Protecting the environment and improving your home don’t have to be mutually exclusive goals. With the growing concern over environmental issues, making the right choices when it comes to home improvement can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also help you save money on your energy costs over the long run. Almost everything in your home from flooring to windows offers a more environmentally-friendly alternative that you can take advantage of when remodeling your home.
Windows: Although the walls of your home may be well-insulated, if the windows in your home are not insulated as well, this can reduce the energy-efficiency of your home by allowing heat to easily pass in and out of your home via the windows. Energy-efficient windows are designed to reduce the amount of heat that can transfer through a window, making your home cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter. When looking at energy-efficient windows, the two main factors to be aware of are the U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient. The U-factor measures how well the window insulates while the solar heat gain coefficient measures how much heat from the sun can pass through the window – a higher U-factor is typically more desirable while the solar heat gain coefficient should be lower, especially if you live in a hot climate or the window will receive sun for most of the day.
Flooring: While carpet and other flooring materials weren’t particularly environmentally-friendly in the past, modern advancements have made this a thing of the past. When it comes to carpet, your options include carpets woven with natural fibers including sisal and wool or manufactured from recycled plastic which can in turn be recycled when the carpet wears out. Wood flooring isn’t completely out of the question – bamboo and cork are both outstanding options for flooring that are strong and durable, but are produced with sustainable harvesting methods. Concrete can also be a highly sustainable flooring option as it can utilize a good deal of recycled waste in its manufacture, plus it can also be recycled to manufacture more concrete.
Paint: Paint is often an area of concern for people concerned about environmental impact. Standard paint is known to contain high levels of toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like toluene that give off the fumes that give fresh paint its characteristic strong odor. Fumes from VOCs can cause health problems as well as contributing to air pollution, making them of particular concern when used in the home. Fortunately, many name brand paint manufacturers have begun offering lines of paints that are designed to significantly reduce the amount of VOCs present while still offering the same quality as standard paints. Another recent innovation is paints that are manufactured from milk and other natural ingredients, eliminating VOCs altogether.
Appliances: If you’re planning on replacing any of the major appliances in your home such as the refrigerator, dishwasher or water heater – many appliance manufacturers have made great strides in developing energy-efficient appliances. Look for the Energy Star label on any appliances you’re interested in – this indicates that the appliance has met federal energy standards.
Lighting: If you’ve already adopted CFLs for home lighting, it may be time to consider updating some of your fixtures to use LEDs instead. Currently, LEDs do have the disadvantage of costing a bit more than comparable CFL options but they offer a significantly longer lifespan and use even less energy than CFLs. LEDs also do not contain any mercury, unlike CFLs and standard incandescent bulbs that contain high levels of mercury.
Cabinets: If you’re planning on replacing the cabinets in your bathroom, kitchen or other areas of your home – environmentally-friendly cabinets can be a great option. They are typically manufactured from either bamboo or wheatboard and assembled with adhesives that do not contain VOCs, making them a very sustainable option for your home.
Justin Krutz writes about home improvement for Palatin Remodeling, a Los Angeles bathroom remodeling company that also specializes in San Diego bathroom remodeling and San Diego kitchen remodeling services.