Greening an Older Home

Jennifer Fredericks August 18, 2015

Greening an Older HomeYour budget dictates that you buy an older home, but your heart wants that home to be environmentally responsible, so what do you do? Here are some ideas for making any home greener. If you plan for these in advance of your purchase, you might just lower your bottom line.

Apply for an energy-efficient mortgage that includes the cost of energy efficient upgrades. You will be required to have an energy audit by an energy rater that reports recommendations for energy efficient upgrades. The potential upgrades include improved insulation levels, energy efficient windows, whole-home systems like heating and cooling, and air leakage. Qualifications for energy-efficient mortgages may include certification that after the improvements the home is more energy efficient and that the upgrades will save more money than is being borrowed to implement them over time.

Other energy-efficient upgrades that save both energy and money include both expensive, big-ticket items and simple DIY projects.

Big Ticket Items:

Add a geothermal heat pump, residential wind turbine, solar energy system, or fuel cell for and get a federal tax credit as well as ongoing savings.

Energy-efficient replacement windows dramatically mitigate the cost of heating and cooling. Not only do they reduce heating and cooling bills, they reduce power consumption during peak load times. Green windows improve personal comfort by reducing drafts and hot spots—areas that heat up due to direct sunlight.

Replace the roof with an energy efficient roof. New roofing materials, designed to drastically reduce household energy use, can minimize greenhouse gas emissions, lower utility bills, and beautify hour home. Some options are cool roofs made of materials that reflect sunlight and heat away from the home. In warmer climates, reflecting away 65 percent of the thermal heat helps keep your home cooler and puts less stress on your cooling system. Low-sloped roofs may benefit from the application of a cool coating or single-ply membrane, while steep-sloped roofs benefit from cool-colored tiles or metal that contains reflective pigments. A more extreme change is a green roof: a roof garden or mini-ecosystem covering an existing roof. Green roofs insulate in colder weather, absorb rainfall, which improves rainwater management, and reduces air pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen.

Energy star rated windows and roofing materials also may qualify for both federal tax rebates and state sales-tax exemptions, or credits or rebates through local energy providers.

Budget-Conscious Items:

Upgrade your appliances to more efficient models and qualify for a rebate through your local energy provider. Appliances that may qualify include refrigerators and dryers, pool pumps, portable room air conditioners, whole-house fans, evaporative coolers, and water heaters.

DIY Projects that Won’t Break the Budget:

If you’re handy or willing to put in some hard work, there are energy efficient projects that are both inexpensive and simple to implement. DIY projects include installing aerators on faucets, replacing weatherstripping, changing out lightbulbs for energy efficient ones, or just simply cleaning your refrigerator’s coils.

If your home has can lights, consider getting a retrofit kit that seals the “can” and improves insulation. You can even change your can lights to more attractive pendants or LED versions to get the most bang for your buck.

Change out your existing ceiling light fixtures for a smart ceiling fan. A “smart” fan is not just well dressed and good-looking, it can reduce heating and cooling costs, sense unoccupied rooms and turn itself off when no one’s around. Just look for the Energy Star rating and install it as directed.

Install a programmable thermostat. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your schedule, can program itself, is controllable with your phone, and might lower heating and cooling bills as much as 20 percent. Other options include adding a tube-style skylight and putting a clothesline in the back yard to reduce dryer use.

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