When you own a house, there may seem like a never-ending list of things you want to improve, whether cosmetic — like finally replacing peeling wallpaper or adding a splash of color with new paint — or more functional, as with more insulation in the attic, or a more efficient heating system. But in a down housing market, in an economy that’s made money a bit tighter for a lot of us, which green improvements will really add value to your home?
The good news is that a lot of green improvements are designed to either improve the energy efficiency — as with insulation — or environmental health — think wall coverings — of your home, and those types of things add value. Still, there are a few home improvements that get oversold as value-boosters that can actually reduce the long-term value in your home; windows are a prime example of that. With that in mind, here are five ways you can add value to your home when making green improvements.
Upgrade in the Kitchen
The kitchen is traditionally one of the best spots for a good return on investment in your home, and that’s true with green home improvements, too. You don’t have to do a huge renovation to add value, either; a new green countertop or an upgrade to your kitchen floor will usually net you between a 90 and 100 percent return on your investment. Not only will kitchen updates add value, but they can help improve the indoor air quality in your home, too.
Update the Bathroom
In addition to the kitchen, the bathroom is one room where you’re almost always assured of a good return on your home improvement investment. Like the kitchen, a complete overhaul often isn’t necessary; you can add value just by regrouting existing tile or adding a new coat of paint, since aesthetics in the bathroom are so important to the value of your home. Ready to take the next step? Upgrading fixtures to maximize water conservation in your bathroom can adds lots of value, since it’s the room where most of your home’s water goes down the drain.
It may not be quite as sexy as kitchen or bathroom upgrades, but you can almost never have too much insulation, and adding more can help you realize a return on your investment of over 100 percent. Research conducted in the U.K. earlier this year found that “fuel efficiency and energy saving measures are the top performing home improvement,” returning up to 250 percent on initial investment, and having proper insulation goes a long way to maximizing the energy efficiency of your home. While it can be a little tricky to add insulation to existing walls, beefing up the R-values in your attic or crawlspace will help cut your energy costs, which will pump up your home’s value.
Improve the Efficiency of Your Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling goes along with insulation (and windows — more on that below) to help save you energy at home, which has the dual benefit of saving you money now, and adding value for your home, which is beneficial if you want to sell it later. Every home is different, so there isn’t one system that adds value to every house; while geothermal heat pumps are the right choice for some, solar heating might be better elsewhere, for example. And, if a whole new system isn’t in the cards right now, be sure you’ve done the basics to insure your current setup is operating at its peak efficiency. Lower utility bills will never detract from the value of your home.
Look at Your Windows
Old windows can be leaky, poorly insulated sieves that let too much air in (and out), helping undo any efficiency improvements you make elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean they should be automatically replaced. If they’re the original wood frame windows on your 100 year-old home, replacing them can actually reduce the value of your home — it’s sort of like refinishing a valuable old antique in that it might look shinier, but won’t be as valuable. So take a close look at your windows, but remember that you should fix before you replace in almost every case. Adding storm windows to aging single pane windows will give you improved insulation values without detracting from the historical value of your home.