Building Green on a Budget

Saving money can be a natural outcome of your home project.
Canada: Four Bedroom Home

Four Bedroom Home: Canada

Lots of windows allow you to naturally warm your home the eco-friendly way.

Photo by: The Whistler Real Estate Co., a member of Luxury Portfolio International

The Whistler Real Estate Co., a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Lots of windows allow you to naturally warm your home the eco-friendly way.

Going green doesn't have to use every last one of your greenbacks. While building a fully green home typically costs 20 to 30 percent more than a traditional build, you can still get results by spending less, often as little as 2 to 4 percent over standard construction. Here are some tips to make your new or existing home more eco-friendly without breaking the bank.

1. Think "refresh," not "remodel"

You don't need to go throw out what you've already got to go green.

If you buy a home with hardwood floors, for instance, it would be better to leave the original surface than to replace it with eco-friendly flooring. Since old-growth trees have already been cut down to make the floor, it would be wasteful to throw it out and use additional resources.

The most eco-friendly approach is to try to work with what you already have. You'll create less waste with your construction project and save money on new materials. Using existing elements will also make the project move faster, which translates into lower labor costs.

2. Use salvaged materials

Using recycled supplies can often reduce your building costs and environmental impact. Look for secondhand lumber, plumbing fixtures or hardware. Depending on the age of the materials, make sure they're tested for asbestos, lead paint and contaminants. Once supplies are cleared, they'll add low-cost character to your home.

3. Build a smaller home

McMansions, be gone! Smaller, more space-efficient buildings use fewer resources during construction, and they are cheaper to heat and cool. Plus, smaller homes are less disruptive to their home site and leave more of your property open for plant and animal life.

4. Let the sun be your friend

Letting the sun shine in -- in the right places -- can drastically reduce your heating, cooling and electricity bills. It costs little, if anything, to shuffle the window arrangement during the design process.

To maximize the sun's effects, add the most windows to the south side of your home. Add fewer windows on the east and west facades to reduce cooling costs.

5. Save water

Adding water-saving features to your home during construction won't cost you much coin, but it'll make a big difference in you bills down the road. There is little, if any, additional cost to substitute standard water equipment with energy-efficient models. So why not install a low-flow showerhead or water aerator now?

6. Get energy-saving appliances

Your appliances have two price tags: the one on the sticker at the store and the one you get in the mail every month for utility fees. Efficient appliances might cost a little more off the shelf, but they're worth the savings later.

Appliances approved by the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models, reducing energy costs.

7. Trash the garbage disposal

Disposals might be convenient, but they're definitely not energy-efficient. They use a lot of water and send lots of organic material down the drain. Take your food scraps out back to a compost pile instead. You won't miss the disposal when your food scraps turn into nutrient-rich topsoil that's the perfect fertilizer for a garden.

8. Recycle construction extras

When your sparkling, new home is done, don't forget to salvage the leftover materials. Some extras can be sold, while others can be recycled. You'll save big on landfill expenses, and you'll keep your project from contributing to another trash heap.

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