid doing it entirely. Most renovations won’t add enough value to your home to completely cover their up-front costs, but choosing projects that increase your home’s energy efficiency and save you money each month before you sell is an excellent way to compensate for the remainder and help protect the planet in the process. Whether you’re buying a few rain barrels, covering your roof in solar panels, or taking on multiple green renovation projects at once, you’ll be protecting your future finances and the prospects of future generations. Now that’s a good long-term investment.