You’ve settled on a new home! Whether you’re building or buying, it’s a time of great excitement and hopes for the future. Acquiring a new home goes hand in hand with the desire to live a better lifestyle than before. For many new homeowners, this includes living more sustainably.
Here are some top picks for eco-friendly improvements that you can incorporate into your new home. Or, if your home already has sustainable features, use them to make it even greener.
1. Insulate the basement.
Most contractors and homeowners now understand the value of wall and attic insulation. However, did you know that up to 40 percent of the heat loss in a building can take place through the basement? Many people, including contractors, are reluctant to insulate basements. This is because in the past, incorrectly installed basement insulation projects created serious moisture and mold issues in many homes. However, by using modern, approved methods for basement insulation, you can avoid these problems. A properly insulated basement not only reduces your energy bills, it also becomes more pleasant, usable space. Just be sure whoever installs your basement insulation is familiar with proper vapor barrier placement and other basement insulation best practices.
2. Make smart landscaping choices.
Good landscaping can make the difference between a good looking home and a stunning one, but it can also affect your eco footprint. Well-placed trees and shrubs can help reduce your energy bills by sheltering your home from summer heat and/or chilling winds. Planting native species that can handle the climate in your area with minimal care can reduce your water bill dramatically, as well as provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Plus, installing water conservation devices such as rain barrels or weather-smart irrigation controllers will also help save water and keep your yard looking great without spending a bundle on water.
3. Choose eco-friendly materials.
Whether you’re building a deck, replacing a floor, or choosing the perfect pavement for your new drive, don’t just choose the first material that strikes your fancy. Do your research and find out what materials may be available that will suit your needs with less impact on the environment. Consider locally made, recycled, reclaimed and natural materials. You may be surprised at how affordable and/or beautiful some of these can be.
4. Lighten your lighting.
Did you know that on average, Americans spend 14 percent of their household electricity dollars on lighting alone? One of the best ways to shave your lighting costs is to build more daylighting into your home. Skylights and light tubes are easy to install and will pay for themselves over time. If you are building new, be sure to orient your home and place your windows to take advantage of available sunlight. Installing LED bulbs is another investment that will save you money over time. Also, be sure to put any exterior lighting on a timer or use motion sensor devices so that the lights will only be on when you need them.
5. Go green with solar.
Yes, it’s a big investment, but nothing displays your commitment to a green lifestyle like solar panels on your roof. A photovoltaic or solar hot water system will pay for itself in a few years. After that, it will provide you with free electricity or hot water for decades. With renewable energy incentives still in place in many areas, and creative financing for solar becoming more common, you might be surprised how affordable it can be, too.
Going green in your new home is not just the right thing to do; eco-friendly choices often are healthier for your family. They can improve your home’s appearance and comfort level, and, smart green choices can save you a lot of money in the long run. Go ahead — make your new home as green as can be.
Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, a Maryland based solar company.