There’s a lot of concern over climate change in the world right now. In the recent 2019 Throne Speech, fighting climate change was given as one of the main priorities of Parliament to help Canadians. While many people want to go green, if they can’t afford it, they can’t. That’s the tragedy of the commons. Despite wanting to help combat climate change, if you think doing so will mean you can’t put food on the table, you have to value your own survival over reducing your carbon footprint. Fortunately, thanks to a combination of government incentives, innovative techniques, and new technologies, going green can actually save you money. The focus of this article is on building a new green home, specifically, but there are plenty of other ways you can be greener as well.
Going green can actually save you money
Before we delve deeper into green home building, it’s important to understand what we mean by a green home. “Green” doesn’t have any clear definition, like a LEED home (we’ll continue to discuss industry standards and criteria later). Here, we mean “green” as “any considerations made in home building to reducing the environmental impact of the home”. Given this definition, building green is obviously a worthwhile choice and there are many different ways to be “green”.
Some green decisions are free of cost: You can orient your home to the south (as long as by-laws permit it). Doing so increases the passive solar heat gain of the home, reducing your need to use active heating in the winter. The cost of doing this is negligible and every degree warmer your home is naturally in the wintertime is a bit of fuel or electricity you won’t need to use and spend on heating. There are a number of other things you might do to reduce the ecological impact of your home, like building it near public transportation areas and utility mains. Doing so may reduce the amount of fuel you spend getting to work (especially if you opt to use public or active transportation), and infill housing can reduce a city’s carbon footprint by reducing the amount of infrastructure they need to build because it’s already in place.
Most green decisions will cost a bit of money upfront. How much, exactly, is almost impossible to say – it depends heavily on what green modifications you’re looking to make and how much the home would cost without those modifications. There are a lot of other factors at play, like where you live. Take solar panels, for example: depending on how much sunlight you’re getting and what type of array you buy, you might be able to pay back your panels in seven years or perhaps, it may take twice that long – there are many variables at play.
Long-Term Advantages of Building Green
The longer you stay in a green home, the more opportunity you have to get a good return on your investment. That’s because the upfront cost of building green tends to be rather high – the materials are often more costly, and technologies like solar panels and high-efficiency furnaces cost more at first than going without them. That said, every year you’re in the house is another year that you’re saving money. Every dollar your solar panels take off your energy bill, and every ounce of fuel your furnace saves you is more money in your pocket. Over the course of five years, going green might not feel profitable but over the course of 30 years, you’ll be laughing your way to the bank.
One of the most innovative long-term savings solutions in recent years is an industry-standard known as Passive Housing. The goal of Passive Housing is to reduce the amount you spend on heating each year. This is achieved with the extensive use of insulation, airtight construction, high-quality doors and windows, and a few other features. There’s a detailed blog post by Quik-Therm Insulation about the subject; they’re a member of Passive House Canada. The post is well worth a read – it’s interesting and technically informative. The short story is that, over time, Passive Housing can save you a lot on energy, because the homes are so well insulated that traditional heating methods are often unnecessary. Think about only paying a fraction of your current heating bill – it wouldn’t take too long for those savings to add up to more than the price of good insulation and environmentally friendly design.
When it comes to ensuring you see the long-term benefits of a green home, it’s important to hire a professional construction team who understands green building practices. These residences have to be built holistically; if you’re trying to insulate your home to meet Passive House standards but a section of the home isn’t properly insulated and airtight, it won’t meet the standards it’s intended to. Always consult with multiple contractors before building and find the one with the most knowledge about green building.
Short Term Advantages of Building Green
As we’ve discussed, most of the financial advantages of green homes come from seeing them as a long-term investment where incremental energy savings recoup your costs. The main short term advantages of building green come from government incentives and resale value. Government incentives vary so much that talking about specific ones does little good because they can change quickly and sporadically. There is, however, a handy resource you can use – the Government of Canada has a website that directs you to energy-efficient home incentives by province.
Building green can definitely increase the resale value of your home; there are more and more people interested in supporting greener living every day. The best way to sell your green abode is to find a real estate agent who knows about green homes.
There’s a lot to gain from building green, whether you want to stay in the home for decades, or you plan on selling it to an environmentally conscious buyer. When you have the knowledge, building green can actually net you cash – an important thing to consider before building a new home!