More Canadian homeowners are looking for ways to increase sustainability through home improvement projects. Environmentally conscious decisions will not only help you reduce energy costs, they can also help you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce your carbon footprint, and help save the planet.
The Oxford Dictionary defines sustainability as the “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” What that means to you depends on your level of commitment to change, your ability to make modifications to your current home, and your budget. Green renovations will require a financial investment and should be weighed against market values in your neighbourhood.
We’ve assembled a list of eco-friendly projects that will help you achieve a higher level of sustainability, make your home more comfortable, and save money on utility bills.
Seal Air Leaks and Insulate
You’ll ensure quick results when you reduce air leaks and increase insulation in your home. Focus on sealing air leaks to the attic, foundation, and around windows and doors. Use caulking, insulation, and weatherstripping where needed to prevent cold air from leaking in and heat from leaking out. Start with the roof and make sure it doesn’t have any visible damage. If you have any concerns about roof leaks schedule a consultation from your local roofers.No more drafts means a more comfortable home and lower heating bills.
The same goes for adding extra insulation. The key is to improve R-values in attics, walls, and floors (especially those over unheated basements, and crawlspaces.) Want to kick your project up a notch? Add radiant heat under hard-surface flooring like ceramic tile and porcelain. Not only will your floors feel comfortable underfoot, you may be able to lower the thermostat a couple degrees also.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Save money in winter and summer by installing a programmable thermostat (and using it.) Establish a pre-set schedule for automatically setting the temperature up or down (depending on the season) while you’re away from home or while you’re asleep.
Did you know that by adjusting your thermostat 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day, you can save up to 10-percent a year on your heating and cooling bills? You’re also saving natural resources toward a more sustainable home.
Install Double-Glazed Windows
A leading consultant at Ecoline Windows Calgary recommends replacing old, leaky windows with double-glazed units to achieve maximum energy efficiency and minimize noise. The sealed air gap between the two glass panes improves thermal resistance for less heat loss. Add Low-E glass coatings and/or Argon gas fills for even more UV protection. For extreme climate conditions, install triple-glazed windows to obtain the ultimate efficiency and comfort.
Utilize the Sun
Passive and active solar home improvement designs can use the sun’s energy to heat and cool your home.
- Passive solar designs are simple to do and don’t require mechanical or electrical devices to transfer the energy.
- A large glass window should face within 30 degrees of true south and should be unobstructed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the cold season.
- A hard, dark surface like a masonry wall or floor should be in the direct sunlight, absorbed as heat, then stored as thermal mass to be radiated back into the home at night.
- Active solar designs include photovoltaic arrays that are installed on your roof. Ideal placement is on a south-facing surface to absorb the sun’s rays and converted to electricity. There are many common misconceptions about solar power, but it is possible that if you connect all your home’s systems like water heating, lighting and other electrical needs, you can go off the grid and achieve a truly sustainable home. Initial costs can be substantial but some municipalities offer solar incentive programs to offset the cost.
Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances and Plumbing Fixtures
You’re probably familiar with Energy Star certification labels on appliances but may not realize how much has changed in the last few years. Stricter guidelines have been established to meet Energy Star standards so you can trust your new refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer will all use less energy than the current models you have.
The same goes for faucets, toilets and other plumbing fixtures where water conservation is a primary goal. Low-flow toilets that use just a gallon of water, faucets that use 1.2 gallons of water per minute, and shower heads that provide 1.8 gallons of water per minutes which is enough to comfortably shower without wasting any.
Swap Incandescent Light Bulbs for Eco-Bulbs
With the Canadian government banning the majority of energy-guzzling incandescent light bulbs in 2014 and 2015, you’ll want to swap them out for Energy Star LED or CFL versions. Although the initial investment is more than the old bulbs, they last 15 times longer and use 70-90 percent less energy. That means you can save $100 per bulb over its lifespan.
Use Non-Toxic Materials, Minimize Waste and Recycle
Home improvement projects generate a lot of waste and debris. Minimize excess trash by repurposing products—repaint old cabinets, refinish hardwood flooring, donate old countertops, windows, doors, trim moldings or extra building materials to a reuse centre, or even purchase home improvement items from a reuse centre to save money and save on waste.
Improve air quality and reduce toxins by repainting with low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products. These dangerous chemical additives off-gas for years after the paint has dried and can cause health problems. Replace carpeting with sustainable bamboo flooring. Carpet fibres also contain VOCs so by installing the extremely durable bamboo flooring, you’ll be improving air quality and using a natural, energy-efficient hard surface product.
By being more energy-conscious with product use and selections, you can achieve more sustainable housing through home improvements. More green products are being developed as manufacturers work toward offering eco-friendly options. If you set a goal of becoming more environmentally responsible, the earth will be a better place for everyone to live now and in the future.