I was recently giving a talk to a group of real estate investors about green real estate. I was discussing our latest renovation in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Va. Of course investors are always concerned about the cost of renovations and asked if it would really be feasible to offer green features in a lower price starter home. My response was immediately...YES. So below are 10 low cost renovation tips that you can do on even the lowest priced renovations...
1. Route your AC condensation line for irrigation. We always route the condensation line to a flower bed...preferably one that gets lots of sunlight. Drill small holes in one piece of PVC to add drip irrigation to the bed. The great thing here is- the summer time is when you use your AC the most and its the time your plants need the most irrigation. Cost: $6 for the additional PVC line.
2. Outlet and switch insulating gaskets. One of the greatest sources of air leaks in a home is around your outlets and switches. For a quick and easy solution- pick up some insulating gaskets from Home Depot for just $1.37 for a pack of 8.
3. Solar Powered attic fan. During the summer, super hot air is trapped in attic spaces. Attic fans create an air-flow through the attic to remove excessive heat and moisture. Solar powered fans run on their own power and require no wiring. Cost: $217.
4. Motion Sensing Light Switches. How many time have you come home from the office only to find a light on in the bathroom. That light uses electricity and creates heat. Motion sensing light switches eliminate this problem. The switches can be set for auto or manual. We use these in high traffic areas prone to lights being left on(bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, etc). Cost: $14.95 each
5. Rain Barrels. We add two connected rain barrels to every renovation. Its a great conversation piece and marketing play. Cost: $60 a piece fully outfitted on Craigslist.
6. No-Voc Paint. When you're buying paint- how much are you spending per gallon? $15? $20? If you're buying even mid-level Behr paint from Home Depot you're paying $24 per gallon. For just a few bucks more you can get Sherwin-Williams Harmony No-Voc paint. Not only is the paint zero Voc's...the packaging is 100% recycled. Price: $27.50 per gallon at Sherwin-Williams
7. Installing the HVAC in conditioned space. In many lower cost rehabs, the air handler unit of a new HVAC system is installed in either the attic, garage or crawlspace. We always try- its not always feasible- to place the entire air handler and ductwork within the conditioned space where there is less heat gain and heat loss. This is not always feasible as it affects the design on the home...but the energy savings can be substantial. Cost: $0 .Usually this doesn't cost any more than a typical install.
8. Programmable Thermostat. Programmable thermostats automatically adjusts to reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much. Depending on your family’s schedule, you can see significant savings by sticking with those settings or adjust them as appropriate for your family. Cost: $30-75
9.Recycled Paper Cellulose Insulation. Home Depot offers GreenFiber cellulose insulation for about $.40 a sq ft...significantly less expensive than the traditional "pink stuff". Cost: $10/ bag.
10. CFLs. Long the staple of the green movement- CFLs are now becoming less expensive. Making this switch is one of the most noticeable inexpensive green tips. Cost: $1 each sometimes less if you find a good sale.
These are just a few of the green attributes of our homes...we also include more expensive features such as tankless water heaters, hybrid HVAC systems, Paperstone countertops, dual-flush toilets, steam showers, low-flow faucets, FSC certified cabinets, radiant barriers and more. We're exploring options now for green roofs, greywater recycling systems, solar/wind systems, etc.