Green Remodeling: How to Renovate Your Home Sustainably
Considering a home update? Here are the top tricks and tricks to reduce energy consumption and decrease your carbon footprint through home improvement projects and design.Mar 25, 2021 • Kira Barrett
So you already recycle, you got the new hybrid car, and you EVEN bought your own metal straws. Bravo!
But did you know that your home is one of the biggest contributors to your carbon footprint? From your insulation, to your water usage, to your electrical wiring, different aspects of your home design have a huge impact on your overall sustainable (or not so sustainable) lifestyle.
If you’re considering a major home remodel, addition project, ADU build, or just a kitchen or bathroom makeover, we’re here to share some great tips to not only give your home a much needed facelift, but to do it in a way that saves you money and can save the earth.
First, we checked in with some sustainability experts to see what aspects of your home renovation project are the biggest contributors to your overall carbon footprint.
Biggest Greenhouse Gas Emitters
Turns out the biggest culprits are material waste, and heat and electricity.
Material waste: Every time you renovate or remodel, the first part of that project is usually demolition. That’s when you take a wrecking ball, or something else like it, to your old home design. Your cabinets, appliances, walls, floors, etc. go into the junkyard. While sometimes these things are truly junk and can’t be salvaged, creating this landfill waste is a huge contributor to our rising CO2 levels.
Reducing your waste in the demolition phase is one of the main ways you can make your remodeling project more sustainable.
Consider finding ways to donate bits and pieces of your old space - there are lots of DIYers out there who might want your old cabinets, or people who’d love to take that gently used refrigerator. While it takes a bit of extra effort to find a home for the parts of your old home, it’s a lot better than sending it straight to the landfill.
Salvage yards will even take on old flooring - like hardwood floors and tiling. Check out your neighborhood Facebook group to see if anyone’s interested in appliances or cabinets - this can also make you a bit of money to put back into your reno!
According to Habitat.org, sinks, toilets and bathtubs, cabinets, working appliances, doors and windows, lumber, tiles and wood flooring, lighting, and door handles and cabinet knobs can all go to good use - so why waste them? This is one great way to decrease your renovation’s negative impact on the environment.
Electricity and heat: Another easy target to decreasing your climate impact is electricity and heating. If you want to pack the biggest punch, this is the area of your home to do it!
The first step to decreasing your electricity and heat consumption is getting a home energy audit. There are specialists who can analyze which aspects of your home design are wasting energy - whether it’s bad insulation, inefficient appliances, or anything that could possibly be contributing to high usage. Starting with an audit can help you figure out your problem areas that are taking a toll on your energy bills, and fixing them could seriously lower your future costs.
The next step is investing in a heating system that’s more sustainable. The lifespan of an HVAC is around 15 years, which means there’s a good chance that part of your home remodel involves getting a new system. Consider investing in a unit that’s more efficient - such as a unit with the EPA designated “Energy Star” label, which can also save you money.
Another option is installing a geothermal HVAC system - a geothermal heat pump exchanges heat with the ground naturally, using the earth as a heat source and heat sink. While this will cost more upfront, you’ll save 50-70% of energy costs over time.
As for electricity efficiency, there are lots of product substitutes that use electricity more efficiently than their older counterparts. From light bulbs to power strips, certain alternatives can reduce your electricity usage drastically. Read on to see all the sustainable substitutes!
Materials with More Sustainable Substitutes
If you’re not looking to center your home renovation project around sustainability, consider using more sustainable substitutes for the aspects of your home you’re considering replacing. These can be little things, like decor, furniture, or materials that you’re considering for your re-design.
Some sustainable substitutes emit fewer pollutants, some decrease energy usage, and some reduce material waste.
For example, if you’re replacing windows in your living room, consider double pane, energy efficient windows. These are designed to insulate your home and prevent heating or cooling from escaping.
If you’re getting a new toilet, consider an energy efficient toilet. Certain brands manufacture toilets that use only .6 gallons of water per flush as compared to the average 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Imagine how much water (and money on your water bill) you’d save in a lifetime.
There’s a myriad of products with climate-friendly alternatives to consider when renovating:
- Air conditioners
- Clothes dryers
- Water heaters
- Light bulbs
- Power strips
- Cleaning Products
- Water taps
…and the list goes on and on! You can make a big impact through switching to more sustainable options for these everyday projects. If you’re buying them anyway, why not pick the more climate-friendly option?
Five Renovation Projects to Reduce Your Carbon Emissions
If you’re looking to drastically reduce your carbon footprint, there are some bigger projects that can permanently change your home. These projects will not only forever reduce your negative impact on the environment, but will save you money for years to come.
These five projects are some of the most popular options we’ve seen that can make a huge difference:
Install Solar Panels: One of the best ways to decrease electricity usage is investing in solar panels. The cost of installing solar panels has been steadily declining year on year, and going solar has never been more affordable. In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association reports that “the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% over the last decade.“
In many ways, solar panels are different from other home improvements in that they actively reduce your annual energy cost while also adding value to your home. In fact, SunRun estimates that you can expect to see an increase in your home’s value by between $4,020 and $5,911 for every kWh panel that’s installed.
Check out RenoFi’s guide to Solar Financing to learn more about how much it costs to install solar panels and how much you can save.
Make Your Yard Climate-Friendly: Planning a landscaping re-design for your back or front yard? Green grass is so out of style! According to climate experts, choosing native species to decorate your yard can decrease water usage and boost the local ecosystem.
Not only that, but it’s a whole lot more fun, and a lot less maintenance. Imagine how much money you’ll save when you replace your expansive grass lawn with native flowers, trees, and other plants! You won’t have to spend your Saturdays in the yard or spend hundreds hiring a service to mow.
This trend is often called “re-wilding” or creating an “eco-paradise,” as you’re returning your outdoor spaces to their natural state, how they would have existed before someone came in and planted a perfectly square plot of green grass.
Consider ground cover alternatives to grass, such as moss, weeds, clover, or flower and shrub beds.
Utilize Passive Solar Home Design: If you’re redesigning your home’s layout or perhaps adding on an addition, consider designing the space in a way that utilizes the sun’s patterns to light and heat your home.
This design principle is called “passive solar home design” and it’s an easy way to reduce heat and electricity, especially if you live in a warm and sunny climate. It’s all about taking advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimize energy use.
This design uses some simple strategies to take advantage of sunlight, according to the US Energy Department:
- Properly oriented windows. Make sure windows are within 30 degrees of true south, and aren’t obstructed during summer months.
- Thermal mass. Use materials that collect thermal mass - like concrete, brick stone and tile. These materials absorb heat from sunlight during the heating season and absorb heat from warm air in the house during the cooling season, according to energy.gov.
- Distribution mechanisms. Consider how the heat will flow through the home through conduction, convection, and radiation.
- Control strategies. Utilize roof overhangs, vents, differential thermostats, low-emissivity blinds; operable insulating shutters and awnings to control passive heat entering the home.
There are architects uniquely qualified to create renovation plans that utilize passive solar home designs. Consider consulting one as you plan your remodel to take advantage of these energy-saving strategies.
Air Sealing: Air sealing is a decidedly unglamorous process - but if you’re looking for a secret money saver, this is the energy-efficient project for you. We know that kitchen island is a hell-of-a-lot sexier, but not every home improvement is going to look pretty.
Air sealing is a process that involves a systematic inspection of your home to identify and patch up any possible leaks that could be wasting energy. This practice often starts with a home energy audit, as mentioned above.
And when we say energy-saving, we mean it. Air sealing will cut 15% of your heating and cooling costs, on average.
Creating a “Smart Home:” This last project has certainly been trending lately, and it’s for good reason. But first, what does “smart home” even mean? A fully “smart” home is a home that is fully automated remotely. This means that all of your appliances are interconnected and can be controlled remotely, through your phone.
How will this conserve energy? Take your lighting, for example. Imagine you can turn every single lamp and light switch on and off through your phone. That means every time your kids forget to turn off a bedroom light, you can fix that immediately, no more nagging. Even better, if they have motion sensors, they’ll just turn off automatically.
The same goes for your thermostat. With smart thermostats, you don’t have to worry about turning it up and down, it will operate based on where you are in the home, keeping you hot (or cold) without unnecessarily running up your bill.
From vacuum robots, to smart outlets, to televisions, to a smart kitchen hood, there’s lots to choose from, and you can begin building your smart home from scratch starting at just $5 with an automated phone charger.
How to Finance Sustainable Home Renovations
Whether you’re totally on board to start a sustainable home renovation project or just daydreaming, one of the biggest challenges for a lot of homeowners is financing those smart home improvements.
You may want to “re-wild” your yard, for example, but wondering if your savings can truly cover the cost of the project.
Luckily, the newest renovation loan option could be a great way to finance any climate-friendly home improvement project in your pipeline.
RenoFi Renovation Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit are the perfect loan option for homeowners all over the country for any number of remodeling projects.
A RenoFi Loan factors in what your home will be worth after construction is complete.
This, in turn, means that you can borrow all of the money you need at the lowest rate possible, overcoming the gap between borrowing power and available equity that many homeowners face.
A RenoFi Home Equity Loan gives the peace of mind of a fixed rate without the need to refinance your first mortgage, while a RenoFi Home Equity Line of Credit gives additional flexibility to draw what you need when you need it.
The ability to borrow based on the value of your home after your project means that you can borrow more than what would be possible with other types of financing, even if you haven’t built up equity.
Here’s what you need to know about the RenoFi Home Equity Loan:
- Loan amounts from $20k to $500k
- Same low fixed rates as traditional home equity loans
- Term up to 20 years
- Ability to borrow up to 95% of the after renovation value
- Full loan amount available at closing
And here’s what you need to know about the RenoFi Home Equity Line of Credit:
- Loan amounts from $20k to $500k
- Variable rates
- 10 year interest-only period, followed by 20 year amortization
- Ability to borrow up to 95% of the after renovation value
- Line of credit that can be drawn down & paid back at your leisure for 10 years
How do I know if a RenoFi Loan is right for my project?
The RenoFi team is standing by to help you better understand how RenoFi Loans work and the projects they are best suited for. Have a question - Chat, Email, Call now...