home ownership

Sustainable Home Upgrades

Autumn is a great time to reevaluate your home’s insulation and consider investing in sustainable upgrades. These upgrades will not only reduce your energy bills and increase your home’s value but also contribute to making your neighborhood and our city a better place to live.

Go Solar

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that homes with solar power increased in value by $20 for every dollar saved on energy. The average cost of a residential solar panel installation in 2022 ranges between $18,000 and $20,000, before applying tax credits or other incentives that may be available where you live. 

While some companies claim to offer “free” solar panels, the reality is that free solar panels are actually solar leases. You’ll save more money overall by choosing a solar loan over a solar lease because you’ll be the one to receive any federal, state, or local incentives. If you’re able to purchase your system outright, you’ll see the highest return on investment overall. For example, the owner of a 3,000 sq ft home in Bella Vista paid $26,000 to have solar panels installed in 2019 by Solar States and has not had to pay one penny to heat, cool, or light his home since.

Upgrade your furnace

An average natural gas furnace has a lifespan of approximately 20 years. Regular maintenance will help a furnace reach that 20-year mark, but that doesn’t mean that it will operate efficiently the entire time.

Energy efficiency technology improves virtually every year, and federal efficiency standards often become more strict as a reaction. This helps our environment and ultimately saves you money. The more efficient your furnace, the less you pay for utility services.

If your energy costs have increased recently, an outdated furnace may be partially to blame. Have an HVAC professional inspect the unit and recommend a solution. If your furnace isn’t too old, a parts retrofit can improve its efficiency; however, if your furnace has reached the end of its expected lifespan, your best (and the most cost-effective) option is to replace it with a newer model.

Go Green

A green roof is a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing system that is installed on top of a flat or slightly–sloped roof. According to the National Parks Service, its primary benefit to the environment is controlling stormwater runoff and retention. But it also provides financial benefits, including energy cost savings and increased property values. Over its estimated lifespan of 40 years, a green roof would save about $200,000. Jeanne Weber from Philadelphia Green Roofs has worked with Solo for over ten years, and they frequently help homeowners with the application for the Philadelphia Green Roof Tax Credit and the stormwater certification process for the Philadelphia Water Dept. Want to learn more about green roofs? Read our article about what green roofs actually do.

Philadelphia Green Roofs
Image: Philadelphia Green Roofs

Energy Efficient Windows

You may have already installed energy-efficient appliances, but have you given any thought to energy-efficient windows?  Double-pane windows with thermal insulation improve the sustainability of your home. Single-pane windows do not keep homes well insulated. Double-pane windows can retain your home’s warmth in the winter and keep your home cooler in the summer months. 

Sign up to get a rain barrel

The Philadelphia Water Dept. provides free rain barrels to homeowners through their Rain Check Program for the purpose of capturing stormwater runoff from the roof. Each blue barrel is approximately 22.5” in diameter and 36.5” in height. PWD provides a full professional installation including spigots, gaskets, winter caps, and a downspout diverter. You can use the stored water for your non-edible plants or outdoor cleaning. Reduce your water consumption and manage stormwater runoff at the same time! 

Rain Barrel in a backyard.
Rain barrel installed in a backyard. Image: PWD Rain Check Program

To get your rain barrel you’ll need to complete a virtual workshop where they will explain the free and subsidized stormwater management options (other projects include permeable pavers, rain gardens, etc) available through the rain check program. Sign up now to get on the waiting list for a workshop when they resume in January 2023.

Plant a Tree

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation can help you get a free yard tree through its TreePhilly program. The trees are given away at community-hosted events throughout November and may be planted in front, side, or back yards. According to TreePhilly, trees are one of the best investments we can make in the future of our city. “When properly cared for, urban trees provide valuable and vital services – like clean air, increased property values, and peaceful neighborhoods. Planting and maintaining trees addresses all three pillars of sustainability: Environment, Economics, and Society.”

tree planting
Image: Tree Philly

Don’t have a yard to plant a tree? You may be able to get a street tree instead. Fill out this form to request a tree from the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Street Tree Office. Tree planting season usually runs from mid-October to mid-November and mid-April to mid-June.

Every step you take to reduce your home’s footprint results in benefits for you and for our city.

Interested in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia, How Be More Sustainable This Fall or our article on Greening Your Philly Rental. If you’re a Solo tenant or owner and want to sign up for a special 2 month trial offer from Bennett Compost, please e-mail us!

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