Environmentally Conscious Upgrades to Start Planning for Today

by Jess ViceFebruary 12, 2019

If you’re like me, you brain-dump ideas into the Notes app on your phone, and then completely forget about most of them. But then there’s the list that kind of sticks with you, and you enjoy curating it, shaping it, updating it. That’s my House Wishlist. It’s separated into smaller, unique things I’d like to buy (old glass canning jars); larger pieces that wouldn’t take much effort (a white leather loveseat); and upgrades. The upgrades list is pricy and long-term but would add the most resale value to my house. Lately, it’s begun to take a turn — a lot of the items on there are focused on reducing my home’s impact on the environment.

Let’s explore some of these environmentally-friendly upgrade ideas and see how valuable they could be.

Gas or Electric Fireplace

My house didn’t come with a fireplace and appears to never have had one, but we all know how much charm and warmth they offer potential buyers. Wood-burning fireplaces, one of the oldest ways to heat a home, have been shown to contribute to respiratory problems and environmental pollution. Instead, the EPA recommends a pellet stove or pellet-burning modification for an existing fireplace, which starts at about $1000 or, for the cost of a professional installation, that quaint fireplace could be converted to burn natural gas or propane.

Go With the Flow

We don’t often consider toilets and showers as wasteful or environmentally harmful (mostly because they do so much dirty work for us – we’re really grateful for them). However, as clean and reusable water becomes a precious commodity around the world, we can do our part by reducing the amount of clean water we use for dirty tasks. Consider installing low-flow toilets in each of your bathrooms (the average cost of a high-efficiency toilet is around $200, and a plumber’s time to install them is about the same). For about $500/bathroom, you can cut your water use in half, which saves on your bills and helps the environment.

While you’re at it, look at flow reductive shower heads. According to some experts, a single $30showerheadd can save you 2000 gallons of water a year, which is a significant chunk of money on your monthly water bill.

Garage Doors Matter

I was surprised, while I was researching these upgrades, how cost-effective a new garage door can be. According to the 2019 Cost vs. Value comparison from Remodeling.com, homeowners are able to recoup 97.5% of their expenses on an energy-efficient garage door. Find a door made from ethically sourced materials and built following Energy Star energy conservation guidelines, and you’ll see even more savings this year than ever before.

A Lens on Windows

The two largest culprits for escaped efficiency are exterior doors and windows. What’s cool is that as technology has continued to improve, it’s resulted in highly efficient window fixtures for less. Windows can now be sealed and filled with a layer of non-toxic, insulating gas, which lasts longer and is more effective than older window constructions. Special glass tints have been developed to help trap heat or cool indoors and reflect invasive rays from the sun. And multiple types of framing compounds are available. All of these features make the pricing variable and customizable to every budget or homeowners’ needs.

Exterior doors have followed suit: while wood has been the traditional choice, manufacturers are now making highly insulated foam core options that are far more energy efficient than natural wood. These newer models, that can start as low as $500 but average around $800, have even been recommended by the Department of Energy as a homeowner’s most cost-effective choice. The cost to value of an entry door replacement makes it one of the quickest, most affordable upgrades for a home.

Showers of Sunshine

If you have a large family or a high hot water consumption rate, you might consider switching to a solar hot water heating system. While the upfront costs are steep (as are most solar products), the long-term savings in energy used to heat water can be just as impressive. And even better, all your showers are powered by the sun! Energy.gov outlines the differences between passive and active solar heating systems, offers advice to consumers, and a calculation system to help you gauge if this is a cost-effective way to rely on clean energy and conserve water.

Curb Appeal Pays

Every website and article recommending upgrades to improve a house’s sale value harps on curb appeal. But that’s because curb appeal sells! And if you take an environmentally-conscious approach to curb appeal, you’re guaranteeing the future homeowner lower maintenance costs and a lasting nature-scape outside their front door.

Landscaping projects can be as cost-effective or expensive as you like, depending on if you’re a DIYer or just want to pay someone to get it done. Start with researching plants that are native to your state, climate zone, and soil type. Plan for flowers and bushes that are low maintenance, but also attract bees and other natural pollinators. Look into recycled mulches and low-impact soil coverings. And when you’re considering a watering system, find ways to water conservatively, whether it’s a timed drip system to the plants that need it most or a seasonally sensitive watering system that makes the most use of cooler times of day and efficient watering patterns.

Saving up for one of the upgrades can be intimidating, but paying cash isn’t the only way to afford them – there are quite a few options available for financing your home improvement plans. If you have a fairly low monthly mortgage and good credit, consider a home equity loan that can be added into your monthly payments. It’s a hands-free way to get a lot done at once and space the cost out over several years. Or if that sounds intimidating, you can try a personal loan from your bank or credit union. Some credit card companies, like MasterCard and Discover, have started offering personal loans for specific uses, like home improvements.

Now you’ve seen my eco-conscious wishlist! What’s on yours? Tell us in the comments below.

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About The Author
Jess Vice
Jess is a user experience strategist by day and a writer by night. Jess loves making a space feel unique and welcoming through DIY renovations, cooking Southern soul food, and hosting dance parties. She and her Schnoodle Puck spend most of their free time playing in the great outdoors in Utah.

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