Greening your home renovation doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking. Many energy-saving upgrades will pay for themselves over the life of the home. Additionally, when it comes to recouping your expenses at the sale of the property, eco-friendly features give you a competitive edge, which you can possibly turn into a net gain at closing. Check out these key ways to keep your renovation project on the environmental up and up and maybe save some cash in the process.

Insulation and weather stripping

When choosing insulation, opt for the highest R-rating appropriate for your area. R-ratings are the industry measurement for insulation thickness. The higher the R-rating, the thicker the insulation and the better job it does regulating temperatures throughout your home. If you aren't ready to replace old doors and windows, consider shoring up leaks with some inexpensive weather-stripping.

Energy-efficient appliances

The U.S. Department of Energy gives an ENERGY STAR-rating to home appliances that are energy efficient. When you're shopping for new appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR logo and compare estimated annual operating costs.

Water-conserving fixtures

Low-flow doesn't necessarily mean low-pressure. Modern water-efficient fixtures offer comfort and conservation. Look for low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets or add aerators to existing fixtures to save on your annual water costs.

On-site energy generation

Solar panels and residential wind turbines are definitely on the high end of energy-saving upgrades. If you've already made your home as efficient as possible and are looking for ways to consume even less, on-site generation may be the solution for you. Look for regional, state and federal incentive programs to help with financing or tax breaks on the cost of your generation system. If your utility offers a net metering program you can even get paid for the energy you feed back into the grid. The greatest advantage to generating your own electricity is in having a reliable alternative power source for when the grid goes down.

Green-scape your space

Planting native vegetation in your yard is not only eco-friendly, it can save you time and money on maintenance. Native plants can thrive with little help from you. You can save money on watering, fertilizing and even seasonal replanting. Bonus: Planting native shade trees near your home can help keep your living space cooler in the summer months and save you money on your electric bill.

Low- or no-VOC products

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are toxic chemicals often found in household paints, primers, lacquers and even some types of carpeting and upholstery. As these compounds break down, they off-gas toxins into the air inside your home. Inhaling these toxins can wreak havoc on your lungs. Choosing low- or no-VOC products helps keep the air inside your home clean and breathable.

Save money while saving the planet

While environmentally responsible renovations may cost more than their standard counterparts, these measures can save you lots of money on home-energy costs over the years, help you breathe easier or even rest easier knowing you've helped conserve precious natural resources. The 2%-4% more that you spend upfront for eco-friendly options can save you more than double that on the back end.

Energy-efficient upgrades can save you anywhere from 5%-50% on home energy costs. Reducing the amount of energy you use saves money without sacrificing your family's comfort.

When it comes to increasing your home's value, eco-friendly upgrades can be a big help. Explore the U.S. Department of Energy's ENERGY STAR home ratings or LEED certification for a whole-home renovation to see if your home could qualify for one of these green endorsements. LEED-certified homes have been reported to have a 9% higher sale price than non-LEED certified homes. The University of California study estimates that a $10,000 investment in green upgrades can raise the resale value of a home an average of $34,800. That ROI is huge, especially when you compare it to an average reported loss of 38% on traditional mid-range projects in 2011-12.

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