19 Green Renovation Ideas for Southern Californian Homes in 2019

Owning a home in sunny Southern California can be an awesome feeling, especially when you have the budget to take care of renovations and remodeling projects as needed. If you've been thinking about completing a couple of home improvement projects this year, you're probably looking for ways to perform renovations that will help your property become more eco-friendly and facilitate a more sustainable lifestyle, Fortunately, you won't have to search very hard to find the recommendations you seek, as we've compiled an extensive list of the top 19 green renovation ideas that are perfect for homes in Southern California this year:

  1. 1. Install Solar Panels

With the state of California mandating that all newly constructed homes must have solar panel systems installed from 2020 onwards, everyone is well aware of the regulatory and societal trend towards solar power in the region. In fact, cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco have seen the fastest solar growth rate in the country. To see evidence of this growth, one only has to research the rise of successful startups like Semper Solaris, a group that performs solar installations in the Bay Area and has long been ranked one of the best solar companies in the Bay Area and throughout Southern California – look here for more information on their services.  

If you've been paying attention to the news at all, you probably know that California also provides some pretty decent incentives to homeowners who purchase solar panels. For example, the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will make you eligible for a deduction that is equal to 30% of the solar panel system purchase. 

Of course, then there are also the long-term benefits of never having to pay an electricity bill again. Plus, if your solar panel system produces more electricity than your home uses, you can sign up with your local utility provider to have your excess energy routed back into the grid, which they'll actually pay you for in the form of a monthly check. 

  1. 2. Build a Recycling and Waste Sorting Center

Do you have a designated place on your property for sorting and disposing of recyclable waste and materials? If not, this would be a quick and easy project that you could perform on a DIY basis to make your duty of environmental stewardship just a little bit easier. If you're not yet familiar with all of the ways there are to recycle, you should probably start by reading a book and doing your web research on this topic. Follow a well-rounded recycling guide and try to put together an area complete with all the bins and equipment you need to sort things more conveniently. 

  1. 3. Have an Energy Audit Done

While this is more of a service procurement task than an actual building project, it is still a very worthwhile preliminary step to take before you decide to invest in any home improvement projects. Having an energy audit done will help you discover flaws in your home's insulation and HVAC systems that could be causing unnecessary spikes in electricity usage. This is a quick and simple process that should only take a day and will provide you with a list of recommendations that you can follow to optimize your home's energy efficiency. 

  1. 4. Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Windows

If your home is a bit older and hasn't had new windows installed in a while, chances are they're not nearly as energy-efficient as the newer models on the market. If you're clueless about the concept of weatherization, you might be wondering how and why your windows are related to energy consumption. In basic terms, improperly sealed windows will let air flow in and out of your home through cracks and crevices. Of course, such flaws will negate the benefits of your insulation by allowing heat to escape in the winter or cold air in the summer. As a result, you wind up using more energy to run your heating and A/C systems, which leads to inefficient energy usage. 

  1. 5. Use Low VOC Paints

If you're going to be using paint in any of your upcoming home improvement projects, be sure to opt for products that have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Studies have proven that VOCs are not only bad for your health when inhaled, but they're also toxic for the environment on a large scale. Nowadays, there are so many kinds of paints that do not contain and VOCs, so it really makes sense to spend a little more to protect your health and the environment. 

  1. 6. Upgrade the Insulation

Insulation plays a pivotal role in the energy efficiency of your home because it traps heat during the winter and cold air during the summer. Poorly installed, inadequate, or outdated insulation can cause your home to use more electricity than necessary to maintain a comfortable indoor climate. If you know that your home could use an insulation upgrade, or you're simply trying to cover all the bases, comparing the efficiency and benefits of numerous kinds of insulation would be a good first step. 

  1. 7. Switch the Yard to Artificial Turf or Native Plants

The amount of water that Americans use every year to water their lawns is absolutely absurd, especially in Southern California where long-standing droughts are common. Switching to recyclable artificial turf will not only keep you from having to water your lawn for that lush, green look that everyone wants, but it will also keep you from having to use fuel for the lawnmower, and you won't have to dump chemicals into the grass to kill weeds. Alternatively, you could use native plant landscaping and mulch to have a low maintenance yard that still looks nice.

  1. 8. Install a Solar Chimney

A solar chimney captures heat from the sun and funnels it into your home by letting heat rise into your living space. Essentially, it is an in-ground chimney that exists outside your home. It heats up during the day and then that heat is gradually released up a venting duct into your home. Solar chimneys are an easy way to provide no-cost heating without putting a burden on your home's electricity usage in any way. Plus, there are a number of guides that will show you how to build one yourself. 

  1. 9. If You Must Burn Wood, Use a Rocket Mass Heater

While generating heat from electricity that's powered by renewable energy – such as a space heater attached to a home solar panel system – is always the cleanest way to produce heat other than a solar chimney, if you insist on having a real wood fire for comfort, consider the benefits of installing a rocket mass heater. These systems can filter the smoke through a winding chimney before releasing mostly steam for emissions. They also have incredibly efficient heat retaining properties because the warmth gently radiates through the material that surrounds the stove instead of escaping immediately. 

  1. 10. Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Appliances

If your home doesn't already have energy-efficient appliances, now would be a good time to look into upgrades. This is a quick and easy renovation project that can significantly reduce the amount of electricity your home uses. While it may take a while for you to recuperate a return on your investment monetarily, since the latest and greatest appliance models certainly aren't cheap, it's still a worthwhile expense to shell out for the sake of optimizing your home's energy efficiency. 

  1. 11. Install a Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats are easy to install on a DIY basis, and they are relatively cheap in comparison to some of the other suggested projects on this list. These devices can interface with mobile apps and Wi-Fi networks to let you remotely adjust temperature settings from anywhere you can connect to the internet. These simple innovations were one of the first Internet of Things (IoT) devices to lead the way in the fast-growing smart home movement. If you're still walking down the hallway to adjust your thermostat in 2019, it might be time for a simple upgrade in this department.

  1. 12. Install Skylights and Switch Bulbs

In case you're unaware, a skylight is just a large window in your roof that lets sunlight shine directly down into your home. These can be installed in every room in the home for excellent natural lighting that will significantly reduce your dependence on artificial lighting. An added perk of having extra sunlight in the home is that it will improve your mood and provide much needed vitamin D. You should also try to find the most energy efficient bulbs for your needs, so that when you do need to turn on a light it won't be costing you much. 

  1. 13. Use FSC-Certified Hardwood Products, Reclaimed Wood, or Bamboo

If you're really interested in having hardwood floors installed, it's best to use hardwood products that are provided by companies which have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By only using FSC-Certified products, you're supporting the segment of the lumber industry that is taking steps to promote sustainable harvesting practices to prevent deforestation. Likewise, you may want to opt for reclaimed wood if you're going for a rustic look. Bamboo flooring is another eco-friendly option that's worth looking into.  

  1. 14. Conduct a Complete Weatherization

Weatherization is something that every homeowner should consider as a green renovation project, particularly if there are any doubts or concerns about the home's sealing and insulation integrity. Fortunately, homeowners and even renters in Southern California can take advantage of state-wide initiatives that will provide access to professional weatherization services through various energy assistance programs. Talk to your local utility provider about options for low or no-cost weatherization. 

  1. 15. Install Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are energy efficient and eco-friendly because they help to maintain a consistent room temperature, and they typically don't require replacement or maintenance for a very long time. Their extended lifespan means that they create less of a burden on the homeowner, which in turn helps the environment because it eliminates the need to purchase and install new flooring prematurely. Plus, ceramic is easily recyclable unlike many other flooring materials. 

  1. 16. Replace the Front, Back, and Side Doors

While interior doors are great for maintaining sound separation and light confinement, the front, back, and side doors that lead to the exterior are the most important to replace when the goal is home-wide energy efficiency. You can easily have your doors tested to see if any air is leaking in or out of your home. If so, it would be best to put door replacements at the top of your list of green renovation priorities. 

  1. 17. Fireproof the Property

Wildfires are obviously a leading environmental concern in Southern California, especially in recent years due to the wave of catastrophic infernos that have swept across the state. As a homeowner, you can  do your part to prevent fires from starting by making sure your grounds are fire-proofed. This involves removing dead or dry vegetation, addressing any other potential fire hazards, and insuring easy access to fire extinguishers across the property. 

  1. 18. Use Green Building Materials

If you're going to be adding a room to your home, constructing a detached garage, or doing any other substantial building, consider using eco-friendly materials like bamboo, hempcrete, adobe, and composite products made from recycled wood and other materials. That way, your home will be having a minimal impact on the environment in the long-term because it won't be contributing to toxic industries. 

  1. 19. Optimize Water Usage

Finally, another step you can take to make sure you're not being wasteful is optimizing the amount of water that your home uses to perform basic functions like dishwashing, flushing the toilet, and taking showers. This can be done simply by installing a smart dishwasher, switching to smart faucets, and switching to efficient shower heads and baths. Likewise, you can use smart sprinkler systems to avoid over watering your lawn in the event that you decided not to heed the suggestion to be a part of the “no-mow” movement. 

Even just implementing one or two of these changes can save you a percentage off your utility bills, as well as helping to save the environment, so take them into consideration next time you renovate or remodel.