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10 eco-friendly upgrades for Canadian homeowners

eco-friendly home upgrades

Home and cottage owners tread a fine line between comfort and complacency. Renovating can seem intimidating, but you can always start small. When it comes to upgrading, a little goes a long way. There are more benefits than you might think, too. Did you know that upgrades around the house can give you access to better home insurance coverage?

As the world changes, so should the way we renovate and upgrade our houses. These days, sustainability is more than just a buzzword; it’s a way to make both your living situation and the world around you a better place. So if you’re looking to make a few changes to your house, here are some eco-friendly options we would recommend looking into.

Get audited

Before undertaking any renovations, you should opt for a home energy audit. It’s the best way to know which upgrades you should do first, and it will tell you where the biggest inefficiencies are in and around your home. Not only will an assessment save you money in the long run by showing you where heat is escaping and air is getting in, but energy auditors will often help you find tax rebates and cost credits for upgrading your property.

Low-flow bathroom

What was once fodder for 90s sitcoms, the low-flow showerhead has evolved over the years. And thank goodness for that, because converting your bathroom to low-flow fixtures can save you buckets of water, which is good for both the environment and your wallet. Studies have shown that nearly three-quarters of household water consumption happens in the bathroom, so cutting back even a little can make a difference. If you’re really worried about sacrificing your beloved showers, start with a low-flush toilet and work your way into upgrading the rest of the bathroom.

The solvent-free solution

Whether you’re winterizing your cottage or just fixing up windows around the house, a great way to keep the heat in (and the cold out) is to make sure your windows are properly sealed. But did you know there’s an eco-friendly way to seal everything up? When you’re hitting the hardware store, keep an eye out for solvent-free caulking and sealants. They work just as well as the old-fashioned stuff, but they’re far less toxic.

Re-insulate yourself

It’s been a few years since North American insulation companies phased out formaldehyde in their fibreglass insulations, but if you’re looking to renovate, there’s a good chance the insulation in your house or cottage goes back more than a few years. Consider upgrading it to a more eco-friendly option, because while fibreglass has gotten safer, it still isn’t as green as cellulose, sheep’s wool, spray foam, or even cotton. Did you know that some companies actually use recycled denim as insulation?

Instead of building a wall, plant one

Got a green thumb and a well-lit wall in need of some love? Consider turning it into a living wall. Aside from the fact that it’s a striking statement that will make your friends green with envy, a vertical garden will also work wonders to detoxify and purify the air in your house, and if you’re a home cook, you can even make an edible version in your kitchen.

Reboot your house’s windows

You put in hours of effort re-sealing your windows, but what if we told you it’s the glass, not the frame, that’s leaking energy? By switching to low-e glass or opting for electrochromic glazing, you can reduce solar gain, cut cooling costs, and even have windows that tint on command.

Recover unused water with a grey-water recycling system

We all love a good shower—especially after a week at the cottage. But if it feels like a waste letting that water go, consider adding a grey-water recovery system to your house. Here’s how it works: water from your sinks, laundry room, and shower drains is conserved, filtered, and reallocated. It’s totally safe if properly installed, and it’s a great way to conserve water (and money).

Go for green paint (even if it isn’t green paint)

If you’re repainting—and since you’re renovating, odds are that you will be—opt for paint that’s low in (or completely devoid of) VOCs. For the uninitiated, VOC stands for “volatile organic compounds,” and as the name indicates, they’re not great for you. In the short term, they lead to headaches and dizziness, but long-term effects caused by the gasses they emit aren’t great for the environment, either. Paint companies are quickly eliminating VOCs from their palettes, but be sure to read the label before you’re sold on a swatch.

Reclaimed wood

Reclaimed wood is all the rage when it comes to home furnishing, so why not take the trend a step further and use it in your renovation? If you’re redoing your kitchen, consider reclaimed wood accents, recessed behind your sink, as shelves, or as a kitchen island. If reclaimed kitchen cabinets aren’t your style, why not go big with reclaimed hardwood floors? The patina can’t be beaten.

Bring your roof to life

Green roofs have existed for, well, as long as roofs have, but they’re more popular than ever now that we know just how viable they are. More than nice to look at, either on your house or cottage, they’re a great way to conserve energy. If you’re thinking about a green roof, don’t get intimidated; while there are fancy solutions, you can also opt for something as simple as sod, which has long been popular in Scandinavian countries. Just make sure you enlist a little help with it, since installing a green roof isn’t as simple as it sounds.