There’s a sweet spot where doing good for the environment and saving money intersect. In order to find yourself in the sweet spot when it comes to home improvement, it’s important to know which green updates are worth the investment.
But as we at Modernize know well, sometimes this can be tricky. We’re told to replace older appliances with newer, more efficient ones, but throwing out an appliance that still has a few years left and replacing it with a new model is a waste of resources and money. It can be difficult to confirm that a product really is better for the environment in a market where “green” and “energy efficient” are just empty words slapped onto packaging.
But whether you’re sprucing up your home to sell it, to reduce your carbon footprint, to save money on utilities, or all of the above, here are a few green updates that are definitely not bogus:
2016 is an amazing year to install a residential solar energy system. The solar investment tax credit (ITC) is currently at 30 percent, but that’s only going to last through 2019. After that, it will drop down to 26 percent. Solar prices have declined steadily over the past several years, which makes it tempting to wait for an even better deal to come along. But with utility rates in many areas fluctuating, acting now may save you money in the long run, so it’s wise to learn more about installing solar in your home sooner rather than later.
Rethink Your Roofing Materials
If your asphalt roof is more than a couple decades old, it’s time to think about replacing it. Asphalt is the most common roofing choice due to its affordability, but there are more energy efficient, eco-friendly, durable, and (let’s face it) aesthetically pleasing options out there. When it comes to metal roofs, you can choose anything from aluminum to copper, but steel is one of the most common and cost-effective options. Rubber, slate, and clay tiles are also kinder to the environment than asphalt—while millions of tons of asphalt end up in landfills every year, many other roofing types can be recycled.
Build a Deck out of Responsibly-Sourced Materials
Wooden decking materials may not seem like a major perpetrator when it comes to environmental harm. But it depends on how the logging company treats the earth. Buying a product from a company that uses pesticides, endangers local wildlife, and clears entire forests means supporting that company’s practices. Instead, look for products that meet the certification standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or considering building your deck from recycled materials like wood waste and recycled plastic.
Install Energy Efficient Windows
You probably already know that insulation is a make-or-break factor when it comes to energy-optimizing your home. But many homeowners are unaware of the impact the windows can have on heat transfer, HVAC performance and, of course, energy savings. If the time has come to select new windows, make sure you understand the performance ratings before you shop, and look for the Energy Star rating, which means it meets established efficiency requirements. You can also look into making your current windows more efficient by caulking, weatherstripping, and applying treatments that reduce heat transfer.
Get a Smart Thermostat
A programmable thermostat can both make your home more comfortable and save you money. It allows you to closely manage the performance of your HVAC system, as well as customize your heating and cooling needs to your schedule. Some types even learn your routine over time and automatically adjust so you don’t even have to think about it.
Revolutionize Your Furnishings
As if avoiding harmful chemicals and practices when choosing our food isn’t enough to think about, the same problems also plague our furnishings. Everything from your throw pillows to your bedframe to the paint on your walls may have a darker backstory than you realize. When you shop for new furnishings, look for pieces made out of sustainable wood and recycled materials. Look for the Greenguard certification, which signifies that a product has low chemical emissions.
If you want to add value to your home and help preserve the environment, the best method with which to approach any update is to look beyond the label and be prepared to research in order to understand what’s truly good for your pocket, your home, and the environment.