Eco-Friendly Design Ideas for Every Home

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated September 23, 2016
Solar panels on roof
Solar panels are expensive to install, but pay for themselves in energy savings over time, experts say. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Jack G.)

Do you want your home to go green? Consider some of these eco-friendly, energy-efficient trends when making plans to build or renovate your home.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

When it comes to home building, green is all the rage these days — not so much as a color choice, but a preference for eco-friendly materials and the techniques used to make them. Architects say their clients building new homes increasingly favor green features for their modern, natural aesthetic and energy-saving benefits. LEED-certified architects Andrew Peters, partner at San Francisco-based Peters Design-Build, and Jim Hill at Urban Pioneering Architecture in New York, break down some key features of sustainable home design below.

Super sealing the housing envelope

Hill and Peters say many of their residential clients opt to incorporate passive home design in their plans, which means adhering to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency. Besides adding more insulation than standard building codes require, passive homes often include high-performance windows (usually triple-paned) and roll-on weather-resistant barrier systems instead of traditional building wrap to create a super-insulated envelope, Hill says. “Creating a much tighter sealed envelope limits heat loss, so you can cut down on mechanical services,” he says.

An energy efficiency consultant can also help you develop plans and specifications for your home.

AL Weekly

Free home improvement advice!

This story comes from Angie’s List Weekly — get tips and inspiration like this on your mobile device. Download the app for iPhone and iPad or Android today! 

Sourcing local, raw materials

Natural, locally sourced and salvaged materials not only give a home a modern feel, but elevate its green factor. If you’re not sure where to find the specific materials you desire, your home builder or contractor can help you track them down. “We’re always trying to find formaldehyde-free cabinets and millwork, and have found a good source in a local mill,” Peters says. “Clients have also asked us to use sustainable materials in unique aesthetic ways, like concrete countertops and pieces using reclaimed wood.”

Going solar

Some companies like Tesla have tapped into harvesting sun power with a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, Peters says. “The energy created from solar panels installed on most homes pumps back to the electric company, which pays you to use it,” he says. “Having a trained electrician install a solar battery would allow you to store energy in your garage.” They’re not cheap — expect to pay $3,000 or more for the battery alone, not including installation costs for the battery and solar panels, which themselves run between $15,000 and $40,000 — but you’d end your home’s energy expenses.

Automating energy management

Smart home features have a certain “cool” factor, sure, but Hill says their popularity in eco-friendly buildings will continue to rise, especially as systems become more intuitive and sophisticated in cutting down on wasted energy. “Many clients use these devices to control their home’s heating, cooling and lighting,” he says. “I’ve even incorporated systems that control solar panels and control your shades based on the position of the sun.”

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.