Is your home as green as it can be? We’re not talking about the color of your lawn or your siding: we’re talking about how environmentally-friendly your home is in the long term. Every decision you make about your home has an environmental impact. These renovations can help make your home lower-impact while maintaining its high functionality and beauty.
The Impact Of Our Homes
Your home has an environmental impact. It uses energy and water. The materials you use to build, renovate, and maintain your home also have an ecological cost. For example, the metal for your new sink was extracted from the ground and processed, driven to a store, and moved to your home, where someone used energy to install it.
If every decision has an impact, is it better to do nothing? Not necessarily: if your home is not energy or water efficient, it can be far better to renovate than to do nothing. Wholesale rebuilding can be ecologically costly, though. A study in The Guardian examined the carbon impact of building a house. For a small, 2 bedroom home in Scotland, the climate change impact was about 80 tonnes of CO2. A renovation for efficiency only led to an impact of 8 tonnes of CO2.
Whether you need to renovate to accommodate a growing family and its needs or you want to make your home more eco-friendly through a renovation, you need to consider the ecological impact and potential benefits of that renovation.
Plan for an Efficient Use of Space
Are you ready to supersize your home? If you’re adding to your house, stop for a moment and consider how big you should go. According to This Old House, you should “consider how much space you really need, not just how much you want.”
Every square foot you add means that you’re adding more building materials. You also need to heat, cool, light, and maintain that space.
An efficient home can be just as good as a larger home. For instance, if you’re looking for office space, you could convert a section of an existing room rather than adding another room to the house. Renovating within the existing shell of your home is more efficient than adding new rooms. If you need to add rooms, plan how you’re going to use that space to the optimum, and make sure you only add what’s necessary.
Consider Your Materials
Every material you use in your home renovation has environmental consequences. As you renovate your home, consider using the following materials in your renovation:
- Materials that you already have. If you’re removing the old kitchen, can you salvage and reuse some of the existing materials so that you don’t need to buy new and send the old materials to the dump? If you’re totally done with a material, consider salvaging it and donating it instead of making it part of the landfill.
- Reclaimed materials. For instance, if you are looking for new flooring, you could choose repurposed wood flooring instead. This flooring has character and doesn’t need to be harvested from new forests.
- Recycled materials. For example, paperstone countertops look a lot like stone, but they’re made out of compressed paper.
- Salvaged materials. Stores like Habitat for Humanity offer appliances, flooring, and just about everything you need to renovate your home. If you need a new fridge, consider one that’s a year or two old.
- Put a new face on old materials. If the bones of your kitchen, bathroom, or other room are good but they need a visual update, put your energy into renewing and replacing the exterior rather than the whole structure.
- Consider the impact of new materials that you use. How much energy does it take to create them? How much waste is created during the process? How far do they need to be transported?
Reduce Your Energy Use
How can you make your home as energy-efficient as possible and add to this during your home renovation?
- Don’t heat or cool the outdoors. Keep your furnace and air conditioner working for you. Insulation is key to an energy-efficient home. Adding insulation to the walls or attic when possible can greatly reduce the energy leaks from your home.
- Cool your home naturally. Use awnings, trellises, and shade trees to cool down your home by providing natural shade during the summer months.
- Install energy-efficient lighting and heat. For example, you could add LED security lights or a ground source heat pump that warms your home using the ground as a source for heat.
- Consider solar energy as part of your home renovation. For instance, it makes a lot of sense to heat pool water using a solar heater.
- Install a programmable thermostat to control the temperature and reduce your energy use when you’re away from home or sleeping.
- If you’re adding to your home, consider how that new section of the home could benefit from passive heating and cooling. For instance, you could position a new living room so that it catches the morning light and warms up easily in the winter, but it’s in the shade of a large tree on those hot summer afternoons.
- When you’re looking for new appliances, seek out ones that are the most energy efficient. Freshome points out that “high-end appliances are not only cost prohibitive initially, but they will end up costing a great deal more to run as well.” Look for the Energy Star designation instead.
Reduce Your Water Use
Water use is another way that you can reduce the ecological impact of your home. How can you reduce the amount of water that your home uses on a long-term basis?
- Xeriscape your garden, using native and drought-loving plants.
- Reduce the lawn. It takes a lot of water to keep that grass green. In fact, much of your home’s overall water use goes to supporting your garden.
- Install low flow and low flush features on your toilet, faucets, and showerhead.
- Redesign your laundry room and use a front-loading washer that reduces the amount of water you use.
- Design your home to save water. For instance, your gutters could drain into a rainwater storage system or water part of your garden.
Avoid Future Renovations
One of the ways that you can reduce your impact is by adding an ounce of prevention to your home. When you remodel, do so with an eye to the future.
- Create rooms that can grow with your family, so that you won’t need to add on again.
- Invest in preventative measures such as gutter covers. Avoid home problems such as rotten siding or a damaged foundation that could cost you a lot and lead to a lot of wasted energy and materials.
- Instead of getting trendy materials, plan renovations that will look good for many years.
At Harry Helmet, we’re here to support the development of cleaner, greener homes. Ask us how adding awnings and gutter covers can help you save energy and avoid future home renovations. Contact us today to learn more about gutter guards and schedule a free estimate.