How to Achieve a Green Home

Today, we have never been more clued up about how our actions affect the world around us and because of this, more of us than ever before are looking at all the ways they can help the planet – such as by creating a green home.

But just how can a home improvement project benefit the environment?

There have really never been more options available to you if you want to go green and one of the best ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint is through building an ecological home. Programmes like Channel 4’s Grand Designs often feature people who do not only want to create their dream home, but who also want to build a structure that is sustainable and will benefit generations to come.

If you have the funds available and have always toyed with the idea of building your perfect house then this could be an option for you. By choosing to work with tradesmen who have been involved with similar projects then you can have the peace of mind of knowing that your vision is in safe hands – and they may even be able to offer you some tips you had not previously considered.

These can include advice on the most sustainable building materials to pick out. There are many options available for you here, including hempcrete, sandstone, packed earth, wool, rapid-growing wood like bamboo, recycled metal and reclaimed timber or bricks.

Your finished home will stand as a testament to your efforts and the possibilities of green living – and is likely to provide a shelter for many generations to come.

However, not all of us are in a position to construct our own house, but there are still plenty of ways to make an existing property more energy efficient and to reduce its carbon footprint.

On the market today there are several technologies that have been purposefully designed to reduce the amount of fossil fuel households are reliant on, thereby saving them money.

Among these are solar panels, which are able to collect the free and natural energy of the sun and convert it into usable electricity to heat water for the home. This allows you to reduce the amount of fossil fuels you consume, helping you to lower your energy bills as a result.

Similar fixtures include biomass boilers – which are powered by wood chips or pellets – wind turbines and air or ground source heat pumps, which are able to use warmth that is stored underground or in the atmosphere and use it for your house. All of these items can help you to lower the amount of carbon emissions you are responsible for and reduce your gas and electricity bills. Best of all, under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive you could even make some extra cash.

Technology such as this can require planning permission before you go ahead with having it fitted and it can also be expensive – although it will soon start paying for itself through lower energy bills.

However, if you do not have the necessary funds available now, there is still plenty you can do on a tighter budget.

Chief among these options is to revamp your central heating system if it is powered by gas. A boiler is responsible for as much as 60 per cent of the carbon emissions produced by a gas-powered property, so it is worthwhile investing in a unit that is as energy efficient as possible.

A condensing gas boiler is one of the best alternatives available today as it is able to convert more of its fuel into usable heat for your home than its older counterparts. This can help you to save money and lower your carbon emissions – remember to hire a fully qualified tradesman who is on the Gas Safe Register to carry out the work for you though.

Another way to make your home greener is to improve its existing insulation. New loft, floor, solid or cavity wall insulation can make a real difference in reducing the amount of heat that is lost from a building’s exterior, as can double glazed windows.

Even taking the time to fill in any cracks in floors and walls, lay down a draught excluder, turn the thermostat down by one degree C, switch your appliances off at the wall or fix a leaking tap can see you helping the environment in some small way – and every little counts.

So if you are looking for a theme for your next home improvement project, why not make it a green one?

5 Hot Water Heater Options for Green Home Improvement

If you’re remodeling your home, thinking about the water heater might seem rather dull. However, this is one place where a home renovation can save you money. Here are some descriptions of energy efficient water heaters.

Gas Heaters: If you want to go with a traditional gas water heater, choose one that is Energy Star certified, guaranteeing the most efficient technology. They are slightly more expensive than less efficient models, but it is estimated you gain back this money in fewer than three years.

Tankless Heaters: Conventional heaters use energy 24/7 to keep your water hot, even when you’re not using it. Tankless or demand heaters heat the water as it flows through the pipes, so it only heats what you need. This creates a substantial savings on energy costs. Demand models provide hot water continuously, so you don’t have to worry about it running out. They are also quite a bit smaller than conventional tank heaters and some can be installed outside, saving space indoors. They make an ideal home improvement project because they have a life expectancy of 20 years, far more than conventional heaters.

Heat Pump Heaters: A new technology, electric heat pump water heaters could save the typical family quite a bit each year when compared to a standard electric heater. They work similarly to heat pumps that are used for heating and air conditioning purposes and combine with your HVAC system. They work by drawing in warm outside air to heat the water, so they are only effective in warm climates. Homeowners can recoup the higher initial investment over time. (Most estimates are around three years.)

Gas Condensing Heaters: This is an even newer technology, only introduced in 2010. Using more efficient heat exchangers to capture heat from the fuel source, gas condensing water heaters can shave 30 percent off your energy bills and reduce your carbon dioxide emissions. Greater efficiency allows them to provide a continuous stream of hot water, so you don’t have to worry if you’re the last one to shower!

Solar Heaters: Solar heaters can cut your water heating bill and your carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent compared to an electric heater. This is the equivalent of not driving your car four months a year; a solar heater’s average lifespan is 20 years, much longer than that of a traditional gas or electric heater. Although solar heaters take 5-10 years to pay for themselves, you can offset this cost with a federal tax credit. Enterprising do-it-yourselfers can save thousands by building their own systems.

Extreme Green Home Improvements

Many homeowners are trying to go green with their home improvements. Once they have done the fast and simple upgrades and the improvements that can make a big difference without breaking the bank, they are ready to start thinking about extreme green home improvements.

Extreme green home improvements are costly and our research shows that these home improvements only appeal to a specific group of buyers. So before assuming that making costly and extreme green improvements, you should do your research on the return on investment for these upgrades in your region. This research can take some of the risk out of the investment. But it is still a gamble.

Some of the extreme green improvements that you might consider are:

Installing photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. Everyone has heard about the merits of using solar power to generate electricity. The initial cost of installing the cells and the equipment to convert the power to electricity for use in the home can be significant. That cost will, however, be recovered over time.

Installing all new windows with triple glazing and UV reflective coatings. The best windows available at this time for their insulating value are triple-glazed windows with gas between the panes and the highest level UV reflective coatings. Installed throughout a home, this can be a costly upgrade. But their value will be immediately clear in comfort within the home and utility cost savings over time.

Switching to a solar water heating system. The cost of a solar water heating system will be higher than traditional electric or gas models. You can expect to recover the cost in water heating savings over just a few years.

Installing a geothermal heating and cooling system. Geothermal heating and cooling systems are very expensive to install and require a certain amount of ground space for installation. They can, however, be placed either horizontally or vertically in the ground. Because they use the constant temperature of the earth, they result in significantly lower energy bills.

Switch all appliances to the highest-rated energy efficiency models. The technology to build more energy-efficient appliances seems to improve almost every year. Replacing older appliances can result in less energy use and lower operating costs.

Install a high-efficiency metal roof. New metal roofing materials are well-insulated and extremely durable. Although the metal roof might cost a little bit more at installation, it will last far longer than shingles or shakes, and it will provide better insulation for your home.

Each of these extreme green home improvements will be costly. On the other hand, all of these improvements will result in significant savings on utility bills. Although they might not pay for themselves in a year or two, you should be able to expect to recover the cost in lower utility bills over time.

While extreme green home remodeling might not be right for every homeowner, it might be right for you. These upgrades probably will not increase the value of your home significantly in terms of resale, but they will certainly make the home more comfortable for your family and more energy efficient.