How to Make Green Home Improvements for Your Home

man installing programmable themostat
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When you are ready to start a new home improvement project, take a look at environmentally friendly solutions or "green" ideas instead of traditional building practices. Many of these eco-friendly choices can help you save money, promote healthy living for your family, and preserve the planet's resources.

Take a look at green home improvement choices—from energy-efficient appliances to sustainable flooring and more—all are sustainable, renewable, and environmentally conscious.

Tankless Water Heater

One of the most important things that you can do for the environment is to save energy, especially the energy derived from fossil fuels. With a tankless water heater, you can cut your energy consumption almost by half. Tankless water heaters heat water on demand, so you aren't wasting energy by continually heating 40 to 50 gallons of water when you aren't using it. You will never run out of hot water with a tankless water heater. You can buy tankless water heaters that heat water in seconds.

Tankless water heaters last longer, are smaller, take up less space in landfills, conserve water, as well as cut energy use. They come in gas or electric models and can go inside or outside of your home. Electric tankless water heaters cost less, but gas is more cost-efficient.

Green Types of Flooring

When it comes to the flooring in your home, Look at materials that are sustainable or easily replaceable or renewed.

  • Bamboo flooring: Bamboo floors look like they are wood, but bamboo is a grass. It proliferates within 3 to 5 years, so it is a renewable resource. Most bamboo for flooring grows in China. Bamboo is resilient, comes in a variety of colors and shades, and is self-generating, which means it does not need replanting after harvesting; it continues to grow.
  • Marmoleum flooring: Marmoleum is the brand name of linoleum flooring. It is manufactured from linseed oil, a binding agent obtained from pine trees (without harming the trees). Other components of the flooring include renewable wood products, ground limestone, and jute, a plant fiber. Marmoleum floors are stain-resistant, do not absorb water, and are biodegradable.
  • Eco-friendly wood flooring: Certain imported hardwoods, such as Brazilian cherry or white tigerwood, are grown in South America and are harvested from well-managed, replanted forests. Tigerwood is a fast-growing species, making it a more sustainable alternative to the slower-growing ipe wood. Brazilian cherry is not a cherry tree at all, but rather a legume from the pea family. It is engineered wood made from 3-ply construction using formaldehyde-free adhesives. It is generally more expensive but resilient and harder than oak.

Solar Roof Panels

Solar power systems derive clean, pure radiant energy from the sun. Installing solar panels on your home reduces fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. It's best to install solar panels when putting in a new roof. Many utility companies offer rebates and credits to homeowners who install solar panels. The U.S. federal government provides incentives through the IRS to those who switch to solar power. A great benefit is that excess electricity collected from your panels can go to the utility company, netting you a credit.

Cool Roofs

About 90% of roofs in the U.S. have dark, non-reflective, heat-absorbing materials. These roofs may help heat up the home in the winter a little, but in the summer, it also heats dense, populated areas where the inefficient roofs collectively raise the ambient temperature, sometimes up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. This collective ambient heating results in the "heat island" effect, forcing homes to require more energy for cooling in the summer.

A cool roof prevents heat absorption by reflecting the sun’s heat away from the house. A cool roof allows for a more comfortable and controlled indoor environment. Cool roof materials include metal, asphalt, or tile, and it is almost impossible to tell them apart from traditional materials.

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed or salvaged lumber from old furniture or buildings that are about to be demolished can be used to build walls, support beams, or in roof construction. You curb deforestation when you use reclaimed lumber, decreasing the demand for newly sourced lumber. Reclaimed wood is a renewable resource that reduces landfill waste and reduces the environmental impact of manufacturing new products. Many green companies specialize in obtaining building materials from older homes that are about to be torn down or dismantled.

Dual-Paned Windows

Dual-paned windows offer insulation against the elements and soundproofing qualities. There are several types of dual-paned windows: air-filled, gas-filled, and silver-coated. Each type results in better thermal performance, keeping heat in during the winter and out during the summer. Many energy-efficient windows qualify for rebates and credits. They are available in any style and materials like vinyl, metal, or wood.

Programmable Thermostat

By installing a programmable thermostat, you can set it to produce less AC or heat when you are away or sleeping, which means your home uses up less energy. This energy efficiency saves you money, and you lessen your reliance on fossil fuels and your impact on the environment. Plus, programmable thermostats do not use mercury like many of the older thermostats, which are a hassle to dispose of safely.

Energy Star Ceiling Fans

Energy Star is a government-backed program that identifies energy-efficient products. Energy Star-rated ceiling fans are 50% more efficient than conventional fans and use less energy to operate. Many have a remote control. The receiver part of the remote is inside the fan body. The control can mount on the wall or into the wall as a switch.

Low-VOC Paint

One of the cheapest ways to update a room is to give the walls and ceiling a new coat of paint. Traditional paint contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to air pollution, smog, and respiratory problems. You might recognize the familiar, strong stench of paint, but it is not safe for the eyes, nose, and throat. It can also cause difficulty breathing and nausea, as well as damage to the central nervous system and other organs. It is not suitable for you on the day of application, and it continues to off-gas for several years. By choosing low-VOC paint for a few dollars more per can, you can help preserve your health, help the planet, and end up with a fresh-smelling yet beautiful room.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.