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Greenovation Saves You Money Now And Later

Nov 24, 2007
We've all heard often enough that it's time to start thinking and acting green. We're depleting the Earth's resources in record amounts, and it's becoming more and more clear that we need to start thinking in terms of protecting and preserving the Earth and her resources when we build. Despite all the public knowledge about the importance of sustainable and renewable building practices, there's still a lot of resistance to the idea of "going green". One of the biggest reasons - the notion that it's more expensive to use sustainable materials and consider environmental issues.

Obviously, it's not financially feasible for most of us to completely gut our homes and replace them with totally green and environmentally responsible buildings, but that's not the only way to accomplish the goal of living a greener life. There are a lot of things that you can do on a shoestring budget (see my article from last week for some ideas) that don't require any major investment of either time or energy. You can take bigger steps toward living a greener life when you're ready to make major renovations to your home. While there's a general belief that choosing greener products and alternatives will cost you more money, that's not always true. In many cases, the greener alternative costs no more than or even less than the traditional option. In nearly all cases, you'll make up any additional cost over the course of a few years. Take a look at what it will cost you to choose green in some of these popular home renovations:


Going to repaint or reside your house? Choose a light color. Light colored paint costs no more than any other color, but it can significantly reduce the amount of energy you'll use to cool your home because it reflects heat instead of absorbing it.

Additional cost: $0

Savings: Lots on your electric bill

The same applies to indoor spaces, by the way. If you're repainting bedrooms, living rooms and other living spaces, consider light colors with at least 50% reflectance.

Upgrading Kitchen/Laundry Appliances.

Is it time for a new look in your kitchen? Look for the Energy Star whenever you buy appliances. According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to $600 a year in energy costs by replacing your current appliances with Energy Star rated appliances. You'll also see a bonus when it's time to sell - kitchen upgrades and new, energy efficient appliances are a huge selling point with home buyers.

Additional cost: depends on appliances and styles chosen

Savings: Up to $600 annually

Buying a new clothes dryer? One that uses a sensor to time drying rather than a timer can save you up to 15% in energy costs by reducing the amount of time your dryer runs. Added bonus - you'll reduce the wear and tear on your clothes from over-drying.

Bathroom Renovations

Multiple shower heads at different levels may be temptingly luxurious, but you get points as a greener home if each shower in your home has one shower head. Make it a low flow shower head to reduce water usage, and add a low flow toilet to reduce water use even further. According to the EPA, toilet flushing accounts for 30-40% of in home water use.

Additional Cost: comparable to conventional fixtures

Savings: Thousands of gallons of water annually

New roof or roof repairs.

A light-colored roof will serve the same effect as light colored exterior walls. In Florida, you can get a code credit if you replace your current roof with a white tile or white metal roof. In addition, there are other things you can do when replacing a roof that will cut energy use and conserve resources. Those include adding skylights, installing a rainwater collection system and retrofitting struts for hurricane protection.

Additional cost: Depends on the materials chosen.

Savings: Hundreds in energy savings and thousands of gallons of water

Landscaping and Outdoors.

If you're redesigning your outdoor space, you'll find some surprising ways to reduce your use of energy and increase the efficiency of your home. For instance, the shade from a pair of trees on the south side of your house can reduce your cooling costs during the warmer months. If you choose deciduous trees, you'll have shade in the summer months and sunlight during the winter months. Xeriscaping can save you the cost of a sprinkler system since native plants are designed to flourish on Nature's sprinkling with no assistance from manmade irrigation.

Adding a pool or spa.

If you're planning to add a pool or spa to your property, be sure you include an installed cover that is easy to use. The greatest water loss from pools and spas is through evaporation, so an installed, convenient and easy to use cover can help reduce your water use. In addition, the Florida Green Home Standard from the Florida Green Building Association suggests that you install a sanitation system that reduces the need for chlorine and other chemicals. A solar pool heating system can virtually eliminate the $500-$1,500 per year that it costs to heat an outdoor swimming pool in Florida.

Replacing Hot Water Heater

When it's time to replace your hot water heater, there are a number of energy-friendly alternatives to traditional hot water tank heaters. Solar hot water heaters can reduce your utility costs by $150-$500 a year, depending on whether you use them as a complement to regular heaters or on their own. In addition, many Florida utility companies offer incentive programs to encourage the use of solar hot water heaters. Depending on the program, you could receive a credit of up to $450 on your electric bill to offset the original purchase and installation costs, and then an ongoing energy credit when you sign up for special programs, as well as federal and state tax credits and rebates that can total as much as $2,500. When you add that to ongoing savings of up to 85% per year, you'll see that going solar really makes sense.

If you're not ready to make the plunge to solar, there are low energy electric and gas alternatives. Like any other appliance, if you shop for the Energy Star, you'll be buying a hot water heater that is highly rated for efficiency.

New Floors and Room Additions.

Choose sustainable materials for new room additions and floors. Bamboo floors are one alternative, though some question any product that has to be shipped from across the world. Other options include using reclaimed wood for floors and building, often available at less than the cost of new wood. Check with salvage companies nearby to find out what's available.

No matter what renovations you're doing, you'll find that there are green alternatives that aren't much more expensive than the traditional alternatives, and many that cost even less. When you factor in the ongoing savings and the added value to your home, green is the best way to go.
About the Author
Calum MacKenzie, owner of Real Living Southern Homes a residential brokerage serving the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel market.
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