Support a Healthier Planet with These 8 Environmentally Friendly Home Features

On April 22nd we celebrated Earth Day to raise awareness for environmentally friendly measures to help preserve the planet we call home.

We think that action should begin in our actual homes, by creating eco-conscious environments that not only support our families and lifestyles, but protect our larger surroundings, rather than contribute to their demise.

“Many green investments help save the planet, but they can also save you money over time as you spend less on energy or water,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Even if you decide to sell your home in a few years, potential buyers may be willing to pay more for your home if they know that their energy or water bill will be less than home next door.”

How we build our homes impacts the health of everything around us. They can be costly to maintain and emit substantial waste. Green initiatives, however, can offset those consequences by using fewer resources. Some are simple swaps while others are long term investments that will ultimately save both money and valuable resources.

Read on to get started with eight ways to transform your home to be environmentally friendly, with insight from Redfin experts.

1. Use sustainable, locally-sourced materials whenever possible

This eco-friendly practice uses resources that are abundant in a given region, such as stone, wood, and other natural materials. Other methods include re-purposing and recycling products and reclaimed wood and furniture that previously served another purpose. Many architects and contractors use this process in construction to reduce waste and construct homes with a stronger conscience.

2. Invest in energy-efficient appliances

If you’re looking to buy a home, look for Energy Star certifications, which indicate a home, or the appliances within the home, meet standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These can include energy-efficient appliances designed to require less electricity in the kitchen, as well as HD TVs, heating and cooling devices, and doors and windows. Also known as smart home technology, these amenities include thermostats like the popular Nest system, which enables homeowners to create an environmentally friendly (and budget friendly) ecosystem that conserves energy for heating, cooling and lighting.

3. Consider powering your home with solar panels

Solar panels tap the energy of the sun for an inexpensive way to boost a home’s energy earning and saving potential. Once the initial investment in panels is made, the power of the sun is quite literally free, and can be harnessed to supply the home when you need it most. Adds Redfin agent Paul Reid, “Tech that helps your home use energy more efficiently is more likely to enhance your home’s value. A fully interconnected solar panel system that generates power to backup batteries has a very real and direct impact.”

In addition to powering your home, the sun can also heat it. Solar thermal systems can heat water (or glycol in cold climates) for showers and bathing, as well as doing the dishes and other household activities. Using a solar thermal system is ideal for conservation, as they tend to save owners between 60 to 70 percent a year on heating and utility bills.

4. Use an electric car and install a port to charge it at home

Did you know that if you own an electric car and charge it at home, the cost to run your car over a year can be less than operating your air conditioner? That’s pretty cool stuff. Also cool is knowing that residential charging is convenient, inexpensive, and saves energy from not having to go back and forth to public charging stations. “Electric cars are better for the environment than traditional cars because they don’t emit harmful exhaust fumes that contain carbon monoxide,” said Fairweather. “And you get bonus green points for charging your electric car in your home using electricity from a renewable source like solar panels.”

5. Heat and cool your home efficiently

When heating or cooling your home, it’s easy to let energy go to waste. Poor insulation is often the core factor in determining whether environmentally friendly heating and cooling choices have an impact. Insulation reduces energy expenditure by containing the elements needed to make a home comfortable. Some windows reflect UV rays and heat to keep homes cooler but not darker–like SPF for the house! “I installed tints on the windows of my home,” said Fairweather. “In the summer months it really makes a difference when the sun is beating down. There isn’t nearly as much glare and it keeps the house cooler too.”

You can also save on heating costs by heating only the rooms you use instead of the whole house. “My home was built in the 1950s and originally had an oil-heater,” continued Fairweather. “We replaced that dirty heating system with mini-split electric heat pumps that have temperature control for each room. The carbon impact from electric heat is less than oil, and we are able to use less energy because we only heat the bedrooms at night and aren’t wasting energy heating empty rooms.”

6. Conserve more water

While droughts are most prevalent in certain areas, water is still a precious resource we all need. Investing in water conservation tools helps protect it, and will save money if you plan on gardening in summer. Smart irrigation systems are tailored down to soil and light conditions and may even know to prepare for impending inclement weather.

7. Look for LEED certification

LEED, or, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, means that a building is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as built using efficient, sustainable materials. If you’re considering buying a new construction home, look to work with architects and contractors who specialize in environmentally friendly LEED building. A global symbol of sustainability, holding the certification may a higher resale value, while also supporting healthier and cost-efficient living.

8. Replace traditional bulbs with more efficient lighting

LED stands for light-emitting diode, and is a smart way to light your home. Highly energy efficient, they have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs, delivering anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours. Because they are replaced less frequently, they can lower your carbon footprint while saving cash. And of course, there’s always natural light, which is gorgeous and free.

Want more help going green? Redfin recently ranked the “greenest” cities based on metro areas according to the percentage of all homes for sale mentioning the keyword ‘green.’ We also incorporated Redfin’s Transit Score® to highlight the places where public transit is available, convenient, and in effect, environmentally friendly. Click here to read the full report.