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Sustainable Home Renovation: An Environmentally-Friendly Guide

Spring is just around the corner and with it may be your dream of a new home addition or renovated room. With numerous advances in materials and building processes, it’s easier than ever to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into your renovation. Below, we provide a guide for ways that you can make your sustainable home renovation a personal and environmental success.

Woman works on her sustainable home renovation

Plan Your Sustainable Home Renovation, Choosing Eco-friendly Materials and Processes

Before diving into any renovation project, start by creating a comprehensive plan that incorporates sustainable practices, which can include minimizing waste, reducing energy consumption, and more. Be sure to set clear goals for the project's environmental impact, from the demolition phase to the final touches.

Once your plan’s in place, choose sustainable materials that are recycled, reclaimed, or sustainably sourced. Bamboo, for instance, is a rapidly renewable resource and makes an excellent flooring choice. If you’re building or renovating with wood, look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products to ensure responsible forestry practices.

During the demolition phase, salvage materials that can be reused in your project or donate them to local charities. Recycle construction waste wherever possible to minimize landfill contributions. To do so, be sure to separate materials like plaster, wood, and brick. You can also consult organizations like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Build Reuse for other tips.

Green the Foundations of the Room

Proper insulation inside of your walls saves energy by keeping your home comfortable year-round and minimizing the need for excessive heating or cooling. Consider using recycled or eco-friendly insulation materials like cork, hemp, aerogel, recycled denim, and others.

Installing smart thermostats in your home will optimize heating and cooling efficiency. Smart thermostats are equipped with various sensors, including temperature sensors, humidity sensors, and sometimes occupancy sensors. They implement learning algorithms that analyze user behavior and preferences over time, such as when you’re typically at home, when you go to sleep, and when you wake up. This information is used to create customized heating and cooling schedules. By learning your temperature preferences and adjusting them accordingly, having a smart thermostat reduces energy waste and related expenses.

For your windows, upgrade to energy-efficient, double-paned alternatives. Properly sealed windows prevent drafts, eliminating the need to constantly adjust your thermostat. To help you narrow your window options, consult Energy Star, the U.S. government’s product efficiency rating system. Two rating standards to keep in mind when looking for energy-efficient windows are: 

  1. The U-Factor measures how well a window prevents heat from escaping. Lower U-factor values indicate better insulation.

  2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) measures how well a window blocks heat from the sun. A lower SHGC values indicate less solar heat gain.

When it comes to painting, traditional paints can release harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air, which emit carbon and contribute to air pollution. By choosing low-VOC or VOC-free paints for your renovation projects, you’re not only making a better choice for the environment but also promoting healthier indoor air quality. Paints labeled as "Low-VOC" typically contain reduced levels of these compounds, while "Zero-VOC" paints are formulated to have minimal or no VOC emissions. You can also look for paint certifications with environmental standards from Green Seal, GREENGUARD, and EcoLogo.

Installing Eco-friendly Products and Fixtures

If your renovation involves updating appliances; heating and cooling; water heaters; lighting fixtures and bulbs; or electronics, choose energy-efficient models. As with windows, you can look for the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates that the product meets strict energy efficiency guidelines. These items not only reduce your carbon footprint but also save you money on utility bills in the long run.

Upgrading your plumbing fixtures - like low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads - to low-flow alternatives can significantly lessen water consumption without compromising functionality. Use products with the WaterSense label, a program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that certifies water-efficient products, to guide your purchasing of water-efficient plumbing fixtures. Another green water idea is to collect rainwater for irrigation of your plants and landscaping, if possible, to further minimizing water waste.

Sustainable Exterior Projects 

For an outdoor renovation project that harnesses clean energy, consider installing solar panels on your roof. Not only will it lower your carbon footprint, installing solar panels can significantly reduce energy bills, enhance energy independence, increase your property value, and may qualify you for government incentives. When choosing solar panels, select panels that have certifications such as IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), UL (Underwriters Laboratories), or other industry-standard certifications to ensure that the panels meet specific safety and performance standards. 

Another environmentally-friendly option for your roof is a green roof. A green roof, or living roof, is a system where vegetation is layered on a building's roof, offering environmental benefits such as improved insulation, stormwater management, and biodiversity support. To find certified green roof installers, check industry directories, such as the Green Roof Professional Directory provided by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), or other green roof associations.

Finally, consider extending your eco-friendly efforts to your lawn by incorporating sustainable landscaping practices. Plant native species, use permeable materials for pathways to reduce water runoff, and consider installing a rain garden to manage stormwater naturally.

Doing an environmentally-friendly home renovation not only benefits the planet but also creates a healthier and more sustainable living space for you and your family. By making conscious choices throughout the renovation process, you can reduce your ecological footprint and set an example for a greener, more sustainable future. Every small effort counts, and collectively, these choices contribute to a more environmentally responsible way of living.


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