Your Eco-Friendly House: Big Changes to Minimize Your Carbon Footprint

Make your house eco-friendly with some big changes that have lasting impact

a stack of smooth stones

Last week we discussed some of the small changes you could make in your daily life to make your home more eco-friendly.  Today we’d like to discuss some of the larger eco-friendly changes you can make in your home. While these changes may be more labor intensive or more expensive, they’re are all worth investigating as great solutions you can implement to help your home’s value and reduce your negative impact on our environment. 

Start in the Garden -  With a Greenhouse

Having a garden is the easiest big step you can take toward an eco-conscious house. If you have space to add one, putting in a greenhouse will extend your growing season as well as provide added value to your home.  Whether attached to your home and doubling as a sun-room, or detached as a separate structure on your property, a greenhouse is an addition that will last you decades and will support the environment along the way.  

Installing a greenhouse can be as low cost as just a couple thousand dollars - and will go up from there depending on how complicated you want your design to be.  You can purchase pre-fab designs for DIY installation as stand-alone structures, or hire a company to install an attached greenhouse that can double as a sunroom.  

A stand alone greenhouse sits in a lush garden with the door open
A detached greenhouse is an investment - but will provide you with year-round produce.

From improving the quality of our air through photosynthesis, to supporting butterflies and bees by providing plants to pollinate, a garden provides a lot of environmental benefits.  Even if your house already has a garden or flower beds, switching those to productive plants like herbs and vegetables can save you money at the grocery store.  In our small changes article we pointed out that buying local helps reduce your carbon footprint - and it doesn’t get more local than your own backyard. 

A green house can double as a place for you to sit and meditate, connecting you back to the earth and reminding you of why it is so important that we help where we can. You can also check out GH Clark for a guide on how to create the perfect garden or outdoor space.

Clean up your Energy Bill - Install Solar Panels

Even in rainy Pittsburgh, we have enough sunny days that Kellee has looked into one of the best home investments for an eco-friendly upgrade - Solar Panels.  Solar is a valuable home investment now that a portion of your installation costs can be offset by federal tax credits - meaning you don’t have to have them as long to offset the cost of using less environmentally friendly options for your electricity.  With installation starting as low as $6000 after the tax credits you can easily support the environment using solar.  Plus you can offset most, if not all, of your monthly electric bill.  We’ve even previously discussed how depending on your region, you may be eligible to get free solar panels for your home - that’s an investment anyone can afford!

Multiple solar panels installed on the top of a tile roof
Solar can be added to just about any type of roof - and will save you big on your monthly electric bill

The only really hard part to installing solar is paying for the panels - and many companies are now helping by letting you pay a bill in installments.  Once you’ve agreed to install solar, it is actually a very quick and easy process - usually involving less than a day of construction.  Tesla’s solar power system even lets you add on a battery backup that can power your house for up to 8 hours in the event of an outage - meaning you could be the only person in your neighborhood with electricity if something goes wrong.  

Not able to add solar but still want to help?  Consider switching your electric provider to one that generates their electricity through renewable sources.  You might pay more per month, but you’ll do so knowing you’re helping the environment.  Make sure to read your contracts with these providers carefully before switching - both to ensure you’re getting the best price and also to make sure you’re getting as much energy as possible from renewable sources.  

Reduce Water Usage - Make Your Home Low Flow

Pittsburgh may have an abundance of water compared to my hometown of Denver, but this writer still behaves as though every day is one with a huge drought and need to conserve water.  So much electricity is wasted, and so many chemicals used to purify water.  So saving what we have purified is essential.  Every home should have low flow showerheads, toilets and faucets installed where possible.  Low flow fixtures can save dozens of gallons of water over each month, and will even save electricity because you won’t be using as much hot water - meaning your water heater has to work less!  

Water circles down a drain
Save water and your own money from going down the drain with low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets. v

In addition to changing up the water use in your house, consider changing what you do with your water once it is used.  Consider adding a way to capture your greywater - water used for showering and washing hands - and using it to water your gardens, lawn or for things like flushing your toilet.  This can save gallons of purified water from being used in places where pure water isn’t needed.  

While you’re installing your low flow fixtures also consider adding a reverse osmosis filter to your kitchen sink - or for your whole house.  Reverse osmosis is the best way to ensure you are getting the purest possible drinking water - which is better for your health.  Since you’ll be overhauling some of your plumbing already, this is a great way to boost your own health along with helping the environment.  

What big change have you made to help support our environment?

Sarah Knight

Sarah returned to her education after 10 years of real world experience.
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