Purchasing a home is one of the largest financial and emotional decisions a person will make. A number of considerations come into play when shopping for the right home, including the environmental impacts of your purchase. Eco-friendly houses are growing in popularity, as more people look to the future of more sustainable living by reducing the overall impact of their home on the built, natural, and human environment.
The first rule of eco-friendly building is: the greenest building is the one that is never constructed. While this an impossible goal to attain, there are a number of ways to ensure that the home you buy has the smallest footprint possible. All houses can be eco-friendly in different ways, so it is important to take into account the neighborhood where you buy a home and how it will affect your lifestyle. Considering factors like bikability, walkability, and recycling programs in the area could make a great difference in the overall sustainability your house, and potentially increase its resale value.
Building an eco-home, or converting an existing one, helps protect the planet and your health, but it also saves you a considerable amount of money over time in utility bills. Constructing a new green home has some advantages, in that you are able to choose optimal positioning on the building site, focus on the features that are most important to you, and select materials that reduce waste, pollution, and environmental degradation. New green construction generally has a number of standard features that include sustainable construction materials, pre-installed energy efficient appliances, and sometimes solar panels. Items like low-flush toilets, energy-certified washers and dryers, and tankless water heaters can significantly reduce resource use and, in turn, your utility bills. This new technology, though, does not come without cost. One of the most criticized issues of building new eco-homes is the upfront cost; newer technologies tend to be more costly with the benefits amortized over the course of many years.
However, an eco-friendly house does not necessarily need to be new. Existing homes may be more affordable for the first time homebuyer and have many opportunities for improvement. When purchasing an existing home to update with more eco-friendly features, it is important to hire a professional to conduct a home energy audit to thoroughly inspection your home to assess air leaks, opportunities for increased insulation, and the efficiency of existing appliances such as hot water heater, heating and air conditioning units, washer and dryer, and stove. A home energy audit will also provide a benchmark to measure the success of future improvements and could lead to state or federal tax credits or reimbursements.
Once you purchase your home, there are still more factors to consider that will make your lifestyle more sustainable, such as smart thermostats to optimize temperature control, a low-impact lawn with native plants rather than standard grass, and energy-efficient lighting to reduce electricity use. Home ownership opens up new and exciting possibilities for beginning and maintaining a more sustainable and eco-friendly life.
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