By Denise Pajak
Most homeowners want to make eco-friendly upgrades to their homes and home buyers are starting to expect energy efficient features. Going green is more affordable than ever. But how green can you go?
The answer is different for every homeowner. Of course, you want to save money on utility bills. But it’s also about improving your family’s comfort, reducing their toxic chemical exposure, and lessening your environmental impact. It depends on how long you’ll live in the house, as well, and if the initial cost is worth it. Here are some things to consider.
Tankless water heater. For under $500, a hot water recirculation pump could save you its cost in about a year, depending on your water use. A reliable pump like Grundfos manufactures, for example, keeps hot water circulating so you don’t waste gallons of water waiting for your shower to heat up. Peter Michaelson, CEO of Renewal Design Build reminds us, “Think about how much energy is used to capture, clean, distribute and heat clean water in our community.” With that pump, you’ll reduce your water bill along with the carbon footprint of your city’s water supply. Tankless water heaters used to be cost prohibitive, but are now affordable and common in new homes and, according to Energy Star, can save $100 or more per year. There’s also a federal tax credit for installing one.
Soy insulation. Another easy, affordable green upgrade is soy insulation that’s blown into your home just beneath the roof and floor. The soy has fewer volatile organic compounds than traditional insulation. If you have a drafty house, you’ll feel the results instantly, as will your power bills. An added bonus is its soundproofing from outside noise.
Manage your expectations. Keep in mind the return on investment for any renovation is not 100 percent. According to Real Estate Agent Kelly Walsh at Adams Realtors, “A renovated kitchen will bring a 75 percent return on investment, which is the largest return for any renovation.” Appraisers have a tough time with adjustments for green upgrades because they must find similar green upgrades on neighborhood homes that have sold recently. Real Estate Valuation Certified Appraiser Gary Johnson says, “As demand for energy efficient homes increases, and more homes in your neighborhood have the features, the easier it will be to find comps to support the value of the upgrades.” So if you’re concerned about resale value, consider upgrades others in the neighborhood are doing as well.
Green aesthetics: beautification saved from landfills. Green aesthetic updates have brought a new “cool factor” to homes. Buyers love a home with functioning character that sets it apart from the competition. Kara O’Brien of Kara O’Brien Renovations, LLC turns parts of salvaged buildings into new things. “We build custom doors, cabinets and vanities from antique wood that would have gone to a landfill, like beams from an 1840’s cotton mill, and 80-year-old science lab countertops from high schools and colleges.”
Bottom line. Pick the green upgrades that you will enjoy the most while you live in the home. That’s the direction the market is heading. In the long run, the benefits will far outweigh their costs.