As our climate changes and homeowners become more environmentally conscious, green homes are coming into vogue. Some may see green building as a passing trend, but there’s more to it than that. Green homes are in high demand in the real estate market – and for good reason.
Return on Investment of Eco-Friendly Home Improvements
Tackling eco-friendly home improvements is great if the current homeowner is environmentally conscious, but there are benefits even if the homeowner has no desire to reduce their environmental footprint. Perhaps the biggest benefit of eco-friendly home improvements is that they actually add value to the home itself.
The case for eco-friendly home improvements, which can lead to green home certifications, is well established. Studies from as far back as 1998 have consistently found that, due to the utilities savings many eco-friendly home improvements lead to, homebuyers are more likely to purchase a home that has been green home certified (which we’ll talk more about later), and at higher prices.
These improvements are especially sought-after in regions with extreme climates, where energy efficiency and water conservation are a necessity. The return on investment of eco-friendly home improvement projects has no bearing on the length of time the current homeowner had lived in their home, either, which can be beneficial for house flippers.
How to make a home more eco-friendly
While it’s easier to build a green home from the ground up, older homes can also be retrofitted and see a similar ROI. Some eco-friendly home improvements can be costly and time consuming, while others are quick and relatively inexpensive. Luckily, some green home improvements also come with a one-time tax credit, which can help homeowners afford to make these improvements.
Whether you’re looking to make small improvements or do a complete overhaul, homeowners should prioritize eco-friendly home improvements that lead to bigger savings year over year. Check out this list of eco-friendly home improvements that can help homeowners obtain green home certifications and recoup some of the cost during resale.
One thing to think about doing that can really be worthwhile is a home energy audit. Checking your home both before and after making improvements is a great way to see how much energy you are saving. Of course this translates to money back in your pocket as well.
New energy efficient windows
Many existing homes are in desperate need of window replacement anyway, so why not go the extra mile and spring for energy efficient windows? They may seem a little costly, but HGTV states that you can recoup 60-70% of the cost of new windows when selling your home. There are many different types of energy-efficient windows. Some window companies, like Pella, offer special coatings to reflect light, which keeps your home cool and your thermostat regulated. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends installing storm windows, weather stripping, and proper caulking as a budget-friendly option.
Rainwater collection system
Rainwater collection systems (sometimes referred to as rainwater harvesting systems) are great for conserving water usage. Rainwater harvesting is simple – a barrel, which acts as the holding tank, is hooked up to the gutter downspout so that the water is redirected there instead of running off to the street or the base of your foundation. Essentially, rainwater collection systems store rainwater that runs through house gutters for later use. For optimal rainwater collection, homeowners should install a sustain-ably made gutter protection system, like LeafFilter, to ensure that decaying leaves, pine needles, and other organic material don’t contaminate the water.
Rainwater harvesting can come with a small upfront cost, but the benefits of rainwater collection systems far outweigh the cost. Some professionals estimate that homeowners can save approximately $216 a year just by using recycled rain water their landscaping.
Install a smart thermostat
Programmable, smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, are the next big thing in smart home technology, but are also a great eco-friendly investment. The new technology allows homeowners to program their temperature preferences, but also learn the residents’ habits to see where other savings can be made. Because of this, some sources suggest you can save up to $180 a year on energy costs.
New water heater
Bathroom improvements tend to have a large ROI as it is, but make an eco-friendly bathroom improvement, and the returns can be even greater. A new, energy efficient water heater is a great way to save money. They won’t run as often, and homeowners will enjoy the ability to have hot water on command as opposed to having to wait for the water to heat up while they watch several gallons of water go down the drain.
This is one of those improvements that can lead to tax credits, so homeowners should heavily consider insulating their home if they haven’t already. Traditional types of insulation are not sustain-ably made. Homeowners can spring for alternative insulation made of wool, cotton, or recycled materials in order to be more environmentally conscious. Experts claim you can save 10-30% on energy bills just by adding insulation in spots that typically leak air, like the attic. Not does extra insulation help save with energy bills it can also help prevent ice dams from occurring.
Install high efficiency appliances
Old appliances, like washers, dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators, will need to be replaced before putting a home on the market anyways. Purchasing high efficiency appliances will allow home sellers to reap the added benefits of energy savings when it comes time to sell the house. Make sure to choose the stainless steel option for yet another selling point.
Landscape with native plants
Landscaping can drastically improve curb appeal, which is arguably one of the biggest factors home buyers cite as important to their purchasing decisions. To put an eco-friendly spin on an already necessary task, landscape using native species of plants. They’re easier to maintain because the climate already naturally supports them, and they won’t pose a risk to the surrounding ecosystem like invasive species do.
Seal cracks and leaks
Old homes especially have issues with air leaks.Sealing cracks and crevices around the home conserves energy use by keeping the temperature controlled air inside, and the uncomfortable temperatures outside. Homeowners can use caulk or other sealant, as well as weather stripping, to get rid of air leaks. According to HouseLogic, these simple precautions can save between $50 and $350 a year depending on the size of your house.
The Benefits of Green Home Certification
So you’ve done all this work to make the home eco-friendly, and you know how much they save you, but it’s your word against the home buyer’s. The good news is, there are many trustworthy entities that offer certification that your improvements are eco-friendly to back you up.
Certifying a home as eco-friendly can reassure potential home buyers of the benefits of purchasing an eco-friendly home, which can lead to even bigger returns. There are many programs that certify green homes, which all have different criteria. Here are just a few:
Energy Star is a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that ensures home owners meet certain criteria for maintaining an energy efficient home. EnergyStar homes must use 15-30% less energy than other similar homes. An inspector assures that all requirements are met for certification. However, due to the inspection requirements, it is nearly impossible for an existing home to be certified unless it is completely gutted. For those who are looking to tackle smaller improvements, this may not be within reason.
GreenPoint Certification is run by the California-based non-profit Build It Green. They have two levels for existing home certification – The Elements Label and The Whole House Label. The Elements Label is great for homeowners who plan to do small eco-friendly improvement projects as opposed to a full overhaul of their home’s energy and water usage.
LEED certification is perhaps the most well-known certification program for homeowners looking to make their homes eco-friendly. LEED certification is a program run by the U.S. Building Council which verifies that the home uses less energy and water than similar homes without eco-friendly improvements. Each improvement you make will earn you a specified number of points.
The minimum number of points for the lowest level of LEED certification is 40, which isn’t too difficult to achieve. The highest level of certification requires over 80 points, which requires some amount of dedication. It may seem daunting to earn the require number of points, but remember, LEED Certification is widely recognized. The name recognition (and reputation of the company) alone can lead to a higher ROI than obtaining other certifications.
Bottom Line: Eco-Friendly Home Improvements Are Worth It
Eco-friendly home improvements continue to draw in potential home buyers, and this trend doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Whether you’re flipping houses or updating a well-loved home to put on the market in the future, it’s important to take eco-friendliness, as well as the potential for green home certification, into consideration when making any sort of improvement.
About the Author: This article was written by Rachel Rieger, the Community Outreach Manager at LeafFilter North, Inc. She closely follows the latest industry advice to give homeowners helpful information to tackle home improvement projects, like installing gutter protection.