If you’re planning to remodel your home this year, think green. From installing energy-efficient windows to painting with no VOC paint, you’ve got dozens of options for sprucing up your home in ways that are eco-friendly and friendly to your pocketbook, too. We’ve teamed up with Thompson Creek Window Company, an ENERGY STAR partner and avid recycler, to offer this step-by-step guide to green home remodeling you’ll love.
1) Research Your Options
The more you know about the choices you have, the better your choices will be. When it comes to being green, you can easily find healthy paint, sustainable flooring, formaldehyde-free furniture, upholstery that does not contain fire retardants, energy-efficient lighting, windows and doors, energy- and water-saving appliances, even landscaping that saves water and creates native habitat.
2) Make a File, Scrapbook or Pinterest Page
Collect ideas in a file, make an idea scrapbook, or create some Pinterest pages from pins you find on other green home and design pages. Tear pictures out of magazines or write down ideas and organize them into folders by topic or room. Take your files when you meet with your designer so she/he can get a sense not just of what you need functionally, but also what kind of styles you like and what priorities you’ve set for going green.
3) Figure Out Your Budget
Do you have a fixed budget you need to design and build around? Or are you driven by the project itself and will figure out costs once you know what you want? Where can you make trade-offs that will still get you what you want at a price you can afford? For example, while you may not be able to afford solar paneling for your entire home, you can buy more energy-efficient windows and products that lower your bottom line.
4) Investigate Local, State & Federal Tax Credits
Tax credits allow you to deduct a portion of your green construction costs from your annual income taxes. These are usually used to offset the cost of upgrading the energy features on your home so you will save energy overall. They could cover some of the cost of installing solar collectors, retroffiting windows, and adding insulation to your attic, walls, and crawl spaces.
5) Look for Utility Rebates
Many utilities pay rebates when you trade in an older model refrigerator, furnace or air conditioner. When I traded in my refrigerator, the utility company paid me $50 to pick up my old one and recycle it, and $150 for buying the most energy-efficient model in the size I needed. Check your utility’s website for rebates available in your area.
6) Hire a Green Team to Draw Up Your Plans
Find an architect or design/build company that is experienced in green home remodelling. Lots of companies will say they’re green because it’s so popular. You want to see examples of what they’ve actually done. Get a couple of competitive bids from design companies in your area, but choose not only based on price but also on quality of work. Make sure you check their references and if possible, see some of the actual remodels they’ve done. Then start having fun with the actual design. Your team will draw up plans and handle getting permits.
7) Use Green Subcontractors
During your remodel you don’t have to exclusively use green builders but see if your contractor can help you find professionals and companies that are committed to your green goals.
8) Choose Non-Toxic Eco-Friendly Building Materials
Many pressed wood products contain formaldehyde, a toxic chemical that is linked to cancer. Wall-to-wall carpeting and some upholstery may be treated with fire retardants. Go to showrooms, visit green festivals in your area, and search “green building materials” online. Most paint companies offer any color you want in a no VOC option, which will reduce the fumes that cause headaches and flu-like symptoms some people get when their homes are painted with conventional paint.
9) Make Saving Energy a Priority
One way green home remodeling pays for itself is through lower energy bills. Beef up the insulation in your attic, walls and crawl spaces. Choose lighting that can use highly efficient LED bulbs. Install a smart thermostat to make it easy to save energy when you’re not home. Install double- or triple-paned windows that keep hot air out in the summer and warmed air in in the winter. Pick overhangs, curtains, blinds, and shades that will boost window efficiency.
10) Minimize Waste During Demolition and Construction
Much of what you would normally throw away during demolition and construction can actually be recycled, that includes carpeting, and wood, old windows. In fact, in 2014, Thompson Creek diverted over 550 tons of raw materials away from landfills and into recycling programs for reuse and redistribution. Don’t forget to donate what can still be used. For example, Habitat for Humanity will often take old but functional cabinets. You can upcycle, too – turn old windows into cold frames for the garden; recycle wood from the construction into wood chips.
11) Document and Share
Throughout the process, take pictures that you can pin on Pinterest or post on Facebook. Or, write an article for your local newspaper. What you’re doing is important and can inspire others to do the same.
Thompson Creek Window Company is committed to saving energy and natural resources. Not only do all their windows exceed the 2015 ENERGY STAR criteria, but they are committed to reducing the amount of waste they send to the landfills. You can learn more about your window options and how to recycle your materials here.