How To Renovate Greener and Better

How To Renovate Greener and Better

March 19, 2024


Green building is an approach to design and construction that uses less energy, reduces waste and lowers the impact on the environment. 

All of the following are considered green:

  • Installing energy-efficient windows, solar panels, passive heating, energy-saving appliances, high-efficiency toilets and smart-home technology 
  • Recycling materials, such as reusing old timbers and salvaging cabinets
  • Saving the trees on your lot
  • Using environmentally safe materials in your flooring, plumbing, insulation or roofing 

Advantages of going green

If you’re interested in pursuing green building, speak to your insurance agent about coverage for ecologically friendly materials and systems. And look for an architect or contractor who has experience with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or another green certification program. 

LEED is a set of ecological standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED-built homes can earn a certificate demonstrating that they improve energy and water efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. 

The Green Building Council notes these benefits of going green:

  • Green buildings are less expensive to operate and have 20% lower maintenance costs.
  • Green buildings have higher resale value.
  • Green buildings expose their occupants to fewer toxins and improve indoor air quality.
  • LEED buildings reduce carbon output, water and energy usage, and waste.

Examples of green renovation

Here are some practical ways to incorporate green building into your home renovation project:

  • Look for ways to reuse materials rather than sending them to a landfill. For example, instead of ripping out your old kitchen cabinets, give them a facelift by refinishing the doors. You can also donate working appliances and light fixtures.
  • Take advantage of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Energy Star program to find water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, windows, clothes washers and dryers, and other appliances that save energy and are Energy Star certified. The Energy Star program can also measure energy consumption in your home and help you reduce energy costs.
  • Replace materials high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with low-VOC materials. The EPA has a list of materials that typically pose a risk to indoor air quality. These include paints and solvents, and materials manufactured with VOCs.
  • The Department of Energy estimates that heat transfer through windows accounts for 25%–30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. Even if you aren’t replacing your windows, you can still reduce energy costs by caulking, weatherstripping, and adding storm windows and awnings.
  • Add insulation to your attic, walls, floors and crawl spaces. The EPA recommends insulating attics to R-38. That translates to about 10–14 inches of insulation.
  • Replace your old lights with LED lights. Using timers and dimmers can save even more energy.
  • Install a smart thermostat to monitor your energy consumption and turn appliances off when they’re not in use.

Tax credits and insurance discounts

Check energystar.gov to see if your project is eligible for a tax credit. The Inflation Reduction Act provides federal tax credits and deductions for home improvements that reduce energy consumption. Eligible items include energy-efficient doors, windows and heat pumps.

In addition, the Residential Clean Energy Credit provides a 30% income tax credit for clean energy equipment such as rooftop solar panels, wind energy, geothermal heat pumps and battery storage. Your state may offer energy tax credits as well.

In some states, you can get an insurance discount for having a green home. Several insurance companies give a 5% discount for LEED-certified homes.

Some insurers also offer green endorsements to their homeowners policies. These can replace damaged appliances and building materials with Energy Star appliances and environmentally safe products. They may also pay to recycle debris.

Green endorsements usually limit replacement costs to a dollar amount or an additional percentage of your overall replacement costs. Or they may cover the expense of certifying or recertifying your house after a loss. Your insurance professional can help you select an insurer that provides a green discount.

Today, many Americans are exploring environmentally sustainable building practices. Consider reducing your home’s carbon footprint and using eco-friendly materials. You’ll be saving energy, and you may qualify for a tax credit or an insurance discount.