Building a green home not only makes a positive impact on the environment but also helps in developing a greener lifestyle for your family. With the right planning and strategy, making your home eco-friendly can even be affordable. We asked experts for their best tips on green home building to help you get started.
Here are 24 brilliant tips on building a green home.
1. Heat Water the Right Way
Stacy Johnna, Editor in Chief, Best Reviews List
Part of keeping your home green entails ensuring you use less water. Part of this includes heating your water with a tankless heater. A tankless model works without you having to run the water for a while to get it to become warm. With a tankless design, you will get the water that you need right away. The heating process ensures the water will be prepared fast and with less power involved.
2. Install Efficient Windows, Doors & Skylights
Alex Romanov, Co-founder, iwillbuyhouse.com
When considering monthly homeowner utility bills, a significant expense category is energy bills. To minimize energy costs, you need to consider installing efficient windows, doors, and skylights. The problem with poorly sealed doors and windows is they let air flow in and out of the home, which means that the heating and cooling systems are working longer and harder to maintain the set temperature in your house and this wastes energy and costs you money. The upfront cost of these upgrades can be hefty. However, they will return cost savings every year after you purchase and install them and will also increase the resale value of your home.
3. Earn From Your Energy Savings
Deborah Ann Spence, Broker, Author & Speaker, Fierce Real Estate Corp.
Having an energy-efficient home will reduce your monthly energy cost and, in some instances, you can earn money by selling your extra energy back to the utility company. You can estimate your energy savings, if applicable, on Google’s project sunroof. You must type in your address in the search area, and Google Earth will do the rest. It will tell you how much you can save, it will personalize a solar energy analysis, and it will explain several options to purchase, lease, or finance the installation of solar panels on your roof.
4. Add Big Windows
Jim Turner, CEO, Pro Agent Solutions
Big windows offer aesthetic appeal by making the room look bigger and adding more value to the entire structure of the property. Houses with bigger windows allow light to stream in, allowing one to forego electric lighting while benefiting from natural light. Also, if designed properly, large well-positioned windows can help heat a home through passive solar gain in the winter when the sun is shining. Large windows also let one enjoy the breeze and ventilate the space with more ease and put an emphasis on freshness. Lastly, big windows provide beautiful views especially for properties with perfect locations.
5. Apply Water Conservation Strategies
Benjamin Mizes, CEO, Clever Real Estate
Water consumption is an area many people don’t first think about when building a green home. In states like California, Nevada, and Oregon, water conservation is even more important due to frequent drought. Start by ensuring you’re purchasing Energy Star-rated washers, low-flow faucet aerators, and tankless water heaters. You may even be able to capture rainwater on your property and use it for irrigation in your garden. Consider xeriscaping, which is landscaping that uses little to no water for drought-inclined climates. By planning a home that uses as little water as possible from the beginning, including appliances, toilets, and fixtures, you can save thousands of gallons of water a year and reuse as much water as possible.
6. Use Safe Building Materials
Dr. Luz Claudio, Tenured Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Luz Claudio
When constructing any type of green building, whether it is a home or a business, it is important to consider not only factors like energy efficiency and use of recycled materials but also the potential health impacts of the building materials on its occupants. The recent class action lawsuit against Lumber Liquidators due to their use of Chinese-made laminate flooring that was coated with formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical, illustrates this point. Builders should take into account any potential off-gassing of chemicals like volatile organic compounds from interior surfaces like floors, carpets, and walls. Using materials that do not release these compounds into the indoor air is very important for the health of the occupants.
7. Understand Your Insulation
Colin Ruggiero, Home Safety Expert, Mesothelioma.com
Often, homeowners will not be cognizant of the materials that lurk within their walls. Prior to the 1980s, many homes were built using asbestos-containing insulation known as Zonolite. This insulation is loose-fill, a fluffy asbestos material that is used within attics and walls. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and is primarily noted to cause mesothelioma cancer. Knowing this information allows for homeowners to have their homes inspected and insulation changed if needed. A nontoxic alternative is paper insulation. Paper insulation is made from recycled paper likes newspapers and cardboard, which is helpful to both the environment and your home.
8. Use Smart Technology
Drew Carpenter, Buyer Success Agent, The Keri Shull Team – Arlington, VA
The most important way to make a home eco-friendly is to reduce its net consumption and carbon emissions. In large part, this can be accomplished by installing various technologies. For example, Google’s Nest thermostat system regulates climate control automatically to save energy on heating and air conditioning costs. In addition, LEED-certified windows and appliances will save you both emissions and money since you’ll use less electricity. Finally, low-pressure flush toilets and showerheads can minimize the amount of water you use daily in the bathroom. The combined effect of these minor changes can add up to serious cost savings and reduce the home’s impact on the environment.
9. Use Reclaimed Wood
Tom Shafer, Owner & Co-founder, Timberchic
To be eco-conscious is an overall awareness and practice of living in a way that supports sustainability, renewability, and recycling. Products made from reclaimed wood prevent the need for further trees to be cut down and far fewer materials being sent to landfills. In addition to being eco-friendly, reclaimed wood planks are ideal for creating accent walls, ceilings, backsplashes, doors, columns, and more. If you love the planet and home design, there are now more options than ever to create a home that is beautifully crafted and environmentally friendly.
10. Build Smaller
Derik Keith, Broker & Co-owner, Keith Home Team – Metro Brokers of Oklahoma
When it comes to green housing one of the most often overlooked options for an energy efficient and eco-friendly home is to build smaller. This doesn’t mean you have to do away with your dream home. A well-designed 1,200-to-1,600-square-foot home can feel more spacious than you’d imagine all while saving you money and being a little gentler on the planet. Small homes are more energy-efficient and easier to heat, cool, and maintain, which saves you money in the end. There are some architects who design homes to the dimensions of the supplies available. This helps your builder create less waste since they won’t have to cut down every supply for the sake of design.
11. Consult With Experts
Dave Domzalski, Founder, Hero Story
One of the ways that I’ve found when approaching a sizable project like building a home is to ask and rely on the experts. That’s what my wife and I did when building our home in 2016. For instance, you could seek out experts who are well-versed in green building practices for things like plumbing and landscaping. It’s better to get this advice upfront before you sign anything. That way, you can work to reduce your costs on the front end ― as you understand where building supplies are coming from ― and on the back end as you ensure energy efficiency is saving you money.
12. Upgrade Your Appliances
Matthias Alleckna, Energy Industry Analyst, EnergyRates.ca
From LED light bulbs to smart thermostats, energy efficiency is key to energy conservation. One of the most significant ways of saving energy is to review your appliances. Smart upgrades, which also means switching out old appliances for new, energy-efficient ones, will save you plenty of money in the long term. This is not only about switching out an incandescent light bulb for an LED one. We’re talking about proper insulation, efficient heating, and cooling systems, draft-proof rooms and similar features. An inefficient home will not only enlarge your carbon footprint but can also cost you thousands of dollars on your utility bills through the years, so it’s worth investing in home upgrades.
13. Choose Water-conserving Grass in Your Landscaping
Jennifer Okhovat, Realtor, Compass
Replacing traditional grass with fuel-efficient and water conserving landscaping makes a huge difference in one’s energy bill. Succulents and certain plants require less water and can help you save in the long run. Also, there are many districts and cities that will offer customers rebates for installing drought-tolerant landscaping. For more information, one should contact their local government about incentives and programs that will benefit customers in the long run.
14. Add More Steel to Your Building Materials
Steven Torres, Manager, Metal Carports & Barns
The U.S. Green Building Council has approved steel for sustainable building material. For those who are building in rural areas and require extra storage space for equipment or farm animals, steel offers a sustainable and very affordable option. Farmers and small home-based business owners who are choosing sustainable materials are using steel buildings over other materials not only for the green benefits but for strength and longevity. Steel building products incorporate recycled content materials, thereby reducing the environmental impacts resulting from extraction and processing of wood. Steel is also 100% recyclable at the end of its life.
15. Improve Your Ventilation System
Bryan Stoddard, Expert, Homewares Insider
Fresh air or inlet air in the house is fed by the internal distribution system but forcibly controlled. Used air or outgoing air is taken from the house and is expelled, and in the case of a so-called passive house, the heat of the air is used for other purposes. Making a house green is possible with certain modifications and additional investments. For example, adding a ventilation system for air recirculation and extra thermal insulation, photovoltaic cells and the like can reduce spending of resources and money dramatically.
16. Connect Your Electronics to Your Smartphone
Gina Castrorao, Rental Manager, REAL NEW YORK
One tip for building a green home would be to connect your electronics to your smartphone. There are lots of apps that can help to control your electronics when you are not home so you can conserve energy. For example, instead of having your air conditioning on full blast throughout the day when you’re at work, you can regulate it based on when you’ll return home. With your air conditioning hooked up to your smartphone, you can turn it on an hour or so before getting back from work so you can return to a comfortable temperature. This can also be utilized for electronics like lights and televisions to make sure they are turned off.
17. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
Melanie Johnson, Marketing Manager, Fantastic Services Group
Instead of purchasing commercial cleaning products, stock up on the ingredients you need to mix up a cleaner for any situation that might come up. All you need are bigger doses of items you probably have at hand right now. Almost any homemade cleaner is made of various combination of water, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and borax. For more persistent stains, you can try using bleach-water solutions or hydrogen peroxide water mixture but use with caution.
18. Use Sustainable Building Materials
Sophie Kaemmerle, Communications Manager, NeighborWho.com
One of the best ways to build a greener home and reduce your carbon footprint is to use green and sustainable materials in the first place. For example, instead of flooring made out of wood from the ever-shrinking rainforest, opt for bamboo. Bamboo grows very quickly as well as being beautiful and durable. Another option when it comes to using wood is to choose sustainably harvested which means the wood comes from a well-managed forest, look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified wood. You can also opt for recycled steel that can save 75% of energy costs in producing and smelting fresh steel. Sheep’s wool is another easily renewable resource that can be used as insulation instead of possibly harmful fiberglass and foam.
19. Install a Smart Thermostat
Daniela Andreevska, Marketing Director, Mashvisor
One of the must-have tools for any green home is a smart thermostat. This simple-to-use device will allow you to program your own heating and cooling system. It will allow you to take into consideration the current temperature, time of the day, days of the week, seasons, holidays, vacations, and so on. The smart thermostat will let you optimize the use of your heating and cooling system in the most energy-efficient way without compromising your own comfort. The money you’ll save from using energy resources efficiently and smartly will more than make up for the cost of the smart thermostat.
Solar energy is still the most renewable energy available to man so installing solar panels to harness and use this energy for your home is still the best option for managing the increasing cost of electricity. Advancements in technology have significantly improved both functionality and pricing for solar panels that can last up to 25 years while making it possible to get a return on your investment after three years. Proper installation and maintenance are key to make solar panels work and add value to your home.
New York already has its first residential zero-waste building which makes this idea possible on a smaller scale. From building materials to home decors, there are ways to integrate zero waste management strategies to start a more sustainable eco-friendly lifestyle. Because of the increasing awareness of climate change, resources are now readily available for anyone who wants to start this in their homes. You can find communities and even online stores dedicated to zero-waste management that can help you build your ideal home.
Instead of ceramic or tile roofs, you can opt for adding a rooftop terrace instead and start a small garden. Green roofing is not a new trend, but aside from the old recreational purpose of creating a garden rooftop, it now adds sustainability to its list of benefits to the homeowner. Eco-roofs, as they are now called, not only adds value to your property but will also make your roof last longer while helping improve air quality.
Adding tint to your windows is one of the most cost-efficient ways of creating an eco-friendly home. It allows you to cut down on energy cost by naturally regulating the temperature without having to use electricity especially for families who experience extreme weather conditions. There’s even technology being developed to use window tint as a means to collect energy to charge small electrical items like mobile devices and lamps. Keep in mind that there are a huge number of suppliers for window tint so take your time to evaluate options for features and pricing that works best for your budget.
If you’re working on a tight budget or just considering more options to power your home, there are alternatives that you can work with. Renewable energy can also be harnessed from wind turbines, geo and hydroelectric energy that you can set up with do-it-yourself instructions. However, if you want to use solar panels, there are options like solar sheds and solar covers that your community can build and share, resulting in a much lower cost.
Building a green home is one of the smartest investments you can make for your family. While it may mean having to spend a little more compared to regular homes, the benefits of an energy-efficient and eco-friendly structure will pay off in the long run. Follow our list of green home building tips from the experts and start saving the environment today.
Can’t find your go-to tips for building a green home in our list? Share them with us in the comments.