Your new house might have a pretty big environmental footprint. Buildings, including homes, account for nearly 40 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Now that you own your home, you can plan remodeling and renovation projects to make your living space more environmentally conscious.
Insulate Your Walls
Insulate your home and use less energy to heat and cool it. Newer homes tend to come with insulation, but they might benefit from more. Older homes tend to have less insulation. The Department of Energy recommends a home inspection to learn the R-value of the insulation before you add more. R-value is the resistance to heat; the job of insulation is to keep heat on the correct side of the wall (out in summer, in during winter). First check with your local utility company to see if it offers free home inspections for heating efficiency. If not, they might have a list of recommended contractors whom you can pay to inspect your home.
Add Window Treatments
Window treatments can also help you reduce your heating and cooling costs, while making your home look a bit more stylish. Hang roman blinds or a pair of thick curtains in your windows to block the heat in the summer and keep cold air from seeping in through the windows in winter. Keep the shades or blinds lowered or the curtains drawn in the summer to efficiently reduce heat gain. Drapes with a white backing can reduce heat gain in the summer up to 33 percent, according to the Department of Energy.
Choose Better Materials
Cabinets made from particle board might be held together with a formaldehyde-based glue, which is a carcinogen and pollutant that contributes to smog and reduces indoor air quality.
To reduce your exposure to formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds, choose cabinets and other materials that are formaldehyde-free. If you use wood cabinets instead of particle board or fiberboard, look for woods that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means the wood came from a forest that is managed in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way.
Other materials, such as flooring and counters, are available in renewable and sustainable sources such as cork and bamboo, as well as recycled rubber and stone.
Dispose of Appliances Properly
Upgrading the older appliances found in your new home is a simple way to improve your home’s interior and cut the amount of energy it uses. Look for new appliances that have the Energy Star label, because they use around 15 percent less energy than non-labeled appliances. When you get new appliances, don’t just chuck the old model out with the garbage. Find out the proper disposal procedures for your area. Older appliances, such as refrigerators, can contain hazardous materials, including mercury and oil. Some stores will pick up and dispose of old appliances for you, or you might be able to recycle them with your municipality.