Just a Shade Greener

Guest post by Julie Jacobson, Redfin field agent in the San Fernando Valley and LEED Green Associate

Home buying used to be all about how much home you could afford. Now it’s also about how much home you can afford to operate.

In the past, eco-friendly features were nice-to-have options that agents might mention a half hour into a home tour. As the national consumer consciousness in general becomes a shade greener, these features that decrease water and utility bills among other operating expenses are dictating which homes some buyers will even consider.

For those of you considering selling your home or just looking to “green up,” here are a few simple ways to add value to your home and make it more appealing to green buyers, all while making it a better place to live in the meantime:

  • Xeriscaping – Landscapes that include native and adapted plants use far less water, pesticides and fertilizers than grass lawns which can use on average 3,000 gallons of water a month during summer. It’s easy, relatively cheap and you can do it yourself. Most nurseries now have special sections of native plants. You don’t have to replace your lawn; it can be as simple as using native landscaping accents.
  • Paint your roof white – 90 percent of American roofs are dark colored. In hot regions of the country, this can decrease the internal temperature of your home by 10 to 15 degrees and up to 50 degrees on the surface of the roof, making the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system work harder.  Simply painting it white or silver can help alleviate this strain on your electric bill as well as to the electrical grid.
  • Ventilate your attic – For as little as a few hundred dollars, you can mount an attic fan on your roof, which pushes hot air out of the attic. The ambient temperature in your attic can reach 150 degrees or more in warmer regions. This not only contributes to a hotter home, again forcing your HVAC system to work harder, but that excess heat leads to rot, pests, mildew and roof deterioration.  You can install Dormer vents, which are passive, using just wind, or a fan which attaches to a thermostat and electrical source. There are even solar-powered vents!
  • Check your attic insulation – One of the first things a home inspector looks at is the attic insulation. It makes sense, as having the proper thickness (“R value”) for your climate zone can save you 15 to 20 percent off your HVAC bill. Other insulation contributes as well, such as A/C ducts (10 to 15 percent) and walls (10 to 15 percent).
  • Add in-home water filtration – At a cost as low as a few hundred dollars, an under-counter mounted water filtration system is a strong eco-friendly feature that makes a kitchen more appealing.  It saves money by relying on tap water instead of expensive bottled water, and it saves the environment by reducing reliance on plastic bottles. Did you know that Americans consume enough plastic water bottles to fill 5,500 garbage trucks a day and less than 25 percent of those are recycled?

These are just a few of the hundreds of small and big ways you can make a home more eco-friendly. What are some of your tips?