10 best ways to ‘go green’ when building or remodeling in NH
A number of options are well-suited for all prices ranges and needs
Are you thinking of taking your space to a green level? Eco-friendly homes, otherwise known as green homes, have become a popular choice as they’re energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
But where should you start, and what’s the best way to “go green”? On the lower investment end, you’ll find simple additions can have a big impact, such as energy-efficient windows and doors, Energy Star appliances and lighting, and water-saving bathroom fixtures. Major additions such as solar panels will make your home more energy efficient but require a larger financial commitment.
Whether you’re building or remodeling, here are the 10 best ways to “go green” in the Granite State.
1. Rethink typical insulation choices
First and foremost, it is good practice to meet or exceed code-minimum standards for insulation R-values and provide excellent air-sealing throughout the building envelope. (R-value measures how well building insulation materials can resist heat. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulation performance.)
Consider cellulose insulation, which is wood- or paper-based and a common eco-friendly choice. You can also opt for loose-fill cellulose insulation, which is similar to spray foam and is blown onto the wall.
Looking for something a little different? Not as common, but you can consider trying shredded denim or cotton or sheep’s wool, which are not only considered green but also cost effective. The fibers in sheep’s wool form pockets that trap air (plus, wool is water-resistant), and cotton scraps can be recycled into insulation at the end of the denim manufacturing process.
Some energy-saving measures like ceiling and wall insulation are easier to install in a new build. If you think you may want to make your new home green someday, talk to your builder about it now — you may be able to avoid costly and bothersome renovations in the future if you invest in building green from the beginning.
2. Choose locally sourced materials
You’ve probably heard the phrase “buy local” when it comes to food, but have you considered this method when it comes to building materials? Since locally sourced materials don’t have to travel too far and usually use less packaging, you’re doing your part to reduce the environmental impact — all the while supporting local businesses. Plus, it will help cut down on the 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year that shipping generates.
3. Save the trees
When it comes to landscaping, consider going green by keeping or adding some green. Well-placed leaf trees can provide some much-needed shade in the summer and allow sun through during the colder months, which can reduce your electricity and/or fuel bills. Plus, greenery offers a host of environmental benefits, including improving air quality, reducing stormwater runoff and creating wildlife habitats.
4. Consider solar panels
Solar panels for generating electricity or domestic hot water production are a popular choice in sunshine-filled environments such as California. But just because New England winters are long, it doesn’t mean you should automatically discount this alternative energy source. While the cost can vary, especially depending on location and which company you choose, it’s a great way to go green and save money on energy bills. You can also earn tax incentives and rebates, such as the residential energy efficient property credit, which can help offset the initial cost. Search for local incentives in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
5. Build smaller with the right layout
A home with minimal square footage can still provide you with the comfort and essentials you desire. Many eco-friendly homes feature open-concept floor plans, which make smaller spaces appear bigger while maximizing heating and cooling airflow options. Open floor plans also allow for more ventilation, which means you may be able to cut down on your electricity bills.
6. Install a metal roof
A metal roof is long-lasting and durable, which is essential for cold and snowy New England weather. A metal roof often needs fewer repairs than a traditional one, so you’ll spend less money and need fewer materials to keep your roof in working order. They’re also energy efficient since they reflect solar radiant heat, and they’re 100% recyclable — unlike their traditional counterparts. While they are more costly (sometimes as much as two or three times the expense), you can consider a home improvement loan if you want to update your roof but don’t have enough funds to cover the total cost.
7. Build a house that’s compatible with smart technology
Save energy with thermostats you can control from your phone, which allow you to adjust the temperature automatically or remotely. Smart lighting, such as fixtures and bulbs, can turn off automatically at a pre-determined time. Consider installing smart appliances such as Energy Star-certified refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, and air conditioners.
8. Consider renewable and “green” materials
There are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing eco-friendly building materials. Looking for flooring options? Consider resilient and sustainable products like bamboo or luxury vinyl flooring. What about paints, stains and finishes? Look for non-toxic stains and sealers and paint that’s free from (or contains low amounts of) Volatile Organic Compounds. Other options for your home include dual-pane, low-emittance windows; certified wood from sustainable forests; recycled rubber and tile; and salvaged wood planks.
9. Research alternative and renewable heat sources
Heat is a must for New Hampshire homes, but there are alternatives such as pellet or wood stoves that not only provide ambiance but also give your furnace a much-needed break. Solar heating, electric air-source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps, and radiant flooring are other environmentally friendly alternatives.
10. Build to the Energy Star home standard
Energy Star homes must use at least 20% less energy than a standard code compliant built home. Many of the previously mentioned suggestions are required to meet the Energy Star standard. Lower energy usage means a lower carbon footprint and significant savings in your energy usage costs. Homebuilders that specialize in Energy Star put the same attention to detail in all areas of new home construction.
Whether you’re building new or renovating an existing space, there are all kinds of possibilities when it comes to achieving a green home that’s comfortable, enjoyable, eco-friendly and, most important, suited to your needs.
Geoff Spitzer is vice president of commercial design, planning and pre-construction at Chinburg Properties in Newmarket.