All you have to do is count the number of driveways with a hybrid vehicle, and you can see at a glance that Americans are embracing the eco-friendly lifestyle. However, a Prius in front of the house is just the beginning. More and more homeowners are opting for sustainable features in the home as well. Eco-friendly amenities often add to the beauty and comfort of a home, and even save money in the long run.
Green features are not just for new construction. There are unlimited ways to upgrade your existing home to be more eco-friendly. Here are some of the top trends in eco-friendly remodeling in 2015:
ENERGY STAR appliances. Appliances are responsible for about 20 percent of an average home’s energy use. Depending on the type and model, super-efficient ENERGY STAR approved appliances can save up to 50 percent less energy and water than standard appliances. Consider using trendy and durable stainless steel appliances, and the new high-efficiency, clean-burning gas stoves that protect your indoor air quality.
Why consume electricity when you can enjoy natural sunlight? Not only does it illuminate your home for free, but studies show that natural light is far better for mental and physical health, and can even boost productivity. Well-placed windows with quality window treatments will help you make the most of your available daylight. Skylights are another great option. If your existing windows are in poor shape, replacing them with high-quality, energy-efficient windows can also save on your energy bills. If you do this, consider going with wood or fiberglass windows; they are much more eco-friendly than vinyl.
Real wood. Nothing beats the warm luxurious look and feel of real wood flooring, trim and cabinetry. Real wood is much healthier than alternatives such as particleboard, because it will not off-gas toxic substances into your home. Despite the fact that it uses trees, wood can be very sustainable. Just be sure that any new lumber or wood products you install are certified sustainable through the Forest Stewardship Council or another reliable third-party certifying organization. Or, use reclaimed or recycled lumber.
Built-in water filters. Almost all municipal water supplies contain chlorine and other substances that can compromise your health. Instead of spending a ton of money on bottled water (and adding to the burden of unwanted plastic in our oceans), consider installing sink filters. Imagine the convenience of having delicious, pure water right out your tap. Though why stop there? Your skin absorbs chlorine readily, so why not get a shower head filter, too? Or, do it all in one fell swoop and invest in a whole house water filter.
Smart home technology. Smart management is the key to efficiency. You can save huge amounts of energy and water (not to mention time) by taking advantage of modern automated home management technology. Some popular examples include programmable thermostats and weather-based irrigation controllers.
Eco-friendly landscaping. You can have a gorgeous yard and still be eco-friendly. The first step is careful plant selection. Native plants are a good choice because they don’t require more water and nutrients than is natural for your area. Next, place them where it makes sense for optimal beauty and energy efficiency. That’s right — landscape plants can reduce your energy bill. Shade trees are a great example, but well-placed shrubs, vines and even flowerbeds can help shelter your home from sun and wind, and collect excess rainwater runoff. Finally, manage your yard’s water use. Rain barrels, rain gardens and automatic watering systems can help minimize your water use while maintaining a beautiful exterior.
Outdoor living area. One of the healthiest ways you can help your family is to get them to spend more time outside. Installing a patio, sunroom or other outdoor living space is an easy way to do just that. Your outdoor living area can be as simple or as elaborate as you want: from a concrete slab with a fire pit, to a multi-level installation complete with a pool, gazebo and outdoor living room, kitchen and bar. Either way, it is a sure-fire way to increase the whole family’s enjoyment of your home.
If you are thinking of remodeling, consider some or all of these eco-friendly upgrades. Not only will they make your home greener, but also a more pleasant, healthy place to live.