Sustainable home changes with impact

| 21st May 2019
Solar panels on a roof
Sustainable improvements for energy efficiency are far more affordable when homeowners take a strategic approach to their changes.

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Homeowners have access to a diverse range of renovations which reduce their carbon emissions and environmental impact. Of these renovations, they'll often choose improvements with the greatest effect on their energy bills. It's a common motivation for investment in energy efficiency, and perfectly valid.

At the same time, some individuals see energy savings as a secondary benefit, not their primary motivation. They're aware of the effects of their energy consumption, and they want to give back — not to themselves, but to the planet. Naturally, these individuals are strategic with the renovations they select.

The question is: Which sustainable home changes are the most beneficial for the environment? When an eco-conscious homeowner is evaluating all of their available options, which among them will make the greatest impact on the planet? We'll look at some of the leading improvements in greater detail.

High-Impact Renovations

As stated earlier, homeowners have access to a diverse range of renovations, many of which are beneficial in reducing their environmental impact. A number of these renovations are familiar, unsurprising on the list of the top three changes below. Others are somewhat unexpected when reviewing the available options.

  1. Solar energy systems: Increasingly common on the rooftops of residential buildings, solar panel installations are an effective means of generating electricity. They help a homeowner minimize their reliance on the grid, drawing energy from the sun as they store it for later use. Provided they have the necessary resources, solar energy systems are powerful, comfortably offsetting the emissions that one fossil fuel automobile produces in a year.
  2. Geothermal heat pump: Lesser known than solar energy systems, but no less impressive, geothermal heat pumps use the earth as a heat source and heat sink. They transfer heat from the earth to warm homes during the colder months, and they transfer heat from a home into the earth during the warmer months. Perhaps best of all, it's possible to combine solar and geothermal systems to amazing effect, with the potential for net-zero communities.
  3. Green roofs: Homeowners who are knowledgeable in energy efficiency understand the immense value of insulation. When they invest in green roofing solutions for their home, they improve their energy efficiency while using an ecologically sound alternative to modern insulation materials. More than this, homeowners can choose to employ eco-friendly materials like recycled newsprint, recycled metal and engineered lumber to structure their green roofs.  

If homeowners are unsure how to proceed, they should consult the relevant resources and seek support from industry professionals. For example, Seth Leitman is an advocate for green living who educates people about sustainability. As they implement his suggestions, homeowners should also look into the subject of tax credits and government incentives for renewable energy.

Government Incentives

Homeowners will enjoy a significant reduction in their installation costs when they pursue renewable energy tax credits. Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, these tax credits are available for solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and fuel cells. The following dates are important.

If a homeowner places a system in service before Dec. 31, 2019, they may save as much as 30 percent on the systems they install. If it's after 31 December 2019, and before Jan. 1, 2021, they may save 26 percent on the costs of their chosen systems. Between 31 December 2020, and 1 January 2022, they can expect to save 22 percent.

Then again, these homeowners still have to qualify for the tax credits. If they intend to invest in a solar panel installation, that system must provide energy for the residence. However, the homeowner can still take advantage of renewable energy tax credits even if the solar panels aren't for their principal residence.

Concerning the installation of geothermal heat pumps, homeowners have to meet the requirements of the ENERGY STAR program in effect at the time of the expenditure. It may seem like a small concession, but interested homeowners should note these details if they want to pursue renewable energy in the future.

In short, those who intend to transition to renewable energy should research the subject as they continue. Sustainable improvements for energy efficiency are far more affordable when homeowners take a strategic approach to their changes. Government assistance and the expertise of professionals like Seth Leitman can alleviate the pressure of these investments.

Moving Forward

When homeowners assess the three renovations above, review their different payment options and seek professional advice, they'll feel far more secure in their decisions as they move forward. They'll have an informed understanding of sustainable home improvements, as well as strategies to reduce the costs of installation.

That said, solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps and green roofs aren't always available for homeowners on a limited budget. When this is the case, they should seek changes within their price range. While the renovations above are some of the most effective, even a small change can make a big difference.

This Author

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

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