Is a Green Build Too Expensive for Me? How to Compromise You don't need every green feature, but may as well pick a few

Credit: North Charleston, FlickrCCIf you’re building a new home, it’s both eco-friendly and economically prudent to make it as green as it can be. Green builds are sustainable have a reduced carbon footprint. They’re highly popular and will increase the value of your home going forward. Energy-saving elements also allow you to pay less in energy costs.

How to Think About Green Features

Environmentally friendly houses can be expensive. They can cost 20 to 30 percent more than traditional homes. Because new homes usually cost from $80 to $100 per square foot, you may end up thinking a green build is too expensive for you right now. You need to think realistically. Fortunately, there’s no need to turn your pockets inside out for a green build! So much can be done without spending all your cash.

Anyone can build a new green home while on a budget. You don’t need a completely LEED-certified building. Multiple affordable and budget-friendly strategies exist that let you go green, and they can easily be incorporated into the home’s design.

If you’ve been happily reviewing available green elements and started to realize you can’t afford them all, ask yourself what you can do without. Perhaps you wanted a solarium, but the extra space is prohibitively expensive. You can use solar power in plenty of ways without a special room.

Here are some budget-friendly ways to go green.

Plan to Maximize Energy Efficiency

It’s crucial to plan with maximum energy efficiency in mind. If you’re building on a site, for example, design the home to capture the sun’s energy. More south-facing windows will ensure that your home gets both heat and light from the sun. Skylights will also bring in the sun. Plan for shade trees around windows so the home can be naturally cooled in the summer.

You should also plan a home that is more vertical than horizontal. The land use in a more vertical home is more efficient and leaves more green space than sprawling one-story developments. Smaller homes also have less of a land footprint and use less energy and water.

Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances and Windows

Since you likely have to purchase appliances and windows anyway, make sure they have the Energy Star™ label. Energy Star™ is a certification by the United States Department of Environmental Protection guaranteeing that the items save more energy than appliances without it.

Every appliance you can think of is available in Energy Star™ models, including dishwashers and refrigerators. Light bulbs to power lamps should have the certification. Energy Star™ windows will minimize heat loss in winter and maximize cooling in summer, thus reducing the drain on your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

Insulation is crucial to any green building plan. Green building often centers on features that create the most energy efficiency. Even if you have the most energy-efficient design and appliances in the world, they’ll be useless without good insulation.

Lack of insulation can cause all your sun-powered heat to disappear fast in the cold of winter, and all your trees’ shade to evaporate in the summer. Make sure you invest in quality insulation and proper installation of it.

Use Solar Energy as Much as Possible

Solar power’s use has been increasing around the world. Solar panels are much cheaper than they used to be. That said, it can be expensive to go entirely solar. In addition, rooftop solar panels are not feasible on every site. If tall buildings or trees block an area, solar panels can be inefficient.

If you want a solution, work with your builder to use solar energy as much as is feasible for your site. If a solar panel roof will work, great. You can save energy and money spent on power costs through the life of your home. But don’t ignore solar appliances: certain water heaters, air conditioners and even alarm clocks save energy.

Incorporate Natural and Recycled Materials

The more natural materials you use, the more eco-friendly your home will be. It’s easy to choose a natural material versus a synthetic one. Your kitchen floor, for example, can consist of cork or linoleum versus synthetic flooring. Your living rooms can be all-natural with wood floors versus synthetic carpet.

Think about using recycled and reclaimed resources throughout the house as well. These materials have already been used once, so your use of them means that one less home puts out an order to cut down more trees, for example. Reclaimed wood makes beautiful, rustic floors. Recycled wool can result in decorative carpets.

Worried about what an eco-friendly home will cost versus a standard one? It’s a reasonable worry, as green building does cost more. It also repays homeowners, however, in energy costs and appreciating home value. The solution? Prudently decide which green features you can afford, and take advantage of the many inexpensive green options out there.