Whether you’re planning a full remodel or a light makeover, there are many ways to go green. Going green can have a variety of meanings – from using environmentally friendly products that last longer, use less energy, and require less maintenance, to selecting products that have been manufactured to minimize environmental impact. In many cases you can achieve all these goals with a little bit of research and some careful planning.
Your research can begin with online searches for energy efficient products and techniques relating to the kind of remodeling you’re considering. Many big-box home improvement chains now carry a significant number of energy efficient and environmentally friendly products in a wide range of product categories. Energy Star rated appliances are one familiar example. But many are more subtle and require additional research on your part.
Over time, a homeowner/remodeler will start to become familiar with ways to identify these products. Look for phrases like:
“Contains 90% post-consumer recycled content” (a higher percentage means more material has been recycled)
“Low-VOC” (stands for volatile organic compounds – often found in paint)
“Low-E” (stands for low emissivity – a characteristic of window glass that reflects radiant energy)
But for weekend remodeling projects, the opportunities to go green are abundant. Here are three great examples.
1 – Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile has many environmentally friendly qualities. A ceramic tile floor doesn’t have to be refinished like a wood floor does, meaning less maintenance over time. It’s also easier to keep clean than many types of floors, resulting in a healthier overall environment. Unlike many types of carpet, ceramic tile won’t release fumes or fibers into the air. New types of thin-depth tile can eliminate the need to tear out the old tile, meaning you’ll lessen the amount of material that needs to go to the landfill. And many ceramic tiles now consist of a portion of recycled material. Look for tiles that indicate they incorporate “pre-consumer and post-consumer waste products.”
2 – Low-E Windows and Window Film
Low-E (or low emissivity) windows and window film are a great way to reduce energy consumption in summer and winter. Low-E windows incorporate a thin film coating on the window surface which is designed to reduce the transmission of thermal energy through the glass – for example, keeping hot air out in the summertime. Low-E windows cost a little bit more than non Low-E windows, but you’ll see the difference in the energy bills. Not looking to install brand new windows? Many home improvement stores now carry Low-E film you can purchase and install on existing windows, thereby achieving a similar effect.
3 – Energy Efficient Ceiling Fans
Energy efficient ceiling fans keep you cool in the summertime. By pushing air down in the living space, a reversible ceiling fan can also help keep you warm in the wintertime. They cost less to run than air conditioners and use less energy. Look for a ceiling fan with an Energy Star label. Need to upgrade your existing ceiling fan? Many stores carry upgrade kits that let you improve your existing ceiling fan without replacing it.