The nearly endless variety of green building options is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s one of the happiest thoughts in the world to know that any project in any style can be completed in a green way. Virtually every traditional building material has an earth-friendly alternative, and the number of options for resource-efficient products grows every day. But on the other hand, when it comes to green building or remodeling projects, it can be tough to even know where to start! You probably know that eco-friendly building involves many components, like energy efficiency and sustainable manufacturing. But where do you go from there? As long as you know these mistakes to avoid when you’re building or remodeling a green home, you’ll be golden.
15 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Building or Remodeling a Green Home
1: Buying Incandescent Bulbs
This mistake just has to be at the top of the list, because it’s so ridiculously easy to avoid. Knowing the benefits of LED bulbs is enough to realize they’re a total no-brainer. While LEDs can initially be slightly more costly than incandescents, they last 20x longer — you won’t have to change your bulbs for over twenty years! Can you imagine?
On top of their incredible lifespan, LEDs are ultra-efficient and require a miniscule amount of energy as compared to incandescent bulbs. This incredible energy efficiency is what makes them such a staple in green building projects. And let’s not forget the style factor — companies like Nanoleaf are creating some truly incredible LED home design options, and gorgeous, one-of-a-kind LED bulbs to boot!
2: Building Too Big
The bigger a home gets, the more energy is required to heat and cool it. If you truly want to build green, build only as big as you absolutely need. Unused rooms don’t benefit you at all, but they’ll tack on more energy costs to your monthly bills. We recommend planning for future expansions rather than building rooms you won’t need from the get-go. This goes for remodeling, too — before you make any expansions to your home, make sure you’ve exhausted the possibilities of using the space you currently have. Plus, finding creative ways to make use a small space is where some of the best green building magic happens. It’s possible to build small space-wise, while thinking BIG design-wise!
3. Foregoing Energy-Efficient Windows
The most beautiful rooms make use of large windows as focal points, letting in plenty of natural light to warm and brighten the space. But old windows can be the culprits behind some serious energy consumption costs. The importance of having energy-efficient windows, or windows that will stop valuable heated or cooled air from escaping your home, can’t be stressed enough. Leaky windows translate into wasted energy, since HVAC systems will need to work harder to maintain the desired temperature. Even super-efficient HVAC systems can’t make up for poorly insulated windows. Choose ENERGY STAR-certified windows to ensure you’re getting the best money can buy. Replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR-certified windows lowers household energy bills by an average of 12%. Amazing!
A huge bonus to installing energy-efficient windows: an incredible return on investment. The cost of installing the right windows may pay for itself in just one year, some sources suggest. On the National Association of Realtors scale of home improvements, replacement windows are ranked high, estimating that the home can increase in value by as much as 97% of the cost of the windows in just one year.
4: Avoiding Contractors
Whether or not you need the help of a contractor depends on your project. But for a large-scale build or remodel that involves things like installing a roof, hanging drywall, or rewiring electric, you’ll be glad you called in the professionals. Building and remodeling can be expensive, and cutting costs is usually a plus. But not when it comes to contractors! Don’t avoid a contractor just to save some money. A professional will make sure the project is done right and built to last. And when it comes to choosing the right contractor, make sure you look for a contractor that already knows the ins and outs of green building. A contractor who’s up to speed on green building techniques or technologies will know which products to choose for an eco-friendly build that’s in your budget!
5: Not Looking Into Tax Rebates and Incentives
Building green can put some serious money back in your pocket if you know where to look! Plenty of federal and state-level tax incentives are available for nearly every green building project. You can be partially reimbursed for eco-friendly choices like:
- High-efficiency interior lighting
- Energy-efficient building envelopes
- Efficient heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems
- Efficient water heating systems
- Renewable energy (like solar or micro-hydro)
- Geothermal systems
- ENERGY STAR appliances
We’re lucky to have a wide variety of rebates at our fingertips. Don’t hesitate to make use of them!
6: Ignoring the Sun’s Potential
You don’t need a solar power system to make good use of the sun’s rays! Too many homes are built without consideration of where sunlight will hit the home the most. But the way a house is oriented to the sun can have a dramatic impact on heating and cooling costs. Taking the sun into consideration can mean huge cost savings for you — and you likely won’t have to spend anything extra. Simply placing windows on the south side of the home, for example, can reduce energy consumption by 10%. Letting the sun in during the winter months will help reduce heating costs, while using overhangs to keep the sun out during the summer will reduce cooling costs.
7: Overlooking the Importance of Insulation
You wouldn’t leave all the windows open during the winter, would you? It would be tragic to see all that precious heated air escape to the frigid winter day outside! But this dreaded temperature transfer happens in poorly insulated homes every day. Insufficient insulation is something that can’t be made up for in other ways; even a home with a top-of-the-line HVAC system and highly efficient windows will lose plenty of heated or cooled air if it’s poorly insulated.
Your HVAC system has to work extra hard to keep your home a desired temperature if much of that desired temperature is escaping to the outdoors — the exact reason why quality insulation translates into energy cost savings. The goal is allowing as little heat transfer between the outdoors and indoors as possible, keeping heat inside during winter and cold air inside during summer. Choose quality insulation with a low temperature transfer factor, and consider insulating your attic, too. And if you’re building from the ground up, we recommend choosing structural insulated panels (SIPs) to make sure your home will have a tight building envelope.
8: Not Choosing ENERGY STAR Appliances
Minimizing your energy consumption is one of the best — and easiest — ways to go green. Saving energy means reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that pollute the environment. It also means saving you plenty of money on your monthly bills. Everyone wins! And since appliances account for most of a home’s energy demands, it’s of utmost importance to choose energy-efficient appliances.
The best way to know that an appliance is energy-efficient? Look for the ENERGY STAR label. In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced ENERGY STAR as a labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This program truly stands alone as the most successful voluntary energy conservation movement in history. ENERGY STAR certified appliances are built to standards that make them energy efficient, saving you money throughout your home.
9: Gutting Everything
Not every remodel project means starting from scratch! Before you tear it all down, make sure you’ve exhausted the possibilities for making use of what’s already there. Working with your existing cabinets, flooring, fixtures, and more rather than buying new materials is one of the best ways to build green. What could be greener than revamping what you already have instead of sending it to the landfill? Focus on using the materials in place to their full extent with your contractor, and you’ll minimize the environmental impact of your build (and save money in the process!).
10: Choosing Conventional Paint
As it turns out, that “new paint smell” is a sign of something you don’t want to be coating your walls with. Most paints contain hazardous VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that are released into the air both as you paint and long after the paint dries. VOCs can have a negative impact on the indoor air quality of your home, causing short-term health issues like headaches and dizziness. The long-term effects are less certain, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some VOCs are suspected carcinogens. Make sure you choose paint with a low VOC content to keep your home as healthy and green as possible!
11: Buying the Product, Not the Company
The increase in popularity of green building means that many companies have started manufacturing green options among their other products. That’s great! But there’s a big difference between buying the product, and buying the company. Buying from a company that is green through and through is always better than choosing the green option from a company’s otherwise not-so-green product line. Truly green companies offer only green products, with a focus on sustainable manufacturing, corporate responsibility, Investing in such a company is the best way to ensure that your money is well spent and will help support earth-friendly efforts.
12: Focusing Only On Aesthetics
With any building or remodeling project, it’s absolutely crucial to consider resale value. True, aesthetic improvements like upgrading kitchen cabinets are one way to increase the value of your home. What homebuyer isn’t interested in finding a home that’s appealing to the eye? But it’s important to place just as much importance on “behind-the-scenes” improvements. If you don’t pay special attention to the things that really matter, like structural damage, electrical wires, and busted pipes, you’re going to face much larger problems later. Potential homebuyers are much more likely to let an outdated bathroom slide if more pressing issues like leaky basements are taken care of. And even if you aren’t planning to sell, you can rest easy knowing that your space isn’t just beautiful — it’s up to date and well-maintained.
13: Not Considering Recycled Materials
There’s something delightful about a building material with recycled content. These products make use of material that would otherwise go to waste, without sacrificing the quality and durability of non-recycled alternatives. Some recycled products actually remove more potential waste from the planet than it takes to produce them, making them waste-negative. Amazing! And we’re pleased to say that almost every single building material, including decking, countertops, and roofing, has a recycled substitute. If you can’t find a recycled product to suit your fancy, make sure to stay focused on choosing sustainably-sourced materials to minimize your project’s environmental impact.
14: Forgetting Eco-Friendly Doors
This is one green building mishap that’s just too easy to avoid. Whether you’re seeking a quaint bathroom door or a bold front entrance, you’ll find that the options for eco-friendly doors are practically endless — everything from reclaimed wood to recycled content. We especially love reclaimed wood doors because of their unmatched individuality. Aged reclaimed lumber features deep beautiful colors and character that can only be achieved with time. Every door is completely unique (and absolutely gorgeous)!
15: Striving For Perfection
In other words: Don’t beat yourself up! A whole-house eco-friendly makeover isn’t in the typical budget. Think about the green renovations that matter the most to you, and stay focused on them. If energy efficiency is your priority, upgrade your appliances; if sustainable materials are your priority, focus on finding sustainably-sourced materials. Going green doesn’t mean doing it all. Your careful selection of eco-friendly materials isn’t cancelled out by your outdated HVAC system — we promise. Pick the projects that mean the most to you, and forget the rest. There’s certainly not going to be anyone shaming you for your earth-friendly efforts!