How to Retrofit a Home to Make it Greener

retrofit a home

There are many good reasons to go green and we don’t just mean getting the recycled garbage out on time. If you’re a home owner and you live in a property that isn’t as energy efficient as it should be, then you may want to carry out some work to retrofit it so that you have less impact on the environment and save on your fuel bills.

This could include fitting new heating systems that are more efficient, changing to full LED lighting that uses less electricity or even installing something like solar panels to make your own energy and get some good returns back from the utility companies. If you want to retrofit a home, making the right decisions at the planning stage is all-important.

Why Do You Want to Retrofit an Old Home?

You may be one of those people who want to save the planet single handed, but most of us opt for green living for other reasons. For instance, producing your own electricity can make you energy independent. Switching to an energy efficient water boiler can reduce your costs over the long term. Putting down something like bamboo wood flooring not only gives you a great looking surface but it helps keep the property warm too. Cost savings, independence and comfort are often more important to most of us than cutting down those CO2 emissions or combating climate change.

Of course, one reason to retrofit a home is to add value to your property when you come to sell it in the future. Research has shown that going green in a home refit can add plenty of dollars to the final selling price and, according to estate agent Tanya Topolewski:

“The vast majority of people who come to see our houses are just interested in real estate. But once they see the advantages of buying a home with extraordinary energy efficiency, fresh air 24/7 and a positive environmental impact, it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

Be Open Minded

When you first think about retrofitting your home and making it more energy efficient, you will probably come to it with preconceived ideas. The key to success is keep an open mind in the first place and look at all the possibilities including:

  • Solar pv and thermal
  • Wind power
  • Insulation and double glazing
  • Ground and air source heat pumps
  • Water harvesting
  • Energy efficient boilers
  • Biomass boilers

Unless you are an expert, it’s a good idea to employ someone who knows what they are doing to design the retrofit for you so that you cover all possibilities. This can cost a little bit extra but actually save you money in the long run.

Do Your Research

The idea of carrying out a project to retrofit a home and make it greener might sound quite noble but it takes a good deal of thought. There are a lot of solutions out there from installing more efficient air conditioning, opting for renewable solutions such as a ground source pump or even having a wind turbine installed on land near your property. Not only that, you need to find out how these technologies and changes work best in your location. For example, an air heat pump only works if your property is well insulated so it’s not entirely suitable for old buildings where there are nooks and crannies that allow drafts and cold to get in.

Are There Incentives to Retrofit a Home in Your State?

Whether you get Federal Tax Relief and other incentives will depend largely on which state you live in. Many, like California, have taken to renewable energy and home development in a big way and provide significant incentives such as tax cuts and payment through feed in tariffs for energy produced. Others, like Alabama, have a poor record of supporting initiatives such as domestic solar. Where you live could determine how much you are going to have to pay in actual dollars if you decide to retrofit a home.

Plan it Out

Assuming you have the incentives or you are simply committed to changing your old home into a new eco-friendly modern one, then you are going to need to plan what really needs doing. In colder regions you may be looking at better insulation to start off with, including lagging the attic and putting in better, double glazed windows. In hotter climes, you might be first looking at how you can introduce something like solar panels or put in a more energy efficient air conditioning system that doesn’t eat so much electricity.

Set Your Budget and Keep to it

As with any major work, attempting to retrofit a home is going to take money and if you don’t have a firm grip on your wallet you could find costs escalating. This requires you to be tough and to stick to a realistic budget for every step of the process. It also means that you’ll want to get the best value for money. That doesn’t always mean going for the cheapest option.

Choose the Right Materials and Products

If you have decided to replace the flooring in your home, for example, as part of the retrofit it helps to look at the whole manufacturing process of what you choose. Something like bamboo flooring has good green credentials and lasts a long time, whilst also providing a clean and elegant looking environment. Loft insulation comes in different types, some of which have a higher carbon footprint than others. Ultra-efficient double glazed windows may cost more than slightly less efficient ones, which could do just the job you need. For each step when you retrofit a home there are choices to make and pros and cons to weigh against each other.

Choose the Right Installers

Finally, there is the matter of choosing the right installers for the task at hand. Particularly with areas such as solar and windows it pays to shop around and we always advise that you get at least three or four quotes for installation work that is going to be carried out. If you are choosing a local supplier, ask them for examples of their work where you can go round and quiz the homeowners about their experience and whether the installation was value for money.

The work involved when you decide to retrofit a home to make it greener isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. But it can be a worthwhile project if you have the budget to cover it and the rewards can mean lower fuel bills, more sustainability and a higher dollar value on your property.



Categories: Energy Efficiency, Green Living, Home Maintenance

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