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  • Erin Farnsworth

Green Upgrades to Consider When Doing a Whole-Home Remodel

Between California's worsening heat waves, drought, and electricity issues, this summer has many homeowners wishing their home had greener features to cope. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of work to plan and execute individual projects. But those who are already planning a whole-home renovation are in a unique position to pull off many upgrades at once.

Having your entire home overhauled presents the ideal opportunity to make green changes throughout. From the very design of the layout to the installation of appliances and materials, it’s possible to achieve a number of upgrades without any extra effort.

In this post, we review some of the most impactful upgrades you can make during your renovation. These changes won’t just improve your home’s resource consumption, they’ll also go a long way toward improving your quality of life and even raising your resale value.

Installing Energy-Efficient Elements

Cutting down electricity costs has become a major priority for Californians. The state has some of the highest electricity prices in the country and has been suffering regular blackouts due to inadequate electricity supply. If you’ve been feeling the pinch, you can get relief by ensuring your renovated home includes new energy-efficient features.

Enhanced Insulators

If you’re already replacing windows and doors, why not choose those that have been specifically designed to offer superior insulation quality? Many of these products now feature specialized glazing and treatments that increase UV-reflectiveness and prevent the penetration of outside heat (or cold). They can significantly improve the internal temperature stability of your home, helping you avoid the need to run the A/C nearly as often.

Making this investment can pay off in the long run. For example, while windows with low-emissivity coatings may cost 10-15% more than standard windows, they reduce energy loss by as much as 30-50%.


Low-Energy Appliances

From HVAC systems to water heaters and washing machines, the appliances in your home require a great deal of energy to run. Upgrading to energy-efficient ones can dramatically reduce your energy costs.

Energy Star appliances can yield a 10-50% savings on electricity consumption compared to their traditional counterparts. When you expand these savings across multiple appliances, you may see your bill drop to a fraction of what it was before your renovation.

Rooftop Solar Panels

Installing a solar system is by and far one of the most effective upgrades for reducing your home’s energy needs. In California, the average residential solar system generates $32,599 in energy bill savings over 20 years. Monthly bills can drop to mere dollars.


Storage batteries are quickly becoming a standard part of the latest solar installations. They allow you to store the excess energy your solar panels produce during the day, saving it for use during the night, or when you’re hit by yet another PSPS blackout.

Controlling and Utilizing Natural Light

Southern California’s perpetual sunlight can be both a blessing and a curse. While it does wonders for perking up our mood and providing free illumination, it can also create unpleasant glares and excessive heat build-up in our homes. While the low-emissivity windows we touched upon earlier can certainly help with the latter problem, extra measures are sometimes necessary.

Strategic placement of windows, building architectural screens, or even installing cellular shades are all good options to consider when planning your renovation. These solutions allow you to get creative with your design while devising the best way to manage the light that enters your home.

Don’t forget that your planning should also investigate ways to maximize use of natural light over artificial sources. If you currently have areas in your home that are too dark to use without turning on a lamp or two, adding (well-insulated) windows or skylights can help you reduce your need for electric lighting.


Incorporating Water Conservation

Californians are already under a lot of pressure to minimize their water usage as much as possible. You can reduce your home’s water consumption without extra effort by incorporating a few upgrades into your renovation.

In addition to electricity reduction, Energy Star dishwashers and laundry machines can also lower water usage by 20-50%. This translates to a minimum of 1,900 gallons of water saved every year.

Other water-conserving installations include low-flow toilets, showerheads, and sink faucets. It’s also possible to install systems that re-use your home’s grey (lightly used) water for irrigation and toilet flushing. If you’d like to take advantage of the rare occasions it rains here in California, you can also ask your architect about installing a rainwater collection system.


Smart Lighting and Device Integration

Smart devices and home automation can help tremendously when it comes to minimizing your home’s electricity use. It’s possible for your renovation to create an entirely controllable system of smart lighting throughout the home.

This can be useful for avoiding unnecessary use of lighting, especially when you’re not home. These systems actually enable you to turn off forgotten lights even after you’ve already left.

Additionally, smart thermostats can automatically adjust their settings depending on current weather, occupancy, and your daily habits. These devices are known to reduce energy consumption by 10-15%. Some even generate reports of your energy use and savings over time, also noting corresponding weather conditions.

Optimizing for Functional Space

Having a large home can feel like a waste of space if you find yourself rarely using certain rooms. It can also be a waste of energy if you’re still cooling, heating, or illuminating those areas. Repurposing underused rooms in your renovation can help you optimize your home’s use of space and avoid unnecessary energy costs.

Another idea is to actually add new rooms or extend them. While adding square footage to your home can increase your energy needs if you plan to cool or heat all spaces at all times, it can actually lower them if the new space allows you to close off other areas and keep your activities within a designated zone.

For example, adding a new home office can allow you to forgo cooling the rest of your home while you work. Instead, you’d be using only a small amount of energy to power that one space.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Materials

Your selection of flooring, paint, siding, etc. all has an impact on the world, which is why you may want to choose those that are made with sustainability in mind. That means that the process used to create them aims to reduce carbon-footprints, use of limited resources, or other negative impacts on the environment.

Many products that meet this standard are those that use renewable materials. These include bamboo and cork flooring, natural wool or recycled fiber carpets, concrete countertops and walls, or metal roofing and siding.

While choosing these materials may not always result in energy savings, they can improve the overall “greenness” of your home, which is important in terms of environmental responsibility. Another perk is that you may be eligible for tax credits and other incentives if you choose to incorporate eco-friendly materials into your home design.

Funding Your Renovation

Knowing your budget is one of the most important parts of renovation planning. Before you decide how extensive your changes will be, you’ll need to know what your goals are compared to what you can afford.

The team that assists with designing and performing your home renovation can help you work out what combination of features delivers the best results within your budget. They’ll also be able to help you take advantage of federal and state programs that help with remodeling costs for green building projects.

For example, the California tax code provides a property tax exclusion for rooftop solar installations, and 0%-down PACE loans are available for green home upgrades. There are a number of options available to reduce the overall cost of your renovation.


Getting Expert Help

Achieving a well-executed, maximally-green home renovation requires the help of experienced professionals. From design to the actual build, you’ll need experts on your side who know how to take advantage of effective solutions and perform installations properly.

Farnsworth Builders is one of Southern California’s most trusted teams for whole-home remodels. We’ve spent years serving residents throughout Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Culver City, and surrounding areas, pulling off transformative renovations.

As a full-service contractor, we team up with the region’s best architects to help homeowners attain remodels that embody their personal style and offer superior performance. We’ve helped many improve homes to be more valuable, energy-efficient, and visually inspiring. Our team would be honored to do the same for yours.

Starting Your Remodel with Farnsworth Builders

If you’ve already begun work with an architect, we can offer our building services in seamless collaboration. But if you’re still looking and need a recommendation, we can connect you to those with whom we’ve already established successful working relationships.

We’re happy to help you finish planning your renovation and make all necessary arrangements. To learn more about our process and how we go beyond the average builder, read about our pre-construction and whole home remodeling services. To discuss your project and set up a consultation, contact us today.

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