August 18, 2023

Going Green: Sustainable Ideas for Home Renovations

What Are Green Ideas for Home Renovations?

Federal and state tax incentives, lower energy bills, reducing your carbon footprint to help the environment, increasing the resale value of your home, these are just a few advantages of “going green.”

Sustainable “green” renovation not only seeks to use more natural and organic materials, but it also looks for ways to refurbish and update your home so that it’s more energy-efficient, while minimizing construction waste. 

“Going green” takes research and planning.  You’ll need a home renovation company that specializes in designing strategic and productive sustainable upgrades that result in a highly energy-efficient home.  And it can improve and update the interior of your home as well.

Mother Earth Will Thank You 

To start, renovating your current home to make it “greener” can be as simple as reducing the amount of water used to flush a toilet, wash your dishes, or run the faucet.

Here are some simple solutions to begin with:

  • Replace taps in kitchens and bathrooms. 
    • According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, replacing old, inefficient faucets and aerators with WaterSense labeled models can save the average family 700 gallons of water per year.  A WaterSense faucet must have a flow of no more than 1.5 gallons per minute.  That’s half of what a regular faucet generates.  And because the water is aerated, the strength of the flow is not affected.
  • Replace old shower heads.
    • A low-flow showerhead can reduce the gallons per minute that are literally running down your drain.  A high-flow shower head can use as much as 40 more gallons of water during a ten-minute shower. And by the way, the low or high flow has no connection at all to how strong the shower feels.
  • Replace your outdated single-flush toilets with low-flush toilets.
    • More than 80% of the wastewater created by toilets ends up going directly back into the environment. No treatment, no use, just a lot of, well, waste. Low flow, or low flush toilets, are high-efficiency toilets that reduce water consumption per flush. That helps you save water and money.
  • Select a high-water efficiency rated dishwasher.
    • Dishwashers that have earned the “ENERGY STAR Most Efficient” designation offer the best in energy savings. By choosing an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher, you can save money on your utility bills and reduce your carbon footprint.
    • ENERGY STAR is a recognized and trusted label put on products that meet strict energy-efficiency requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ENERGY STAR certified appliances are certified by a third-party testing company and subject to ongoing verification testing.
  • You can upgrade the rest of your appliances too.  
    • Up to 13% of your energy costs are generated from your kitchen appliances.  Ovens, microwaves, refrigerators can be replaced with ENERGY STAR approved models, to help you create a more energy-efficient home.  Not only will this save you money, it will also increase your home’s value.
  • If you’re considering doing an eco-friendly kitchen renovation, you should also think about installing more sustainable kitchen counters.  Reclaimed and refurbished wood or bamboo countertops take less energy to produce, and this is a great way to recycle existing materials, while refreshing the look, feel, and function of your kitchen.
  • Choose a Front-Loading Washing Machine. 
  • Front loaders are better at cleaning your clothes. The tumbling motion of front-load washers requires less water and less power. With a more effective wash motion, front loaders can save you around 2,000 gallons per year.  
  • Front load dryers are also more efficient because they use gravity to break apart tangled clothes as they tumble through the drum.  Top loaders must use more energy and fight gravity to push air through your loads to get them dried.

If you’re thinking about a “green” renovation project for your home, focus on the fact that it’s a really good investment.  Not only will it contribute to a better, sustainable environment, but it will help you save on energy and water bills, while increasing your home’s value.  And it provides a cleaner, less toxic living space for you and your family.

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Sustainable Insulation Renovation

Many electric companies in Florida like FPL, LCEC and TECO provide free home energy assessments.  They do a three-part energy audit, including evaluation, testing, and then efficiency recommendations.  Once the audit is complete, the auditor will give you a report outlining energy consumption, an energy grading, and home improvement or renovation suggestions to cut your energy bills.

Unless your home was originally built as an energy efficient “green” home, you can probably help to reduce your energy bills going forward by adding or replacing old insulation.  In fact, by replacing old and worn ceiling or attic insulation in your Florida home, you can reduce the workload on your air conditioning system, giving it a longer life and saving you up to 15% a year on cooling costs.

Other key areas might need to have insulation updated or replaced as well.  But over time, insulation breaks down, becomes compacted and inefficient with age. Exterior walls can have insulation blown in to help reduce your energy costs and keep your home cooler too. Residential insulation requirements in Florida must meet or exceed R-13 in framed exterior walls and R-6 in cement block exterior walls.

By adding weatherstripping or by recaulking your doors, window frames, vents, fans, and other areas of your home, you can also conserve energy.  Of course, while you’re at it, you might want to consider replacing your old windows with tight impact resistant ones.  Your doors too can be replaced and upgraded with steel or fiberglass impact resistant ones.  Both doors and windows are tightly constructed against hurricane winds up to 200mph, and they can protect your home from blowing debris. And when expertly installed, they are free from air and water leaks. 

Replacing old, leaky windows and doors is a “green” renovation project that can help you save up to 50% on energy expenses.  50%!  And new windows and doors can give your home a new look, update its curb appeal, and keep the cool air from slipping out (or the hot air from slipping in).

By swapping out sliders too, and replacing them with thicker, better-insulated, modern models, you can also help to regulate the ambient temperature in your home, while checking off another “green” project from your list.

If painting your walls is part of your sustainable “going green” renovation plans, there are several eco-friendly types of paint to choose from.  Milk paint or acrylic paint are two great choices.  Both types of paints create less waste during production, and they are great for helping to keep any airborne toxins out of your house.

Paint fumes from oil-based paints can cause serious and even fatal illnesses, like asthma, lung cancer, and brain damage. Acrylic paints are essentially nontoxic.

The paint breathes, allowing moisture from underlying surfaces to escape.  And they’re a water-based paint, so it’s easy to clean up with soap and water, rather than paint thinner or turpentine. Acrylic paint tends to expand and contract with the changing temperature and weather, perfect for walls in Tampa, Florida!

Milk paint is made from milk protein and lime, with some added pigments for color and a touch of borax as a preservative. A bonding agent may also be added to enhance adherence to the surface that you’re painting. 

Milk paint is free of all toxic organic compounds and, while it may start out with a slightly milky scent when wet, it has no smell once it dries.  Milk paint was used almost exclusively as far back as 8,000 years ago in cave drawings.  And it was used in the early 1700s here in the U.S. for both interior and exterior house painting.  

In 2023, milk paint has come back into fashion because it’s environmentally friendly and made from simple, 100% natural ingredients. It’s non-toxic, biodegradable, doesn’t let off noxious fumes, and like acrylic, it’s water based, so clean up is easy.

When you’re choosing the paint colors for your home, remember that using light colors on your walls can maximize your home’s energy efficiency by reflecting the hot Florida sunshine instead of absorbing it and raising the temperature of your rooms

Sustainable-home-renovation

When you’re planning a “green” home renovation, think about opening up some walls so that airflow can pass easily throughout your home.  This keeps the temperature steady, saving on your air conditioning costs.  Removing a wall, creating a half wall, these are excellent ways to upgrade and refurbish your home.  It’s also a great way to modernize your living space.  It opens up and gives your rooms larger living spaces and allows cool air to move freely.

Add ceiling fans to push the air around and lower the temperature a few degrees when they pull the hot air up to the ceiling.  The use of ceiling fans can allow you to set your thermostat at least 2 degrees higher, again allowing you to save on energy costs.

How about lowering your water bill some more?  Old water heaters waste energy by continuously heating and storing 20 to 80 gallons of water in the tank even when no one is running the water.  They go on and off continually heating the water stored in the tank twenty-four/seven.

On-demand water heaters, solar water heaters, or heat pumps are a great solution to replacing those old rusty water heaters.  And they are up to 50% more energy efficient because they only heat up the water when it’s needed.

A water heater “blanket” is also a great investment.  They can be found in any Home Depot, Lowes, or other building supply companies.  These blankets wrap tightly around the water heater and insulate it, keeping the heat from escaping into the air.  This reduces the amount of energy used when hot water is needed.

Other ideas:

  • Change out your lightbulbs. 
    • It’s easy to do, inexpensive, and they last longer.  In fact, one ENERGY STAR certified light bulb lasts 15 times longer and uses up to 90% less energy than an incandescent bulb.
  • Install a smart thermostat.
    • These can be programmed to adjust the temperature if you’re out and about or if you work out-of-home during the day.  Temps can be raised when you’re not at home, and cooled just before you end your workday.  And they can decrease your energy bill by up to 10%.  Another savings to your annual living expenses.
  • Sort your laundry.
    • That sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Well, it is!  If you sort your laundry between colors and whites, most loads can be washed in cold water with high efficiency cold water detergents.  That can reduce energy costs by not having to heat the water for 90% of your wash loads.

Going Green is not complicated.  It just takes a bit of research, consultation with professional contractors or building service people, and really, not as much money as you think.  Renovating your home, making it more eco-friendly, reducing your family’s carbon footprint, that benefits all of us.

By decreasing your consumption of our natural resources, eliminating waste, recycling, and by renovating and upgrading to an eco-friendly home, you can help to conserve the earth’s finite resources, keep our forests growing and absorbing greenhouse gases instead of using wood to build more new homes, and you can do your part in helping to use less energy, produce less pollution and waste, and instead, by doing your part in stabilizing climate change and keeping our earth safe.

To restate Kermit the Frog, “It’s easy going green!”