Let 2016 go down as the year of the green remodel! This year, homeowners are overwhelmingly opting to install products and materials that save energy and reduce their environmental impact. In fact, when the National Association of Home Builders surveyed homeowners this year, they found that green features topped the list of homebuyer preferences.
Inspired homeowners are making many changes that include the switch to more eco-friendly appliances and materials when they remodel. Here are some of the freshest and greenest trends for the year, that you can make, too—whether it is a brand-new appliance or a major addition—as sustainable and low-impact as possible.
Smarter Appliances, Greener Appliances
For many homeowners, giving their homes an energy update is as simple as switching out old, wasteful appliances for newer, more efficient replacements. Installing ENERGY-STAR-rated devices, like washers, dryers, water heaters, dishwashers, refrigerators and water heaters, is popular among those remodeling—and these products were some of the most requested green updates buyers sought out in new homes, according to the NAHB’s findings. There are also new options available for those hoping to cut energy costs or water use in their homes. Smart thermostats and automated lighting controls, for instance, while still relatively new, can save homeowners around 10 percent on their energy bills, according to the Consumer Technology Association. With more smart products available on the market than ever before, you can expect a huge increase in installations in the near future.
Upcycling Goes Mainstream
This year, homeowners are paying more attention to the “re-use” part of the three R’s of conservation, meaning a huge increase in reclaimed materials used in home remodels. Dressers missing drawers are re-envisioned as bookcases, bureaus find new life as islands, chests are transformed into kitchen islands. Reclaimed wood is particularly popular, and materials from old homes, discarded pallets, or salvage stores have made their way into weathered bookcases and stately shiplap walls, allowing homeowners to perfectly capture a mixture of old-world industrial and trendy rustic.
With the potential to save homeowners up to 25 percent on their heating bills, windows today do a lot more than just look pretty. In particular, homeowners looking to pare down energy expenditures have gravitated to a bevy of new, energy-efficient window models—triple-pane windows, which feature panes with a third panel of glass to help insulate homes, or argon in the spaces between panes with better insulation qualities than the air that is typically used. Low-E (emmisivity)glass coatings, reflect heat back into a home’s interior; and other treatments can reflect light and heat away to the exterior. Residential window glass is the essential ingredient in a wide range of forthcoming tech, as well; developers imagine using it for everything from organic photovoltaics to third-wave computing. So expect new advances for window technologies in the years to come.
Solar Energy’s Bright Future
It’s been a banner year for solar PV power, due mainly to the historically low cost of solar panels across the US. Solar energy systems are no longer a niche item, reserved for the rich or the extremely energy conscious—they have become much more commonplace and mainstream. Initial estimates show that solar panels reached record installation numbers in the first quarter of 2016, a trend that’s not expected to slow. This is especially true since the federal government has extended the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which returns homeowners up to 30 percent of their system costs, out through the end of 2022. As systems grow more popular, you can expect PV panel prices to drop further as installers and manufacturers compete for residential dollars. That should make the next six years a very interesting time indeed, for the solar industry and homeowners alike.
Greener Means More Water-wise
With reports of record-level droughts making the news, homeowners are turning an eye to their home’s water consumption, and that means moving beyond low-flush toilets to newer water efficiency measures, like WaterSense labeled faucets, better water heaters, and more efficient dishwashers. Residents have also been considering their landscaping water use, and so have invested in water harvesting systems, drought-tolerant plants and trees, and alternatives to grass lawns, like xeriscaping and hardscaping. Considering that the EPA estimates that around one-third of residential water use goes directly to lawn-care, these changes stand to have a huge impact.
Homes are definitely getting smarter and greener overall, and with any luck, these developments won’t be just passing trends—they’ll signal a new eco-conscious era in homeownership.
Erin Vaughan Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big eco-friendly home projects with confidence.
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