Berkeley has a reputation as a bastion of environmentalism, and for good reason. From sustainable agriculture to green energy, Berkeley residents have long been at the forefront of the eco-friendly movement. And when it comes to residential real estate, a sustainable home is more important than ever. In this special Earth Day article, I’ll explore the sustainable features and practices that can help buyers, homeowners, and sellers reduce their carbon footprint, save money on utility bills, and contribute to a healthier planet.
Sustainable Practices for Buyers
If you’re in the market for a sustainable home in Berkeley, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, you should work with a Green Realtor like me, who has extensive experience with sustainable homes. A knowledgeable agent can help you find a home with the sustainable features you’re looking for, as well as provide insights into local regulation and home efficiency rebate programs.
When searching for a sustainable home, here are few things to look for when evaluating whether a home is eco-friendly and energy efficient:
- Insulation: If possible, check the quality and thickness of insulation in the walls, attic, and floors. Proper insulation can help reduce energy consumption and save money on heating and cooling bills.
- Windows: Look for energy-efficient windows with laminated panes and low-E coatings, which help keep the home insulated and reduce heat loss. While dual-pane windows are in vogue, they have high failure rates and significant carbon impacts.
- Lighting: Check for energy-efficient lighting fixtures, such as LED bulbs or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Appliances: Look for Energy Star-certified appliances, which are designed to be more energy-efficient and can help reduce energy consumption.
- Heating and cooling systems: Check the age and efficiency of the heating and cooling systems. Consider properties with newer and more efficient systems, such as geothermal or solar-powered options.
- Renewable energy sources: Look for properties with solar panels or wind turbines, which can help reduce energy consumption and save money on utility bills.
- Landscaping: Consider the landscaping around the property. Look for properties with drought-resistant plants, rainwater collection systems, and composting areas.
While you’re unlikely to find all of these improvements in a given home, the more items you can check off the list, the better the home will preform. Some of the details in the list above can be found in the home inspection report, so make sure to work closely with your Green Realtor to evaluate these details when considering whether or not to make an offer on a property.
Sustainable Practices for Homeowners
Berkeley is one of the first cities in the nation that requires home sellers to hire a qualified assessor to complete a home energy audit. The Building Emissions Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO) will supply you with a list of recommended efficiency improvements to make to your new home. Some of these will be low/no cost measures you can do yourself, while others will be more expensive measures that will require help.
Some of the items you may find on your BESO report are listed below, but there are always other projects you can implement to make your home more sustainable. These types of measures help reduce your carbon footprint, improve the health and safety of your home, and save you money on your utility bills. Here are some of the most effective ways to make your home more eco-friendly:
- Install Energy-Efficient Appliances: One of the easiest ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption is to switch to energy-efficient appliances. Look for products with the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates that they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Switch to Electric Appliances: Electric appliances don’t produce harmful emissions like their gas-powered counterparts, so they are better for indoor air quality as well as overall greenhouse gas emissions. Electric appliances also tend to be more energy-efficient than gas-powered appliances, which means they can save you money on your energy bills over time.
- Upgrade Your Insulation: Proper insulation is key to keeping your home comfortable and energy-efficient. If your home is poorly insulated, you may be losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer, leading to higher energy bills. Consider upgrading your insulation to reduce energy waste and save money.
- Switch to LED Lighting: LED lighting uses significantly less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and lasts much longer, making it a smart choice for homeowners who want to reduce their energy consumption.
- Install Low-Flow Fixtures: Low-flow fixtures, such as showerheads and faucets, reduce water usage and can save you money on your water bill. They’re also better for the environment, as they help conserve a precious resource.
- Go Solar: Installing solar panels on your home is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills. Berkeley has a thriving solar industry, with many local companies offering installation services and financing options.
There are both federal and local tax credits as well as rebate programs available to help defray the cost of implementing these measures. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 offers many tax credits, while local programs such as the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BAYREN) have rebate programs for energy efficiency and climate friendly system upgrades.
By taking these actions and other steps to reduce your energy and water usage, you can make your home more healthy and sustainable while contributing to a healthier planet. Not only will you be doing your part to combat climate change, but you’ll also enjoy the benefits of a more comfortable, energy-efficient home.
Sustainable Practices for Sellers
As a seller, you may be wondering how you can make your home more appealing to eco-conscious buyers. Luckily, there are several sustainable practices you can implement to make your home stand out.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make your home more eco-friendly is to replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy than traditional bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. That means less time spent changing light bulbs and more money saved on your electricity bill.
Another inexpensive sustainable practice for sellers is to install a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats learn your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjust the temperature to maximize energy efficiency. Most models can even be controlled remotely from your smartphone, so you can adjust the temperature from anywhere.
Finally, sustainable landscaping is another great way to make your home more eco-friendly. Native plants and a vegetable garden not only improve the aesthetic of your home but also contribute to local biodiversity and help reduce your carbon footprint.
Making these improvements will add to the attractiveness of your home when you go to sell, and are also things you can enjoy prior to listing your property. If you have questions regarding the types of upgrades that will yield the most value when selling, reach out to me and I’m happy to advise you on the details of your specific situation.
Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword – it’s a critical consideration for buyers, homeowners, and sellers in Berkeley and beyond. By prioritizing sustainable features and practices, you can reduce your carbon footprint, improve the health of your family, save money on utility bills, and contribute to a more sustainable planet. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, or just looking to make your current home more eco-friendly, there are plenty of options available to help you achieve your sustainability goals. With the right knowledge and guidance, you can find a home that not only meets your needs but also aligns with your values. For a personal assessment of your home or prospective property, contact me for more information!