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How To Own The Elusive Eco-Friendly Home

Erica Gellerman5-Minute Read
March 08, 2021

When you’re building or buying a home, there are a lot of things to consider, like the neighborhood, square footage and overall design. But now there’s another thing that many buyers or homeowners are seeking — eco-friendly homes.

What are eco-friendly homes and how can you own one yourself? We share what you need to know as you embark on your green journey.

What Is An Eco-Friendly Home?

An eco-friendly home is built in a way that reduces its impact on the environment. There are a number of ways to create an eco-friendly home. A home might be built using materials that are less polluting or that lower the energy needs of the home. It might also use design strategies that help reduce the energy consumption of the home.

There are a number of green certifications that a buyer can look for when purchasing an eco-friendly home. These include:

  • LEED: The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is probably the most well-known eco-certification for a building or home. A LEED home uses sustainable materials and design and has lower energy needs than a traditional home.
  • Energy Star: An Energy Star certification focuses on energy efficiency and homes that are at least 20% more energy-efficient than traditionally built homes.
  • Passive Certification: A passive house certification is built on passive energy standards.

The Elements Of An Environmentally Friendly House

There is a lot to consider when looking for an eco-friendly home. Environmentally friendly homes are difficult because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building. There are multiple factors to consider, like the local environment, your lifestyle and home lot site. These are some elements that you’ll want to consider:

Sustainable Building Materials

Using sustainable building materials to construct a home is a great way to make sure a home is eco-friendly from the start. Some eco-friendly materials include:

  • Bamboo: Trees take a long time to grow and harvest, but bamboo — a member of the grass family — can be harvested every few years. It’s fast-growing, at a rate of up to 3 feet per day and can be a sustainable option to use for floors, decks and trim.
  • Reclaimed steel: Rather than using wood to frame a house, consider using recycled steel. Steel is easily recycled to be used for other things and it’s pest-resistant, so you don’t need to worry about wood rot.
  • Wool insulation: Skip the fiberglass insulation and try sheep wool insulation. This insulation keeps homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and is biodegradable at the end of its life.

Passive Insulation

Passive insulation homes have high-quality insulation which means very little energy is lost during the heating and cooling process. That insulation can be from interior wall insulation or other elements like triple-pane windows.

Solar Panels

Rather than using traditional energy sources, solar panels use energy from the sun to power the home. The electricity produced from a solar panel produces no emissions or greenhouse gases. Solar panels aren’t right for every property, but for homes with good sun exposure, solar panels can help make a big impact on an eco-friendly home.

Rainwater Collection

Running a home requires a lot of water use. Rainwater collection can make your home more eco-friendly, and help you save money on your water bill. Collecting rainwater is simple. You can use a rain barrel to catch water as it comes off your roof. And this water can be used in your garden. You can also build a rain garden to help minimize the impact of rain on your property.

Sustainable Landscaping

Think critically about what type of plants to have in your garden. A massive lawn or plants that need a lot of water make your home not eco-friendly. Consider growing vegetables and fruit trees. Or incorporate xeriscaping in your yard — the use of plants that need little water to survive.

The Types Of Eco-Friendly Homes

There is no perfect environmentally friendly home. And what’s good for one area of the country might not be right for where you live. It’s important to consider factors like your budget and climate when deciding which type of eco-friendly home you want to create.

Zero-Carbon Homes

Zero-carbon homes are designed to have high energy efficiency ratings. They do this through the use of good insulation and nearly airtight seals. They also use no natural gas and rely completely on electricity. That’s because electricity is becoming cleaner to generate, rather than gas which is a fossil fuel.

Prefab Homes

A less expensive way to get an energy-efficient home is to purchase a prefab home. A prefab home is built in a factory, which produces less waste than a traditional site-built home. Plus, a number of prefab home manufacturers design homes that adhere to eco-friendly standards. For example, they’re well insulated and built with triple-pane windows.

Tiny Homes

Tiny homes are typically under 600 square feet. They have a smaller footprint on the earth and require less energy to heat and cool. A tiny house also requires much less energy to actually build, so they are eco-friendly from the start.

Container Homes

Rather than cutting down trees to build a home, a container home recycles old shipping containers into framing for family homes. These shipping containers would otherwise be sitting somewhere unused. Instead, shipping container homes can give new life to these steel products.

Earth Domes

Can you use a sandbag to build a home? Earthbag dome homes use stacked sandbags to build low-cost eco-friendly homes. These homes can withstand natural disasters like fires and flooding and are simple to design and build. They are often built in a dome shape, so they will look a bit different than a traditional home.

How To Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly

Even if you aren’t able to build a home from scratch, there are plenty of eco-friendly changes to make at home. These changes may even help increase your home’s current value, attract more future buyers, or decrease your energy and water bills. If you are working to make your home more eco-friendly, consider:

  • Finding ways to reduce waste
  • Making changes to save energy
  • Collecting rainwater
  • Replacing single-pane windows
  • Assessing the usefulness of solar panels for your property
  • Transitioning old gas appliances to electric ones (like your dryer and stove)

How To Find An Eco-Friendly Home For Sale

If you’re in the market for a new home and finding an eco-friendly home is high on your priority list, you can start by browsing homes for sale in your area. Be sure to read the listing descriptions to see if any energy-efficient updates have been made on the home.

You can also connect with a Verified Partner Agent in your area.

The Bottom Line

Eco-friendly homes are growing in popularity and whether you’re in the market to buy an eco-friendly home or you’re looking to make changes to your current house, making eco-friendly updates can be a smart move. If you have big plans to update your home, consider a home improvement loans to finance your green future.

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    Erica Gellerman

    Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom and more.