Everyone wants a home that perfectly fits their needs and lifestyle, and after enough time in your home, you’ll start to see areas for improvement. If buying new isn’t economically possible, then the next best option is a home renovation. A well-planned home renovation can give you the aesthetic and practical changes you’ve been looking for, but also boost its market value. If you even care about the environment (and your utility bills), then you might want to consider an eco-friendly renovation.
These days, there’s a lot of buzz about sustainable or eco-friendly renovations. The idea of planning a home renovation in a way that maximizes; energy savings while and uses sustainable materials. Each passing year in NYC sees more homeowners jumping on board with the need to go green. Shortly, we may even see a property’s market value being heavily dependent on its sustainability rating. So how can you go about making sure that your home renovation is as eco-friendly as possible? What are the considerations you need to make, and how can you also keep your home stylish and in-line with your needs? These and more questions we answer here in this full guide to planning an eco-friendly home renovation.
Table of Contents
Why Go, Green – Eco-Friendly?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of making a green eco-friendly renovation, let’s establish why it is so important (and worth the initial high investment). The concept of going green means embracing a way of life. One that contributes to protecting the environment and conserving its natural resources. When broken down, there are three main benefits to going green:
Going green allows you to lower your energy costs and save money in the long term. Making the change to water-saving plumbing systems and Energy Star appliances can have a dramatic impact on your utility bills. New York State also has several incentives and rebates for making the switch to solar power. For instance, the Megawatt Block Initiative provides an upfront dollars-per-watt rebate for commercial and residential solar power systems. The Net Metering policy provides you with payment for any extra solar power that you send into the grid. Then there’s the New York solar tax credit, which can reduce your state tax payments by up to $5,000 or 25% off your total solar energy expenses (whichever is lower). New York’s solar incentives combined can reduce the cost of going solar by 50%.
Another advantage of going green is the health benefits it brings. Green appliances and materials can reduce air pollutants that can affect your body’s immune system and put you at risk of fatal illnesses or diseases. ; This can also translate into reduced medical expenses in the future for yourself and your family.
Lastly, there’s the ecological side. By using sustainable building materials and reducing your carbon footprint, you are contributing to the fight to preserve the earth’s eco-system. All great things start with small steps, and by doing your bit, you’re encouraging others to follow your example.
Preliminary Steps to an Eco-Friendly Renovation
Find a Green Architect
If you’re thinking of doing an extensive renovation, then you should consider hiring a professional architect to help with the planning. Search for sustainable architecture firms in your area that have the right experience and credentials. An architect with a reputation for designing energy-efficient homes will have strategies for reducing costs while still delivering a high-quality result. They’ll also have all the right contacts for builders and tradespeople that provide environmentally sustainable services.
Do Your Research
If you want to get the most out of your renovation project, then you need to gather as much knowledge as possible about sustainable materials and systems. Knowing more about sustainable building practices will allow you to communicate your ideas more clearly to your architect and stay in the loop during discussions. Start by reading everything you can about Energy Star appliances, sustainable building materials, and energy-efficient lighting. If possible, try to attend green building tours or sustainable design workshops like those provided by GreenHomeNYC.
Stay Open About Your Choices
As you move through the planning phase, you’ll have a lot of choices to make. For instance, how green do you want to be? If you want your home to be as energy-efficient as possible, then you can focus on Energy Star appliances, water heaters, high-efficiency insulation and windows, and solar power. If you wish to take things a step further, than you can look into getting sustainably harvested woods and recyclable fixtures. Your choice of materials will also be influenced by what’s locally available and what you’ll have to place an order. Aesthetics will play a part too. If you’ve been careful in choosing the right architect, they should be able to come up with a design that is both sustainable and pleasing to your taste in aesthetics.
Think Big, But Start Small
You may have your mindset on making this renovation as super-sustainable as possible, but as always, your budget will force you to make some concessions. Using sustainable materials tends to come with a higher price tag. The same goes for green energy systems like solar power and rainwater collection. Start with the small things and go green where you can afford it. Don’t let your desire to go full eco-friendly bankrupt your project. You can always put a few things off until another time.
Tips for an Eco-Friendly Renovation
No two renovation projects are ever the same. Budgets will differ, along with the desires and needs of the homeowners, the scope of the project, and what you can and can’t do in your locality. With that in mind, here are some general tips to help guide your renovation project so that both the work and the final result are as eco-friendly as possible.
Walls – Be Weary of Chemicals
VOC stands for “volatile organic compound” and is partially responsible for that new paint smell. Unfortunately, these unstable chemicals can release molecules that have long-term health effects, such as headaches, nausea, and even kidney or liver damage. Therefore, it’s best only to use paint with minimal amounts of VOC where possible. But just because it says low or no VOC on the tin doesn’t mean there aren’t other harmful solvents. Make sure you understand everything that goes into your paint. Many eco-friendly paints are starting to appear on the market, such as recycled paint, milk paint, and plant or mineral-based paints.
Flooring – Think Long-Term
Nothing says sustainability like durability, precisely what you should be looking for in your choice of materials. Highly durable materials mean less sourcing, extracting, and transportation, with all the pollution that comes with it. When it comes to flooring, nothing is more durable than natural stone tiles. Ensure that yours are of high-quality and come from a sustainable quarry. If this is beyond your budget, then imitation tiles like wood-effect and slate-effect tiles are a natural alternative. Especially if made from recyclable materials.
Furniture – Don’t Overlook Where It Comes From
Furniture usually adds the finishing touch to a home renovation. But because of this, the environmental impact of your chosen furniture is not often considered. You can overcome this by looking for furniture pieces that have been constructed from recycled and reclaimed materials. It not only cuts down on resource extraction but also adds a touch of uniqueness to your home.
Recycle – Reduce Construction Waste
A significant home renovation tends to create a lot of waste, the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do with an eco-friendly t renovation. Try to reduce it where you can by reusing old materials. Not only will this cut down on waste, but it will also save you money. Consider everything you can, such as light fixtures, flooring, bricks, and cabinets. Any materials that cannot be reused should be recycled. Ensure that your contractor understands this point and that they have color-coded bins to make recycling easier.
Appliances – Focus on Energy Efficiency
When shopping for appliances, look for ones with the Energy Star logo on them. Energy-efficient appliances tend to come with a much higher price tag than regular models, so be prepared to compromise. If you have to choose, then go for an energy-efficient refrigerator and air-conditioner. Both these appliances eat up enormous amounts of energy, so making the switch to an energy-efficient version with save you money in the long-term.
Plumbing – Go for Low-Flow
Saving on water usage is just as crucial as saving on electrical usage. If it’s within your budget, try to get your plumbing redone so that it can be more efficient. A more cost-effective option is to install a low-flow toilet.
Kitchen – Don’t Replace When You Can Reface
A kitchen renovation tends to be the most expensive part of any home renovation, and it’s the need for new cabinets that add a lot to that expense. Instead of entirely replacing those perfectly fine cabinets, consider repainting or resurfacing them. This can be a major money saver while still being an eco-friendly renovation. You’d be surprised what a fresh coat of paint or refacing can do for a tired old set of cabinets.
Fittings – Go for Pre-Owned
You don’t need to have the newest and shiniest things to spruce up your home. You can find a lot of great home fittings by shopping at flea markets, charity shops, and scouring online for second-hand items. Not only will this reduce your bottom line, but these repurposed items will also add some charm and uniqueness to your home.