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plants by a doorwayLast year, my husband and I bought a foreclosure – so we’re always reorganizing our priority list of renovations and repairs. I spend my weekends watching shows like HGTV’s “Property Brothers” and “Love It or List It.” And when I’m not doing that, I’m reading any home improvement magazine I can get my hands on. With all of this research behind me, here are my top seven sustainable amenities worth considering for 2015.

Smart Technology Additions

High-tech homes were once an option for only the super wealthy. But now, even households on a budget can afford “smart home” technology. Installing smart features typically involves adding controls for lighting, thermostats, multi-room audio capability, smart phone integration and security.

Smart technology prevents the unnecessary use of energy, which lowers your bills. But beyond saving you money, smart technology can help you save the environment. By cutting down on waste, smart technology helps you reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water. Additionally, smart technology reduces or eliminates the use of power outlets and cords around your home. This cuts down on clutter and minimizes your carbon footprint.

Upgrade with Reclaimed Wood

Using reclaimed wood isn’t a new concept, but more homeowners have wised up on the benefits of using reclaimed wood for home improvements. Reclaimed wood could be a great material if you’re adding a deck, home decorations, flooring, paneling, beams or doors. Additionally, reclaimed wood is durable and requires little maintenance. Wood also gives your home unique character and a nostalgic feel.

When you use reclaimed wood, you utilize natural resources, reduce deforestation and lessen the amount of materials thrown in landfills. And unlike petroleum-based synthetic materials such as linoleum and carpeting, wood poses no environmental hazards.

Enhance Landscaping

Many homeowners use landscaping to increase the value of their homes and improve curb appeal. But landscaping has many environmental benefits too. Landscaping can actually reduce energy consumption by countering the warming effect of paved surfaces around your home. Homeowners often report a drop in attic temperatures when shade trees are added around a home.

Landscaping recharges the groundwater supply and helps prevent surface water runoff. And adding plants and shrubs reduces soil erosion and improves air quality by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Install Steel Doors

Many homeowners are switching from fiberglass and wood doors to steel front doors because they’re some of the most energy-efficient doors on the market. They hold heat in and keep cold out effectively because they’re typically built with 2-inch thickness and a 2½-inch foam core. They often have a firm seal to help keep energy costs down.

Steel doors can withstand heavy traffic and exterior elements well. They’re more durable than wood doors because they don’t rot or splinter. And steel doors can be lifesaving when the unimaginable happens; fire-resistant steel doors can block intense heat and flames for 20 minutes before the materials are badly damaged.

Replace Windows

Window upgrades are a mainstay on home improvement lists. New energy-efficient windows eventually pay for themselves through lower heating and cooling costs, and sometimes even lighting costs.

Not only do affordable replacement windows add style to your home, but they provide significant energy savings! Eco-friendly windows use glass made from harmless materials, with non-toxic gases such as argon between panes. Eco-friendly windows also are glazed with a low emissivity coating to block the sun and reduce the ultraviolet rays that harm our skin. Greener windows mean less energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Some green window options provide over nine times more energy efficiency and more than five times the insulation of single-pane windows.

If replacing your windows isn’t in your budget, you can improve the energy efficiency of existing windows by adding caulking and weather stripping. You can even add storm windows, which are second window units that buffer cold weather and noise, to reduce air leakage and improve comfort.

Install a Car Charging Station

Calling all electric vehicle drivers! Installing a charging station at home may be a pricey upgrade, but it could give your home a competitive edge. According to Navigant Research, plug-in electric vehicle sales are expected to rise to 3 million worldwide by 2020! A home electric vehicle charging station typically costs $450–$1,000.

You’ll need to hire a good electrician to install the station in your home, which can cost $500 on the low end. The cost varies depending on the electrician’s rates. Lower quotes for installation assume that you already have the wiring in place for the 240-volt line where the unit would mount, or that the service panel is inside or just outside your garage. However, higher-priced installation may apply if you have an old house with outdated electrical infrastructure. In that case, installation would require replacing your service panel and running a new line to the other end of the house.

Upgrade Water Controls

Say goodbye to basic shower, faucet and toilet controls. You can upgrade your bathroom without a major remodeling project. New technology in your bathrooms not only gives your home high-end feel, but it can add value and cut down your water and energy usage.

Touchscreen-operated showers, additional shower heads and touchless faucets and toilets are becoming more popular. Touchless toilets flush when you stand up and hold your hand over the sensor. Touchless faucets turn on and off with built-in motion sensors. These touchless upgrades save water, which saves you money on your water bill.

If you have upgrades that you’re planning for your home in 2015, share them below.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nice article! Having the right windows installed can really make a huge difference. We installed newer double pane windows in my house many years ago, and it seems to have made a big difference in keeping the house warm during the winter. I really liked your point about steel doors—I didn’t realize that they can block flames for so long!

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