How to Do an Eco-Friendly Home Renovation

Technician assembling solar panels on house roof on sunny day.

I had a chance to visit a longtime Abacus client’s house in Northern California several months ago. Sitting at their kitchen table, they talked about the different decisions they had made in outfitting their kitchen to be as environmentally friendly as possible, a renovation completed nearly a decade before. “There weren’t a lot of options when we designed our kitchen,” they said, but they had pulled off a beautiful remodel that also gave a nod to our planet.

Fortunately, the options for homeowners who want to minimize their carbon footprint have expanded vastly over the past decade. There is also a lot of tax policy now to help sweeten the deal. Being in the middle of my own home remodel, I am prioritizing the planet in every decision I’m making. And while it takes a little more effort (and in some cases, cost), the long term payoff will be worth it. 

Here are five things I considered for our family’s eco-friendly home remodel.

Align your money with your values.

Learn how by speaking with a Financial Advisor today.

1. Making Energy Efficient Substitutions

When making big purchase upgrades for our home, I took the time to research and consider the most energy efficient substitutions on the market. 

Consider Induction

My architect first brought up the induction range when we started working on plans. Like many Americans, the idea of not “cooking with gas” was a tough sell. But as I dug into it and learned about the air quality improvements, ease of cleaning, and the better control induction offered, I was sold. I even bought an induction hot plate to try it out before committing. I reasoned that if induction works well for famed restaurant French Laundry (and the food coming out of my kitchen is decidedly not French Laundry caliber), then I was sure it would work for us.

Choose Energy Efficient Appliances

This is a great time to upgrade to a tankless water heater, high efficiency washing machine, low flow toilet, and other Energy Star approved appliances. When picking brands, look at the company’s environmental footprint and goals. Toto and Kohler, for example, integrate recycled porcelain into their business practices, while the latter is engaged in a net zero effort.

Replace Your Windows

Upgrading our windows also made sense when I learned that heat gain and loss are “responsible for 25% to 30% of residential heat and energy use.” It’s an added upfront cost to replace windows (and this cost can really add up depending on how many windows you have) but the future energy savings will help offset the additional price tag.

2. Choosing Your Materials Carefully

You’d be surprised how many options you have in choosing materials. When sourcing which companies to use, I not only tried to find ones with the best eco-friendly products, but I wanted to support businesses who prioritized corporate responsibility. 

A good place to start is checking out our fellow B Corps, which are for-profit companies that prioritize community, customers, environment, governance, and workers. (If you are curious about what it means to be a B Corp and how Abacus ranks in our B Corp certification, you can learn more here).

Here are some of the swaps that I made:

No or Low VOC Paint

What are VOCs? They are human-made chemicals used in paints, many household cleaners, and pesticides, among others. They increase air pollution and are known to enter the water system, polluting our groundwater. There are also myriad health impacts from breathing the toxic fumes that impact consumers, and the impact on painting indoors where you are breathing them in directly can be particularly harmful. Save your lungs (and the planet) and swap out your paint (and household cleaners and furniture, while you’re at it).

FSC-Certified and Reclaimed Wood

From cabinetry to hardwood flooring, you can buy more responsible lumber. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, so opting for products that come from responsibly managed forests or utilize reclaimed materials can help us be better carbon sequestration stewards.

Carbon Neutral Tile

It is now possible to buy tile from companies that use recycled materials, have minimal to zero waste, and have water and energy responsible factories. Fireclay Tiles and Heath Ceramics are both B Corps who have beautiful tile created responsibly. 

LED Lighting

Residential LED usage uses a whopping 75% less energy than conventional bulbs and lasts many times longer than traditional bulbs. The days of hanging those wildly flammable Christmas lights from our home are done, and have been replaced with a much longer-lasting (and safer!) alternative.

If Money Were Easy

The show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money.

3. Kill Your Lawn

Residential landscaping is responsible for one third of Americans’ water usage. That’s right. We are pouring 9 billion gallons a day into keeping our lawns looking ‘Leave it to Beaver’ fresh.

What better time to consider your landscaping than when doing a remodel? Chances are, most of your plants will die while you are doing work anyway, so you might as well swap plants for more eco-friendly options in the process! This can look like drought tolerant plants, artificial turf, and hardscaping, and can dramatically reduce your water usage. 

4. Plan for a Future Going Off the Grid

Whether you opt to go solar or not right now, a remodel is a great time to make sure you are set up for going solar in the future. Tax policies are heading more and more towards incentivizing consumers to move off the grid, so making sure you are set up is key. 

Here are some considerations to incorporate:

Prepare for Electric Cars

Check with your contractor/electrician to make sure you have the electrical system to handle an EV charger. If not, this may be the time to upgrade your panel and make sure the wiring is in place to support an EV charger.

Make Sure Your Roof Can Support Solar Panels

Two of the big considerations when optimizing solar panel installation are:

  1. How your roof is situated (i.e. getting the best utility from the sun) 
  2. If your roof is new enough to support solar panels (which tend to last 20 to 25 years)

Many solar panel installers recommend your roof be 10 years old or less before installing panels. If you have some latitude in designing your roof to optimize solar, or have a roof on the older side, this could be a good time to replace it.

Prepare for Battery Charging

Whether you are opting to buy a solar system now or later, make sure the wiring is set up to support a battery. Having a solar battery system installed can help a consumer get the most out of their solar panels. When you produce more electricity than is needed, that energy flows into your battery. Then if there is a power outage or even just in the evening, a consumer can draw on their stored electricity. This works to keep consumers off the grid as much as possible. 

5. Claim Rebates and Tax Credits

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, there is a verifiable bonanza of Federal tax credits the energy-conscious consumer can take advantage of. From expanding the credit for installing solar through 2034 (a 30% tax credit in the year installation is completed) to the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, make sure to let your CPA know what you are doing so you can get the full tax benefit. 

Local utilities often have their own rebate programs to incentivize appliance replacements and other energy savings measures. Based in Los Angeles at the time of this writing, LADWP offers rebates of $500 for a more efficient washing machine and $250 for a high efficiency toilet, among many others.

Bringing it All Home

Our home is where we spend most of our time; the EPA found that we spend a shocking 90% of our time indoors where “the concentration of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.” If we can take some of these options and apply them not just to our homes, but to our places of employment and “third places,” our impact will grow.

As consumers, every dollar we spend is a vote. A vote for what we value, a vote for business practices we support, and a vote for what we want more of in the future. Let’s spend responsibly.

At Abacus, whether it’s exploring your remodel, your retirement, or your values, we live to plan for the future. Reach out today to schedule a talk with a financial advisor and see how we can help you expand what is possible with your money.


What’s your financial archetype?

Simplify your life with a plan

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.