Being a good homeowner today means considering ecologically friendly choices when making improvements or replacing existing equipment in your home. Once thought of as the expensive, it is becoming increasingly affordable to ‘go green’. In many cases it is a no-brainer as long term savings and/or utility companies offer rebates that make the decision an easy one. Just last month my entire aged HVAC unit died. My trusted HVAC servicer came out, pronounced it DOA and gave me two choices–a minimum 14 SEER unit for $7400 or a 16-SEER system for $7800 with a $500 rebate from my utility company. That didn’t even warrant a debate. I went with the 16 SEER and my rebate should arrive in the mail within weeks. Not all companies, like mine, will point it out to you so make sure to do your research when replacing big equipment. Look for the Energy Star seal on everything from refrigerators to windows. Always consider alternatives to the traditional. For example, the tankless water heater provides not only a higher level of convenience and increases a homeowner’s quality of life but will save money over time.
Many of the green choices also add significant resale value to your home the moment you install them. One of these is a metal versus a composite shingle roof. Here in San Antonio, composite shingles have been the default for decades. The — shingle is supposed to have a 20 year life but due to the area’s intense weather effectively only last 12-17 years at best. The hardier, dimensional shingle, designed to last 30 years, usually barely makes it 22 years here. Metal roofs are predicted to last 40-70 years AND provide energy savings by being better insulators of cold and reflectors of heat. Of course they are significantly more expensive but not only do home buyers give strong weight to metal roofs when making home choices, appraisers are generous in assigning them value very true to the additional upfront cost. Last year I had clients who suffered fatal roof damage for a wind and hail storm. With an eye to listing their house the following year, they asked if they should spend the additional 5 grand over what the insurance company provided to upgrade to the standing seam metal roof. I advised them to do so and last month their home sold quickly for $40,000 more than they paid two years prior, the metal roof being the only major improvement made.
The efficacy of solar panels is becoming a frequent source of conversation among my clients. Yes, the upfront cost can seem staggering for many but utility company rebates and buy-backs make this green choice one worth considering, especially if a homeowner plans to stay in the home for an extended period of time. Even those who don’t are finding the investment is paying off. My clients who installed solar panels one April and then found themselves facing a job transfer to another state a year later were able to recoup the price of the panels in a higher sales price for their home. While appraisers are still finding an effective formula for applying value for solar panels, in our case, the appraiser recognized the monetary and intrinsic value of the panels and applied that to the appraised value at about the same rate as a swimming pool would be valued. Some consideration should be paid to the age of the roof when installing the panels, however, as the cost of removing them and re-installing once a roof replacement is required can run $80 per panel. For this reason, homeowners may want to wait until their roof is ready to be replaced to install solar panels.
Don’t think that all earth-friendly home improvement decisions need to cost more money upfront. In fact some green choices COST LESS! Did you know that linoleum is sustainable? It has a lifespan of 40 years or more and is recyclable! It is no longer grandma’s floor — there are some gorgeous choices in rolled linoleum (a photo of one installed by my clients is seen here). Other sustainable flooring choices include bamboo and cork. Consider countertops of recycled materials like reclaimed wood, crushed aluminum cans and broken glass. How about insulating your attic with recycled materials like wood pulp or soy byproducts?
Going green can be as dramatic as installing an entire rain catchment system in your home or as simple as choosing a single xeriscape plant at the nursery. Keeping it top of mind and allowing the green choice to be at least a consideration in your decision-making as a homeowner will not only improve the planet once choice at a time but might also save you money and MAKE you money when you sell your home!