Eco-friendly home improvements that make a difference
The promise of green energy home improvements is long-term energy savings in exchange for one up-front cost. These eco home improvement renovations are designed to lower your carbon footprint and save you money, benefitting both your bank account and the environment. What’s not to like?
Still, some green home improvements are more expensive than others, and affording the initial investment can be a struggle for many homeowners, especially when the returns might not be seen for years — or even decades. That leads to the question of which green home improvements you should prioritize for the best savings, and how you should go about financing them. Luckily, with a little research, those questions are easy to answer.
Green home improvements
A whole new market has emerged for eco-friendly home improvements. These products and renovations will help make every area of your home more energy efficient, from the roof to the floors, including:
Tankless water heater
There’s a good chance the hot water that comes out of your kitchen sink or shower is heated in a tank where a large capacity of water is stored and kept hot constantly, just waiting for you to turn on the tap. If you’ve ever run out of hot water, it means you’ve used a full tank worth of water faster than the refill could be heated. The problem with this design is that the water is kept hot 24 hours a day, seven days a week – which requires quite a lot of energy. If you don’t want to wait for water to heat up every time you need to wash your hands, though, what’s the solution?
Tankless water heaters have the ability to heat only the water you need — and they do so as you need it. They’re generally powered by gas or electricity, but these systems are not commonly pre-installed in homes in the United States, where tankless water heating has only been readily available in the past decade or two. Still, their on-demand design is 8% to 34% more efficient than storage water heaters and can save you over $100 per year in bills, according to the Department of Energy.
The average home in America requires more than 2,000 square feet of flooring and many of our go-to choices in materials have disastrous effects on the environment. Wood that isn’t responsibly sourced is causing massive deforestation in Central America and Africa, mostly due to demand from China and the United States. Vinyl, a popular cheap flooring alternative, has a high carbon footprint and isn’t recyclable. It also has a shorter lifespan than higher quality flooring materials, which means it’ll end up in a landfill when it inevitably needs to be torn up and replaced.
Thankfully, builders are responding to consumer demand for greener flooring options and have begun to make alternatives more widely available. Here are just a few environmentally friendly flooring materials to consider:
- Reclaimed wood
- Recycled tile
- Recycled rubber
- Stained concrete
Solar roof panels
You’ve probably seen solar roof panels on residential homes, maybe even while driving through your own neighborhood. More and more homeowners are adopting this movement as they see the long-term benefits of having their own renewable energy source. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average monthly electricity bill is $111.67, which adds up to $40,201 over the course of 30 years. This is how much you could save by cutting down on paying for electricity.
Solar roof panels require a high initial investment, but there are numerous ways to lower installation costs, including tax credits and government expenses, along with these three easy ways to finance solar panels to make them affordable for your budget.
Dual pane windows
It’s hard to believe that one extra layer of glass could have a substantial impact on your energy bill, but it does. Dual pane windows can reduce energy usage by up to 24% in the winter and 18% in the summer. The space between two layers of glass is filled with gas — usually argon or krypton — which is denser than air and therefore a better insulator. This helps trap warm air in during the winter and cool air in during the summer, which significantly lowers the need for heat or air conditioning.
The U.S. Department of Energy encourages people to turn down their thermostats while they’re not home, citing evidence that adjusting the temperature setting by just 7- to 10-degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day can lead to 10% energy savings each year.
Still, we’ve all had hectic mornings when we forget to turn the dial down before we run out the door and waiting for the temperature to get more comfortable when you return home isn’t always ideal. Enter programmable thermostats. These handy devices are more affordable than you might think and can be readily purchased from retailers like Amazon and Home Depot. Hiring an electrician to install one is quick and easy, though you might even be able to install it yourself. Depending on the model, you can either program the temperature setting for certain times of the day or even control it in real time via an app on your smartphone.
Financing eco-friendly home improvements
The overall financial goal of eco-friendly home improvements is to save money on energy costs, but many homeowners still face a cost barrier when trying to come up with the initial investment required.
There are a few loans specifically designed for home improvements that you can take advantage of to finance green energy home improvements. Government loans are great options, as there are often tax breaks or incentives offered for improvements that reduce energy consumption. For smaller projects, you might get away with using a personal credit card, but higher-cost renovations will be best serviced by a home improvement loan.
The bottom line
Paying for green home improvements doesn’t have to be a burden — even if you’re on a limited budget. There are many ways to finance home renovations that will allow you to profit in the long term. With such a wide range of eco home improvement products available, it’s just a matter of choosing which one will benefit your home the most.