Green remodeling ideas that will save you money

Yahoo Homes

“Going green” is more than just a passing phase – being environmentally thoughtful has become a way of life for many Americans, not to mention businesses that serve their needs. From recycling bottles and cans to investing in a do-it-yourself composter, homeowners all over the country are doing their part to help reduce emissions and protect the planet for future generations.

There are plenty of small things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient, but what if you want to go a step further? Whether you’re building a new home or renovating your current place, these green remodeling ideas will save you money over the long haul and make your home more appealing to buyers when you’re ready to sell – while saving the Earth in the process.

Solar panels

They’re expensive to install, but solar panels are worth the investment. Last April, the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory released its findings of an eight-and-half-year study of the California real estate market. According to the report, existing homes that were retrofitted with solar panels sold for an average of $17,000 more than comparable homes without them.

They’ll also save you a lot of money over time. For example, a homeowner in Chicago who pays an average of $200 per month on electricity would spend more than $43,000 to have solar panels installed. After tax credits and rebates, the total cost would be just over $30,000. However, after just one year, that homeowner would save anywhere between $1,200 to $2,778 on electric bills. After 25 years, that savings could be as high as $116,560.

To find out how much solar panels could save you, visit Solar-Estimate.org.

Composite decking

In addition to saving trees by using composite decking instead of wood, you’ll save yourself a big hassle. Wooden decks need to be sealed every couple years to keep water out, and eventually the elements will cause at least a few boards to rot and splinter.

Composite decking, made from a blend of wood waste and plastic, doesn’t require the same upkeep as traditional wood deck boards. You won’t need to seal it, which eliminates the time and money you’d spend resealing plus fewer chemicals will be released into the air. And since the deck won’t rot, no trees will be cut down and used to replace it after a few years.

The average cost of a composite deck addition is $15,579, according to Remodeling Magazine, but you can expect to recoup more than 60 percent of your cost when you sell your home – more than if you replaced your roof or added a master suite.

Synthetic grass

It sounds crazy, but using fake grass in your yard is a real thing. It looks surprisingly real, and is great for homes in dry climates where it requires a lot of extra effort – and water – to grow the real thing. According to online retailer Artificial Turf Supply, the synthetic stuff costs about twice as much to install as sod. In a 1,500 square-foot yard, ground prep, sod and a sprinkler system would cost $4,750 a year while artificial grass would run just over $10,000.

But over an eight-year period (the warranty period of the synthetic grass listed on the site), the cost of maintaining a sod lawn would cost more than $14,500. During that same period, there would be no additional costs to maintain the fake stuff, which means a savings of more than $4,000. After 15 years, the savings skyrockets to $13,000. Basically, artificial turf pays for itself completely.

And you’re doing more than putting money in your pocket. You may still “rinse” the lawn from time to time, but you won’t waste gallons of water saturating the ground to keep the grass alive. It doesn’t need mowing, either, which means lower gasoline emissions polluting the air.

No matter what green home remodeling project you want to pursue, make sure you find yourself a like-minded contractor. Look for a pro who has some experience in green building, or is at least open-minded and eager to get an eco-friendly project under his or her belt.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

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