I’ve always been a big fan of environmentally friendly home renovations and with the recent shift in everyone’s thinking trying to find more energy-efficient and eco-friendly options there’s a easy and innovative steps and products out there to help you reduce your carbon tax and environmental impact when you renovate your home. Some of the ideas will cost you more upfront but you will save more money in the long run.
Below are a few ideas to get you thinking about what works for you and your family before you start your home renovation process.
Recycle, Re-Purpose and Donate
Twenty million tonnes of waste are sent to Canadian landfill sites each year; one-third of that comes from the construction, renovation and demolition industries. Currently, this is why some of the construction materials such as drywall have gone over 267% in the last few months.
But with many existing landfill sites approaching capacity across the country, the pressure is on for builders and architects to reduce, reuse and recycle, a trend that is catching on with homeowners.
- Reuse Old Materials – Reusing things such as corrugated steel, metal ceiling tiles, light fixtures and wood from a 1900s cannery are just a few options. Sometimes, we use reclaimed materials in new buildings and other times we’re removing materials from buildings we’ll use for other projects.
- Turn old furniture into something new – Most homeowners like to re-decorate after a renovation to show off the space but you don’t always have to buy something brand new to design a beautiful space. Many people are now eager to get the reclaimed look, and an increasing number of homeowners are heading to outlets such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores, which sell used furniture, home decor and building supplies. Otherwise, you can try a DIY project of your own giving fresh new life to some of your old furniture. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest and Youtube on how you can upcycle your old furniture into something new and trendy.
- Donate or sell unwanted items – If you do find there’s some old furniture and decorations that just won’t work in your new decor don’t just throw them away either sell them and replace a little bit of what you spent on your renovation or donate them where someone else can use them for their home.
- Insulation – Top up your attic insulation and ensure adequate venting is in place; given that hot air rises; the attic is the #1 spot to begin improving your insulation.
- Window Panes – Changing your Windows can be another huge energy/Carbon Tax BUSTER, but can be done a few at a time, not necessarily all at once. If you are looking to spread out your expenditure; start with your North facing and South facing windows first.
- Energy Efficient Appliances – When you are shopping around for new appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens look for those that are the most energy efficient. These products have the Energy Star logo right on them and will give you all the information you need.
- HVAC Systems – Buy a high efficiency, Energy Star rated HVAC system based on the design and construction of your home that will help you save energy and money. You should have your new HVAC system properly installed so that it can perform up to its full potential. Make sure ducts are short, straight and air tight. The ducts should be professionally tested with the goal to have under 10% leakage.
- Solar Panels – Solar energy is clean and renewable source of energy. Solar panels are an emerging and hot technology for people who want to utilize the natural power all around us, the sun. Solar panels may be expensive at first, but the long-term savings you can put into your pocket is a stunning example of the benefits of turning your life from black to green. The location of your house and the way you have constructed solar panels can determine how much power you can collect. By taking advantage of solar power you can bring down your energy consumption and supply excess energy, if any, to your utility company. Also, government grants, incentives and tax breaks are a huge bonus to those who want to use solar power in their home.
- Rainwater Harvesting Systems and Tankless Water Heaters – Install a rainwater harvesting system while building your green home to collect rainwater from roofs and then store it in a tank. The collected water can then be used for other purposes such as toilets and sprinkler systems. Rain barrels are one of the most common methods of rainwater harvesting being used today.
With tankless water heaters, you need not wait for the water to get heated. Tankless water heaters heat only that much water that is needed as it is passed through electric coil. This gives you twin benefits. Firstly, it eliminates excess energy costs as it heats up only that much amount of water that is needed and secondly, you can get ample storage place by eliminating the hot water tank.
- Programmable Thermostat – Almost 50% of our energy consumption goes towards the heating and cooling of our home. The simplest way to cut down this cost and reduce the electricity bill is to install a programmable thermostat. Your HVAC system will work when the thermostat reaches the designated temperature. A slight 3-5% of your energy bill can be saved if you can set your thermostat 1 degree down in the winter and up by 1 degree in the summer.
- Water Conserving Fixtures – Low flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads will all help you to conserve more water. They can cut down on your water bills cost and make your home much more environmentally friendly. I won’t lie some may not give you the amount of water flow that will make you happy so be sure to check out reviews and see what other people have recommended. Also, consider buying washing machines and dishwashers that give you some kind of cleaning and can save water and energy as well.
- Harness Geothermal Energy – Geothermal energy is known as energy from the earth. It requires more upfront investment but provides unlimited energy to heat and cool your home. During the winter season, geothermal heat pump uses the earth loop to extract heat from deep underground to your home’s HVAC system; in the summer season, heat is extracted from the air and moved back into the earth through loop system.
- Recirculating Timer-Pump – Have one installed on your hot water tank and save over 12,000 litres of heated water annually for a family of 4.
- Eco-Friendly Lighting – Changing to LED bulbs changes wattage on a 60 watt incandescent light bulb to 8 watts and a lifespan of 20 x longer; and who wouldn’t mind changing light bulbs less often.
- Efficient Landscaping – Shady landscaping can protect your home from direct sunlight during the summer and allows more sunlight to reach your home through windows during the winter. Planting trees on the southern and western side of your home can keep your home cooler as they will block sunlight from falling directly on your home and during the winter when trees lose their leaves, they will allow more sunlight to reach your home.
- Jet-Dry products – Using these types of products you can run your dishwasher on air-dry setting instead of the heat-dry setting and you will cut your dishwasher’s energy use up to 50 percent. Not huge savings; but it adds up annually.
- Lumber from Sustainable Forests – Avoid products produced from old-growth timber or endangered tropical hardwoods. Seek out certified and managed forests, recycled or reclaimed wood (salvaged from riverbeds or old buildings), or composites such as hardwood-veneered MDF (medium-density fiberboard) for doors and cabinets. An early green favourite with architects, fast-growing bamboo makes beautiful, durable flooring.
- Low VOC Products – Air-polluting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include toxic solvents and formaldehyde. Some new fibreglass insulation is VOC-free; other lung-friendly insulation includes recycled cotton batts (containing cloth trimmings usually scrapped) and soy-based sprayed-in foam. Also, low VOC paints are earth-friendly and better for you and your family. Both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams offer no VOC paint.
- Composite Decking – made from a combination of a wood waste and recycled plastic, composite decking yields superior strength, longevity and dimensional stability. It won’t warp, crack, splinter or rot like wood.
- Shou Sugi Ban (say that three times fast now) – Aka burned cedar wood treatment in layman’s terms centuries-old Japanese technique of charring planks used for residential siding, fencing, and decking projects. The life expectancy of shou sugi ban is estimated at more than 80 years when properly maintained. It’s water-resistant, fire resistant and insect resistant. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the fact that fossil fuels are required for the burn process, but the ensuing lifespan makes that sacrifice negligible. The look of the Shou Sugi Ban treated wood is pretty cool as well.
- Roof Tiles – Among the most popular — and perhaps the “greenest” — of all roofing products are shingles made from recycled waste materials, such as plastic, rubber, or wood fiber. Some products are made from clean post-consumer waste (waste from homes), others from post-industrial waste (factory waste). Recycled-content shingles are amazingly durable, and they look nice, too. You’d never know they were made from “waste” materials!
For those of you looking for eco-friendly wood shingles there’s a Canadian Company, Maibec Industries, that produces sustainably grown (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) eastern white cedar trees to produce shakes and shingles. These are most commonly used for siding, but they can be used for roofs, if installed according to the company’s recommendations.
- Paper Based Countertops – Made of tree pulp taken from strictly managed sustainable forests, paper-based countertops are a great alternative to stone and plastic surfaces. They come in a variety of colors and are mostly stain-, scratch- and heat-resistant.
- Bamboo Plywood – Bamboo is a sustainable wood because it grows rapidly and reaches maturity in just four years. The plywood is laminated together using a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesive. Plus bamboo is great for bathrooms because it stands up well in a moist climate.
- Rubber Mulch – Made from 100-percent recycled tires, rubber mulch is suitable to use on most landscapes. It has several benefits: a safe play surface for children, prevents weeds, does not attract insects and water and air can easily flow through it.
- Synthetic Grass – I’m personally not a big fan of synthetic grass but I’m seeing it popping up around Calgary more and more. The Eco-friendly synthetic grass requires no water, no mowing and stays green for years and there’s no maintenance so I can also see the plus sides, no more mowing the lawn for me.
- Recycled Plastic Carpet – Plastic beverage bottles are sorted, ground into fine chips, cleaned, melted, extruded into a fiber and then spun into plush carpet yarn. Even the bottle caps and labels are used to create the cores on which the yarn is spun around.
- Recycled Glass Countertops – Windshields, stemware and beverage bottles are bound together with concrete and fly ash (a waste by-product of coal-burning power plants) as opposed to a petroleum-based resin binder. The countertops are comparable to granite in terms of strength, scratch resistance, heat resistance and maintenance.
- Cork Flooring – Cork flooring is durable, yet it is much softer than standard hardwood flooring and it’s easy to install with a tongue-and-grove locking system. The tree is left undamaged and quickly regenerates new bark.
Do you know of any other environmentally friendly tips or materials that you would like to suggest for an eco-friendly home renovation, we would love to hear from you.
If you’re starting your home renovation project give us a call and we can give you a free quote on your home renovation project. Our team is happy to sit down and work with you to offer eco-friendly options and to work within your construction budget. Call us today at (403) 991-2746 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.