Your home isn’t only where your heart is, it’s also where you and your family spend the majority of each day. You take many of your meals there, you sleep there, and you celebrate life’s achievements under the same roof. That makes it incredibly important that your home is environmentally sustainable, and that it creates the smallest carbon footprint possible. You already recycle, and drive a hybrid vehicle. You buy organic or locally-sourced foods, and you clothe your family in natural fibers. It’s a lot to keep track of, and thinking about putting the same care into your home can certainly be a daunting prospect. You don’t have to tackle everything at once, but start by conducting your own green home inspection. Keep it small, and fix what you can. But every step you take towards a more eco-friendly home will be more than worth the time and effort further down the line. Here are five tips to help you conduct your first green home inspection.
Again, you won’t be able to do everything at once, so take a look at the major areas and then decide what you can afford. Start off outside, and check out the landscaping. That doesn’t mean making sure every blade of grass is clipped to the same length. But what is the overall health of the plant life on your property? If you have trees it’s very important to look them over. Is there evidence of any type of disease? Is mold developing on or near the house? If you have questions about anything out there, consider hiring an arborist to help you diagnose potential problems. You’ll avoid having to use harsh chemicals down the road, and hopefully help the literal ‘greenery’ around you live longer.
Next, inspect your home for current energy efficiency. That means asking yourself if your home is allocating energy as well as it possibly can. Look over all of your appliances, to make sure everything is working well. Consider replacing old pieces with EnergyStar-rated appliances. Check that your HVAC system is in good shape, and look for clogs or leaks in the duct system. Check all of your windows and doors for leaks, and seal whatever you can. Consider the lightbulbs you use, and the rooms that would be served better by automated switches.
Now you should think about water usage. This is something you can easily measure, and most bathroom and kitchen hardware have ratings you can look up online. This is another situation when you might have to switch out old hardware for more efficient models. There are toilet, shower and sink systems that can literally cut your water usage in half. Don’t forget about the sprinklers outside, and your dishwasher and washing machine as well. Any upgrades here will make your home greener.
At this point you’ll want to look at how your home supports health in the human and animal inhabitants. This is a bit tougher, so you may need to bring in some professionals or special equipment. But basically you want to know if there are chemicals, allergens or contaminants in the air and the building materials that could be slowly harming you or your family. Consider the material that makes up the carpeting, the flooring, the paint on the walls, the insulation, and everything else in your home. Get a reading on the particulates in the air, and consider an air purifier if necessary. Smaller steps would be considering ways to keep dirt and pollens outside, such as well-paved driveways and properly sealed windows and doors.
Finally, consider features that actually generate energy as well. These probably weren’t included in closing costs and title insurance, but were added on later. But if you have any solar, wind or water energy generating devices, make sure they are working properly. Consider adopting some sort of alternative energy source if you haven’t yet, especially if you plan on staying in your home for several years. They pay for themselves after a short time.