8 Green Home Remodeling Ideas

Most home remodels are meant to make the space you’re living in more usable and comfortable. But now it’s easier than ever to improve their sustainability. Here are 8 green home remodeling ideas to make your space more eco-friendly.

green home remodeling: new kitchen remodel

Decreasing your home’s environmental footprint, and making it more energy-efficient, can not only increase your home’s value, it can also save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

Green home design is also becoming increasingly attractive to new home buyers. In fact, you’re selling a home in Portland, you’re now required to get a Home Energy Report, estimating energy usage.

So, where do you start if you’re considering making your home greener? Here are 8 ideas:

1. Perform your own audit

green home remodeling: kitchen remodel

You don’t need to be selling your home to wait to do an energy audit. You can do your own to discover some quick ways where you could be saving money and making your space more efficient.

The Oregon Department of Energy offers a checklist you can review to see which improvements you can make right away. It includes efficiency scores for everything from light bulbs to windows to furnace filters. Even if you can’t make all of the recommended changes yourself, it will give you a great starting point on where you can save.

2. Veer away from the VOCs

green home remodeling: sustainable kitchen cabinets
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VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are invisible particles that are given off from a variety of new materials in the home, including some paints, cabinets, flooring materials, and drywall . VOCs can cause watery eyes, a burning throat, headaches, difficulty breathing, and dizziness.

There are now several alternatives with low or no VOCs available on the market to help make your home safer and more environmentally friendly. When it comes to flooring, using materials like hardwood, tile, or stone instead of carpet or linoleum is a great way to go greener.

Here are some other options for VOC-free paint and cabinets:

No VOC paint: Sherwin-Williams Harmony

Sustainable cabinets: Crystal Cabinets

3. Update your windows

green home remodeling: sustainable windows
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If you live in an older home — and there are plenty of those in the Portland area — you may have some drafty, windows that are sucking energy from your living areas. Whether they’re rickety, leaking, or something in between, those old windows are taking a hit on your energy bill.

When it’s time to replace your windows, in addition to helping you save on your energy costs, there are some ways to make them more eco-friendly:

  • Use sustainable sourced materials like wood rather than PVC, which can release harmful toxins
  • If you want to go one step further, go for wood frames certified by the U.S. Forest Stewardship Council, which assures that the materials used are sustainable, and aren’t negatively impacting the environment
  • Fiberglass window frames are also greener, as they’re made from sand and resin, and are very energy efficient and durable
  • Get double or triple-paned glass to help insulate your home better and make it more comfortable

4. Improve Insulation

green home remodeling: insulation
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Proper insulation helps keep your home warmer when it’s cold out and cooler in hotter temperatures, in effect lowering your heating and cooling costs. Having enough insulation in your walls, attic, and floors can go a long way to making your home more comfortable and efficient.

Related to insulation, there are other ways to make sure you’re not letting letting valuable heat or cool air escape your home. For instance, check whether there are any cracks or gaps around windows or doors and fix them by caulking or weather-stripping.

If you have central heating and air in your home, prevent leaking air ducts by sealing and insulating them, especially in unfinished areas like attics or basements. To keep air from leaking behind the wall or under the floor, seal the areas around the registers.

5. Consider solar panels or passive solar design

green home remodeling: solar panels
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Installing solar panels is a great way to take advantage of a limitless energy supply while helping protect the planet. While the upfront costs can be hefty — national estimates put the cost of residential solar panel installation between $20,000-$35,000 — there are incentives to help offset your expenses. And over the long-run, you’ll make up the cost of the panels due to savings in your energy bill.

But if solar panels are not an option for you, consider passive solar design in your next remodel. This involves making improvements that maximize your solar efficiency:

  • Making renovations on the sides of your home that get the most sun
  • Applying heat reducing films to your windows
  • Installing smart blinds that open and close due to light and temperature changes
  • Adding eave overhangs that help shade your interior from harsh sun rays
  • Including skylights to let in more natural light

6. New and more efficient appliances

energy star
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If you’re remodeling your kitchen, chances are you’ll be looking to install new appliances as well. If that’s the case, you have several energy-efficient and budget-friendly options to choose from these days. From refrigerators to dishwashers to HVAC equipment, the list of available energy-saving items is extensive.

With many of us spending more time at home these days and putting more strain on those energy bills, this is one area where it’s easy and cost-effective to make some eco-friendly improvements — even if you’re not planning a remodel any time soon.

7. Look into a smart thermostat

nest thermostat
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Smart homes are all the rage these days. With your phone and the right apps, you can remotely control everything from your home security to your oven. One popular energy-saving smart device is the thermostat. Simply connect it to your mobile phone and you can control your home’s heating and cooling even when you’re away.

You can also program them to auto-adjust your home’s temperature when you leave or go on vacation. Here are some of the highest rated smart home thermostats:

8. Take advantage of energy-saving incentives

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Find out how to get the most out of your eco-friendly home improvements by looking into local and federal incentive programs. In the Portland-area, Portland General Electric offers special savings and discounts on energy-efficient products, as well as other tips on how to save.

The Energy Trust of Oregon has a list of other incentives on everything from lighting to windows. And Energy Star has a list of appliance-related incentives.

You may also qualify for federal discounts or credits, depending on the level of modifications you make to your home. For example, the Energy Investment Tax Credit provides a 25% tax incentive for residential solar systems. To learn more, check out DSIRE (the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency).