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How Green Building Projects Impact Your Wallet

Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Ferentz Agnes | stock illustration ID: 49554808
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A common concern for people everywhere is that living sustainably may be expensive, and though society as a collective is finally beginning to accept climate change as a reality, the necessity to save our planet can often be overshadowed by a necessity to save our money. Luckily, this concern is becoming more and more of a misconception. Now more than ever, it is easy and accessible to go green, with businesses turning to eco-friendly practices, companies selling eco-friendly products, and governments putting out eco-friendly policies.

These days, one of the most effective and trending ways to go green is to not only look at how we live, but also where we live, and to take those practices, products and policies into our houses. Whether we are making green updates to a treasured home, or building a new eco-friendly house, let’s take a look at how green building impacts our wallets. You don’t need to live in a smart house to be green. There are a lot of other sustainable living ideas to try.

Green Building Certifications

There are many certification programs available for green building that notably increase the value of your property, and often lead to other incentives such as tax breaks and grants. Green certified buildings often even receive discounts on homeowner’s insurance. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) issued by U.S. Green Buildings Council, is probably the most easily recognized sustainable building certification, as more than 1.6 million residential units are currently participating in LEED around the world. Other popular certifications include Energy Star, BREEAM, and Green Globes. Prospective buildings undergo a thorough third-party verification process, including an onsite inspection and performance testing. Successfully certified homes deliver on design plans and meet green building commitments that save energy, water and other resources. But do they save money? By using less energy, green homes also lower utility bills. On average, LEED certified homes save 30% of water and 15-20% of energy, which averages out to about $70 per month in utility bill savings. While the typical cost of an entry level LEED home is about 3 to 5 percent higher than a conventional home, that additional cost is canceled out by utility savings, making a LEED certified home with all of its benefits- from cleaner indoor air quality for the family, to a lower carbon footprint for the planet- comparable in cost to a traditional home meeting minimum building code.

Tax Breaks

We talked about a number of financial benefits of green buildings for both consumers and businesses in the past. One benefit is tax breaks.

Like certifications, there are many available tax breaks, grants, and other financial incentives for green construction, helping many families to make the commitment to saving the planet. Federal, state, and local governments want your home to be more efficient and earth-friendly, and surprisingly, so do many utility companies. From solar to wind, geothermal to fuel cell energies, the tax breaks being offered can make a huge impact on their cost for either new or existing projects, offering up to up to 26% of the installation and equipment as a tax credit. Not to mention all of the state, local and utility deals. For example, Pacific Gas and Electric, a leading California utility company, offers utility bill rebates of up to $120 to customers who purchase efficient appliances and equipment. The building of eco homes is on the rise with thanks going to these tax breaks and money saving incentives. Keep in mind these tax breaks are set through December 31, 2021, when they will be reevaluated.

Uncertified Updates

On the more affordable end for the homeowner who wants to make sustainable upgrades without the commitment of a certificate or a new build, there are tons of options. There are simple best practices that are cost effective and low effort, like sealing windows and other air leaks (90 inches of weather strips costing about $12), taking shorter showers, turning lights off or switching to LED bulbs (8 pack for about $10), and using pressure cookers (ranging from $50-$250) rather than the energy intensive ovens. There are more long-term investments such as installing energy efficient windows or doors (lowering energy bills by 12% on average), installing a whole house fan (saving 90% in cooling energy costs on average), or upgrading kitchen appliances (qualifying for tax breaks plus potential energy bill savings of over $100 per year).

Final Thoughts

It is very clear that energy saving, means energy bill saving. If a family is able to front the cash to make the upgrades or commitments to a sustainable lifestyle, the numbers say they will save money in the long run. Luckily, we don’t have to choose between saving a buck or saving the planet, with options for every person on every budget. Not only that, but government financial incentives make it easier than ever to make the switch to a green lifestyle. It is heartening to know that energy companies, insurance companies, local and federal governments all are on the same page about saving the planet, and want to create the easiest, most accessible path for homeowners to get on board, too.

Have some inspiration about going green in all aspect of life. Views are my own.

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