If you’re working on home renovations or even just wanting to swap out an appliance or two, you may be considering how to be more earth conscious with your purchase. Great! The base layers of homes have so many more options for sustainable and earth-friendly products now, and a lot of times your decision to use them can save you some energy costs down the line! In this post we’ll talk about finding eco-friendly options for the mechanicals, flooring, and lighting in your home. Be sure to check out our other Eco-Friendly posts via the links below!
Most mechanical updates for your home that make a big impact on energy savings are a larger upfront cost, but they’re effective in bringing down your utility bills, and their longevity means that you can save lots in the long run!
Investing in high efficiency appliances has an upfront cost but will help reduce your utility bills and be better for the planet. Often EnergyStar appliances are eligible for discounts through your electric or gas provider like ComEd or People’s Gas. Check your provider’s website for appliances and things like smart thermostats to get deals on products that ultimately save you money and help the environment!
If you have the budget to install solar panels, these are a great way to transition your home to renewable energy, and they’re a lot more efficient than they used to be, meaning you don’t necessarily have to cover your entire house to get the benefits from them. Some cities have tax incentives for installing them too.
Proper insulation in your home is another great way to save energy, because it helps your furnace or air conditioner to work less, saving energy and saving you money. It’s a bigger upfront cost, but most insulation now can last 20 years or more! You can purchase spray foam insulation, which is one of the most energy efficient types. Even though it’s made of plastic, it saves so much energy and lasts long enough to make a positive impact. Insulation made from recycled materials and natural materials like wool are also available.
Energy saving windows and glass are also great options. Dual pane windows help provide an insulation barrier in a space that would normally release the heat in the winter or amplify the heat outside in the summer.
Flooring made of natural and quick renewing materials like cork are a great option for less impact on the earth. A lot of cork flooring now comes as a cork interior with a veneer on top, so you can achieve the look of a hardwood or stone, but with less harm to the planet and added insulation!
Wood flooring made from recycled wood or from fast growing plants like bamboo are another great option. Even though wood itself is a natural resource, our consumption of it is often faster than its ability to regrow, so it’s important to use it carefully and understand where it’s coming from. The plus side to hardwood is it’s durability. When properly taken care of, hardwood floors can last hundreds of years.
If you’re using carpeting, there are more options available now for less harmful carpeting. We’re seeing options made with fewer chemicals, plastics, and harsh adhesives. You can also utilize carpet padding that is made from recycled materials, or purchase carpet that needs less padding already. If you’re using rugs, recycled materials or natural materials will have less impact on the environment—we love a good jute rug. Plus they are better for people with sensitive skin, since they don’t have chemicals used on them that can offgas for several years after the purchase.
One of the quickest ways you can lower your electricity bill and help the environment is by switching the types of lighting you’re using. LEDs are now available in pretty much any color and bulb type you can think of, and because of their demand over the years, they’ve become less expensive. There will still be a higher upfront cost than even purchasing a CFL bulb, which also has less impact on the environment, but LEDs can last much longer and make a greater impact on the electric bill.
Switching your lighting to smart lighting is another great energy saver. You can do this by either installing smart bulbs into light fixtures in your home, or you can install smart switches and make any lightbulb automatically a smart one – this second option is less upfront cost, but a bit more work than just screwing in a different bulb. Most smart lighting is connected through a smart phone app, and allows you to dim lights, turn them off from anywhere, and even monitor their energy usage.
Finally, you can utilize natural light – we know this can be a tricky one, especially in cities like Chicago where buildings are very close to one another, it can be hard to get light from windows, even if you have lots of them. If you have the ability to add things like skylights or widen a window to let more natural light in, this will automatically help cut down the excessive need for lightbulbs. Like we mentioned earlier, just make sure the windows you invest in are at least double pane and are eco-efficient themselves, or you’ll undo the cost savings by the heat or air conditioning they let out. I know I can’t change the windows in my rental apartment, so even something simple like pushing my curtains back as much as possible during the day helps the natural light to stream in.
Starting here when thinking about home renovations will have a big impact on your space, the environment, and your energy bills. Triple win! Plus, with a growing demand for sustainable products in every aspect of home decor, there are more and more options being produced, meaning there’s no sacrifice in style. How have you been choosing green items in your space? We want to know!
PS – Haven did an entire Tuesday at Two session on eco-friendly home design, that you can watch in full here!