Environmentally Friendly Homes
Many people prioritize the environment and consciously make lifestyle choices to reduce their carbon footprint. If you're a current or soon-to-be homeowner who considers yourself environmentally conscious, you can transform your home into an eco-friendly haven. In this discussion, we'll explore the various ways to build an environmentally friendly home or make eco-friendly changes to your existing residence.
What Is an Eco-Friendly House?
An eco-friendly home is designed and built to use less energy, reduce waste, and leverage more sustainable resources than traditional homes. As an eco-friendly homeowner, the goal is to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the environment by utilizing green technology, energy-efficient appliances, sustainable materials, and environmentally friendly practices.
Characteristics of Eco-Friendly Homes
So what makes an eco-friendly home? Here are several key characteristics homeowners need to know when considering living in an environmentally friendly home.
Less Energy Consumption
Energy efficiency is one of the most important aspects of any eco-friendly home. Making energy-efficient choices for your home can help protect the environment from greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. As a result, consuming less energy can help lower your utility bills. Some energy-saving measures that make this happen include sealing your air ducts, installing solar panels, purchasing energy-efficient appliances, switching to LED lights, and using smart home technology like smart thermostats.
Low Waste Management
Minimizing landfill waste and reducing a building’s carbon footprint is another cornerstone of an environmentally friendly home. Regarding the home’s construction, builders can use sustainable materials such as reclaimed wood or precast concrete. They can also build the components at a factory and assemble them on the home's lot to help reduce material waste. As a homeowner, you can reduce waste by recycling, composting, and switching out plastic products for reusable ones — e.g., water bottles, grocery bags, straws, etc.
Maximum Water Conservation
Water is one of the world's most valuable resources that we should conserve as much as possible. Eco-friendly homes should have water-efficient fixtures and devices to help you minimize water use, harness water for reuse, conserve energy, and save money. For example, installing low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads in your bathroom can help significantly reduce water usage compared to their outdated counterparts. Additionally, sustainable, drought-tolerant landscaping can help reduce irrigation water usage and costs while retaining your home's curb appeal.
Types Of Environmentally Friendly Homes
There’s no one-size-fits-all eco-friendly home. From traditional houses designed to meet energy efficiency standards to more non-traditional home styles, environmentally friendly homes can come in all shapes and sizes. Here are several examples of what an eco-friendly home can look like:
Zero-carbon homes don’t emit greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. Excellent insulation and nearly airtight seals on the windows and doors help keep these homes from emitting carbon dioxide. Additionally, all energy consumption is purely electric, helping eliminate emissions from traditional sources like natural gas.
Prefab — or prefabricated — homes are made from components constructed off-site and then delivered to a home lot for on-site assembly. In most cases, building a prefab home produces less material waste than traditional builds because it’s easier to gauge how much material is needed for a pre-built home. Also, certain prefab homes, like modular homes, are constructed as tightly sealed structures, which can help reduce energy consumption and lower heating and cooling costs.
Over the years, many homeowners have downsized to tiny homes due to their simplicity and energy efficiency. They’re typically less than 600 square feet, meaning they consume less energy and require fewer materials to build than larger homes. Plus, homes are often built in a factory, which can help further reduce material waste.
Shipping Container Homes
Shipping container homes are literally recycled steel shipping containers that can be turned into living spaces for many years. Most of them are rectangular structures of 160 or 320 square feet and can be combined or stacked to create a larger home.
Bioclimatic homes leverage their geographical location and environment to help maximize energy efficiency. To do this, builders consider the height, size, orientation, layout, and even the home's color before starting construction. Bioclimatic homes also use sustainable materials and renewable energy sources to help reduce heating, cooling, and energy costs.
Essentially, a passive home is a house that heats and cools itself. Passive homes rely on five principles to achieve this goal: airtight construction, high-performance windows, quality insulation, no thermal bridging, and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. As a result, passive homes can reduce your energy costs by 90%.
Earth domes are structures built using bags of natural materials, such as soil, sand, clay, or gravel. These bags are stacked on each other and secured with barbed wire between each layer to prevent shifting. Ultimately, earth domes provide a sustainable, environmentally friendly dwelling that can provide thermal mass insulation and resistance to natural disasters.
Solar-paneled homes are houses equipped with roof-mounted or pole-mounted solar panels to help capture energy from the fan and convert it to electricity to support the home. These homes can dramatically decrease your carbon footprint by reducing or eliminating the need for electricity from a power grid.
Wooden houses are eco-friendlier and more economical alternatives to traditional homes built with bricks, cement, and mortar. These sustainable homes are made from natural, non-petroleum materials that are recyclable and biodegradable. Additionally, wood requires less energy and has a smaller carbon footprint since it helps absorb carbon dioxide emissions.
How Do You Build a Modern Eco-Friendly House?
If you’re thinking about building an eco-friendly home from scratch, here are some factors to consider:
- Size — Choosing a smaller home is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint since they require less energy. However, a home with less square footage may not suit your needs, especially if you have a family. Take time to decide what your ideal living space looks like.
- Materials — Using sustainable materials during construction is a great way to make your home environmentally friendly from the start. Some materials to consider include reclaimed wood, reclaimed metal, precast concrete, and bamboo.
- Insulation — Insulation is another key component of the construction process. Wool insulation is a biodegradable alternative to nonbiodegradable fiberglass insulation, allowing you to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Installing triple-pane windows can also help keep your home properly insulated.
- Sustainable landscaping — A large landscape requires a lot of water, making your home less eco-friendly. Instead, consider sustainable landscaping that helps conserve water, eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and grow drought-tolerant plants.
- Solar panels — Consider installing solar panels for your home rather than relying solely on traditional energy sources. Solar panels produce no emissions of greenhouse gasses, making them a much more eco-friendly option.
What Can You Do to Make Your Existing Home Eco-Friendly?
If you’re already living in a house, there are several ways to help make it more environmentally friendly:
- Change your light bulbs to LED, which uses less energy and generates less heat
- Install a programmable thermostat to help save energy and reduce your heating and cooling costs
- Invest in a rainwater harvesting system to collect and reuse rainwater
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines
- Start composting to help turn waste into nutrient-rich organic matter for your soil
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle to help to save energy and natural resources.
- Install low-flow bathroom fixtures to help reduce your water usage.
Whether it’s a simple change like installing LED light bulbs or a big commitment like constructing a zero-carbon house, there are plenty of ways homeowners can make a difference in the environment.
Mercury Insurance values eco-friendly living, so we offer Green Home discounts with your homeowners insurance. This means we’ll cover up to an additional 10% of the replacement costs for environmentally friendly alternatives or construction methods with a covered loss. For example, if you have damaged carpeting and select an eco-friendly replacement, Mercury would issue up to 10% more than the costs to replace the carpeting so that you can go with the green flooring option. The protection also extends to other types of property, such as an HVAC or appliances, when replaced with an eco-friendly product. Green Home discounts are currently available in Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Illinois.