Over the last 20 years, “going green” has become more popular than ever. Not only is it better for the environment – it’s also better for your savings account. Perhaps you’re considering a Madison home equity loan or line of credit to update your current house. Or, are you thinking of purchasing a new home? In both situations, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to live in a more energy efficient home.
It’s true, sometimes less is more. Avoid taking on more physical space than you actually need. If you don’t need a five-bedroom house, why pay to keep it warm in winter and cool during summer? Instead, minimize unused space and you’ll save on your monthly utility bill.
Consider Future Needs
In addition to assessing current housing needs, you should also consider what 10, 20, 30 years ahead will look like. Do you plan to stay in the same home? Perhaps this means adding on for a growing family with children. Or going with a single floor layout (no stairs) for an elderly parent moving in.
Location, Location, Location!
A quiet, isolated spot sounds inviting but consider what impact this will have on your life. More than likely you won’t have access to mass transit options. Not living with easy distance of grocery stores, work, friends and family could also require more time in the car and more money on gas.
Given the choice, go with windows facing due south. Unobstructed solar access from 9:00am until 3pm is ideal. Leaving the windows unshaded during the winter to warm the house, and shaded during the summer to keep the house cool will minimize energy usage. Using awnings or overhangs to block the sun, and selectively plant trees to create natural shade as well.
Study the Plot
Consider the yard. Are you looking at a lawn requiring regular water and maintenance? Or maybe you see potential for something more self-sustaining with minimal care requirements. Start with your local climate and determine which indigenous grasses will naturally adopt to your area. Today’s grass seed mixtures combine native grass varieties that are slow-growing and drought-tolerant.
A non-traditional approach is ground cover such as multi-functional clover. Clover will provide nitrogen to maintain soil and attract pollinators when it flowers. It also helps keep the soil from being compacted and reduces water runoff. An even more non-traditional approach is an edible garden similar to what you can see at the State Capitol in Madison. Created by Community Groundworks, the garden is packed with easy to grow vegetables well-suited to our area’s climate. Stop by for some inspiration!
The importance of insulation almost can’t be overstated. From keeping the house warm during the coldest winter to keeping cool during summer, insulation is worth every penny. Consider the potential leaks in or around the walls, the windows, the roof, and the foundation. With proper insulation, your home will reach a steady temperature sooner and retain it longer. Yes, it’s an investment initially but one you’ll see an immediate return on in your heat and energy bills. Windows and insulation are perfect projects to finance with a tax friendly home equity loan.*
Requesting an energy audit with the home inspection on a new home is a must. Costing around $300-$500, the auditor will perform a blower-door test to determine how well sealed the home is from the environment. This is also worthwhile for the homeowner looking to make improvements because you’ll know what areas to focus on. Perhaps the walls, attic and roof are solid but the metal windows need replacing.
Energy efficient appliances are another way to reduce your household energy consumption while seeing a difference in your monthly bill. Use energy-efficient models and you could save up to $400 per year. When deciding between makes and models, compare both initial purchase price and estimated energy use. Many times you’ll save money in the long run by going with the more expensive efficient model.
Use your appliances more efficiently to extend their working life. This will save you money on buying a replacement. For example, as much as 90% of the energy used by the washing machine is just to heat the water. For most of your needs, warm wash and cold rinse are just as effective as hot wash and warm rinse. The warm rinse isn’t affecting or improving upon the just-completed wash.
Invest in environmentally sustainable products with a Madison home equity loan
Compared to 20 years ago, today’s consumers have so many more eco-friendly products to choose from at every price point. Depending on your needs, you’ll find environmentally friendly roofing material, building material, flooring, counters and cabinets. Think of recycled lumber, natural products such as cork or bamboo, concrete, granite, and recycled glass. When the time is right, check DCCU’s awesome home equity loan rates.
What’s a Renter to Do?
Many of these changes are specific to homeowners, and unfortunately are not applicable to most renters. The good news is there are several ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your home. Check out those tips in our next post, How Green is Your Apartment.
*Consult your tax advisor for possible tax advantages.