Living green has many advantages – you’re doing your part to stop climate change, all while saving money by reducing power consumption. Green living can also be extraordinarily comfortable.
Sadly, most homes weren’t designed green, and to start living green, you’ll need home renovations.
In this brief guide, we’re not going to talk about new, green appliances and fixtures. Those are incredibly important, and we highly recommend them – they’re just not the focus of the article.
Instead, we’ll talk about the building envelope and renewable energy generation through solar panel use. But first, let’s take a brief moment to consider how you can make any renovation project a little bit greener.
Making the Renovation Process Green
When you’re renovating your home in an effort to live greener, you might also take the time to do some renovations that aren’t necessarily green. Changing your floor plan, getting new flooring, cabinets, and countertops – these types of renovation will usually take place at the same time as any efforts to go green.
Try to make any renovations that aren’t dedicated to green living a little bit greener. You can do this by:
- Avoiding demolition and opting for deconstruction; this leaves more material to be recycled or reused
- Choosing recycled and eco-friendly materials for flooring, etc.
- Buying locally
- Avoiding the use of heavy machinery when possible
With those in mind, let’s talk about green renovations themselves.
Renovating the Building Envelope
The vast majority of ongoing energy costs for any building come from heating and cooling. That means any efforts to reduce the need for heating and cooling will lead to fewer carbon emissions.
The principles that allow for heating and cooling without energy expenditure are known as “passive heating and cooling”. They generally employ some combination of insulation with principles that allow for more (or less) solar heat gain.
One such example is using big windows that face toward the sun, and utilizing masonry to absorb the sun’s rays. That leads to heat being held in the masonry during the day, being released at night when it’s cooler.
That’s pretty extensive renovation work, and if it’s outside your budget, that’s okay. Opting for better insulation, on its own, can seriously reduce your energy consumption.
The principle of superinsulation applies here. Basically, you want to go way beyond the recommended R-values for your region, insulating your home so that there’s virtually no airflow – and virtually no heat transfer.
From there, you can use an energy recovery ventilator to ensure that the air in your home doesn’t get stale, all while continuing to virtually eliminate heat transfer. With so little transfer of heat, your home will be at an even room temperature all year round in some climates.
Renovating With Solar Panels
Solar panels are the go-to when it comes to renewable energy. They’re much less expensive than they were a decade ago – and much more efficient.
Before installing solar panels, you should check that your power supplier offers net metering or a similar power buying scheme. The principle is simple: you sell power to the utility, they credit you for the power they buy, and in the winter, when your solar panels generate less electricity, you use your credits to purchase power from the utility.
New panels are also incredibly versatile – you can install solar modules on almost any home. The renovation process is pretty simple – if you’re looking to install an energy-efficient roof, you can inquire about the best slope for solar panels. You could even opt to install solar tiles!
Some other renovations might be necessary if you’re looking to install solar panels. For example, if you don’t have net metering, you might need a solar battery, and you’ll need an appropriate location to house it.
You might not have a roof that’s suitable for solar panels – in these cases, you may be able to install a ground array instead. Talk to a number of different solar panel installation companies. Get quotes for panels, estimates on how much energy the panels will generate, and advice on where to put them.
There are so many different green renovations you can do, it would be impossible to list them all here. If you’re interested in more tips on how you can renovate your home for greener living, keep reading our blog – we have tons of resources for you!
Author: Pat Gray