As sustainability continues to surge to the forefront of home construction and homeowners way of living, we explore top trends, along with expert insights.
July 05, 2022
Issues facing the environment are more prevalent than ever before. But more and more people have a fierce reluctance to ignore the need to help the environment wherever they can, starting with their own home. Sustainable design has seen a sharp increase in growth over the last few years. And thats why year on year, we see an increase in sustainable trends taking center stage in home design and improvement.
A sustainable home is one that makes the least possible negative impact on the environment and its surroundings. More than that, though, a sustainable home is often a comfortable one, that has lower energy bills, and fewer health impacts than conventional homes.
To help you learn more about what sustainable features are available and popular today, we have compiled the biggest sustainable home trends in 2022, and also reached out to 14 experts to comment on which they believe are the most popular.
The above experts have experience in working with sustainable building materials and features. They have an awareness of homeowner habits, needs, and wants, which make them poised to help uncover what the most popular sustainable trends are today. More information on these professionals can be found at the end of this article.
Below we share the 6 popular trends this year. Beside each trend you will see the experts who believe that the trend will be one of the most popular among homeowners. They also share insights into homeowner habits, challenges, and mistakes when it comes to living sustainably, so you can make a more informed decision for your own home and lifestyle.
Nowadays, over 3% of U.S. electricity comes from solar energy and since 2014, the average cost of solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels has dropped nearly 70%, sitting at around $15,000 - $21,000 today for an average system. It is expected that 13% of U.S. homes will have a PV system by the year 2030.
8 of the experts we spoke to believe that rooftop solar panels will be one of the most popular sustainable home features in 2022. Depending on the number of panels you install, this can reduce your dependency on the grid, allow you to return some energy to the grid, or allow you to disconnect from the grid altogether. By using solar panels, you are able to reduce your energy costs each month, and in some cases you may be able to get credits on your electric bill for energy you return to the grid in a process known as net metering. This reduces your homes impact on the environment, which creates a more sustainable home.
Kris Lippi from ISoldMyHouse.com mentions another of the added benefits which could explain their popularity;
Solar homes help users save money on electricity and add to the property's resale value.
As well as increasing your homes value, many states also have tax incentives for their installation as well.
Some of the experts we spoke to also believe that eco-friendlier insulations will be a popular sustainable trend in 2022. Insulation on its own can help increase your homes sustainability, because it can help prevent thermal transfer, which in turn decreases the amount of energy you need to heat and cool the home. There are many different types of insulation on the market, and each has its own attributes that may make it a good fit for your home. Some are more sustainable than others, as chemicals used in the production of the insulation can off-gas toxic additives, which can negatively impact both the environment and your health.
Therefore, eco-friendlier insulations are beginning to grow in popularity. They can still help make your home more comfortable and energy efficient, while having less of a negative effect on the surrounding areas. Corinne Segura from My Chemical Free House has seen a lot of changes in insulation,
Mineral wool has started to take over the market, especially in higher-end homes. Fiberglass is still the norm in lower-end and often in mid-range homes. Both types have made progress with their chemical additives. Mineral wool does not use a flame retardant and the binder, which is usually phenol-formaldehyde, off-gasses very fast. All fiberglass insulation brands have switched in the last few years over to non-formaldehyde binders.
These changes make these insulations eco-friendlier, as well as healthier to use in your home.
EV charging points will also be the most popular home feature in 2022 according to some of the experts we interviewed. Electric vehicles are a great way to reduce your energy usage and your bills and their sales doubled in 2021, setting a new record of 6.6 million. EVs use a battery that can be recharged with electricity, rather than using gas. Theyre cleaner, dont give off exhaust, and cost less to run and maintain than cars with combustion engines.
If you own an EV, youll need a way to charge it regularly. While some businesses have chargers that you can use each day, most people with an EV will need to install a charging station at their home. There are three basic types of chargers, but most homeowners will install a Level 2 charger, which can fully charge the battery in a few hours. They do require a 240 volt outlet, and many will also require an upgrade to your homes electrical panel to support them. But having one installed at your home makes it possible to charge up your EV regularly, so you can stop relying on gas, fluctuating gas prices, and combustion vehicles altogether.
When it comes to energy efficient features for the home, 6 experts believe that extra insulation will be the most popular in 2022. Adding extra insulation to your home helps prevent thermal transfer, where the heat you use to warm your home seeps out, or in hot climates, the heat from outdoors seeps in. By adding insulation to your home, you make it more comfortable as well as easier to heat and cool. This in turn means you can reduce the amount of energy you use to heat and cool your home, saving you money and having a more energy-efficient home.
Kimo Quance, Real Estate Broker, and Owner of The Kimo Quance Group, recommends adding insulation to walls, floors, and ceilings; This method helps to save energy during the winter season by encapsulating the temperature inside the house. Insulated walls maintain a comfortable temperature regardless of the outside situation. Instead of using a heating mat, it likes to use insulated flooring material to save electricity bills. It is also effective to keep the house comfortable as well as livable.
6 out of the 14 experts we spoke to also believe that smart thermostats will be the most popular feature for making your home more energy efficient in 2022. Thermostats are what control your heating and cooling appliances. They tell the furnaces or air conditioner when to turn on and off based on temperatures you set. Smart thermostats take this basic function to the next level. They adjust the set temperature of your home based on whether or not youll be home. This means you dont have to worry about remembering to turn the thermostat down when you leave for work, or about coming home to a cold house later. The smart thermostat can learn your habits, or use your smartphone to detect when youve left the area or are returning. Most also have apps that can let you control the thermostat even when you arent home, so you can turn the heat or air conditioning on or off depending on your plans. Because your HVAC system wont be on as much, youll save on energy costs over the course of the year.
5 experts say that double pane/energy-efficient windows will be one of the most popular energy-efficient features in 2022. Double pane windows use two panes of glass with a gap in between them, rather than a single pane of glass.
The gap between the two panes can be left with only air or filled with a denser gas like argon or krypton. Its this gas or air-filled gap that makes the windows more energy efficient; heat has a harder time transferring through this space than it does through a single pane of glass.
Double-pane windows can also be more energy efficient when combined with a more insulating material for the frame like wood or fiberglass. This helps stop thermal transfer, and helps seal up any gaps around the frame, so air cant get in. This makes your home more comfortable, and can help lower your energy bills.
Quance explains, Windows help to save up to 50% energy loss. Thats why investing in high-performance windows is essential for a sustainable house. Many new technologies are applied to build a sustainable home. Experts have invented double-glazed windows with non-deductive framing materials. The special coating helps it to insulate the heat. The customizable framing makes it airtight, which also serves the purpose of keeping the heat away. As the sunlight cannot penetrate the glass, it keeps rooms cooler. During the winter, it does not allow the heat to leave. Thus, it can make room temperature warm and live-worthy.
While sustainable homes have a lot of benefits for homeowners, there are many challenges and obstacles that can get in the way. We asked the 14 experts what they believe to be the biggest challenges facing homeowners wanting a more sustainable home.
One of the biggest issues is that there is a lack of professionals available with relevant expert knowledge for homeowners to turn to. David Tully of eXp Realty explains this lack of availability by saying,
"The majority of the population is still not accustomed to the idea of green living because of which companies are still not motivated enough to mass-produce eco-friendly materials, tools, products, etc. for making a sustainable home.
In addition, the cost of sustainable options is what is holding homeowners back the most. Tully states, Living sustainably to protect the environment is not a mainstream lifestyle in todays era. As a result, all the materials and construction methods are more expensive in general.
Ben Neely, Riverbend Homes, also adds that while living sustainability may be gaining in popularity, goals can be somewhat unreachable;
Sustainability is front of mind for most of our clients but oftentimes can be cost-prohibitive.
While many sustainable features can help you save money each month, and many will also eventually pay for themselves, there is often a significant upfront cost associated with these features. Jessica Leader, Building Decarbonization Coalition, explains how homeowners need to understand this aspect of financing,
Some new electric appliances may have a higher upfront cost than gas models, but they almost always pay off for the homeowner looking to save money in the long run. Additionally, new rebates are popping up across the country to make this process more affordable. For Californians, the Switch Is On website has links to help homeowners find rebates and incentives.
Experts also agree that homeowners may simply not be aware of what options are out there for sustainability. This trend is still fairly new, and while growing, there are many features out there that homeowners may not yet have heard of. As these things enter more popular usage, however, this could change as word begins to spread about what options there are, and their benefits for homeowners.
Some experts also told us that there is a lack of choice and options as well as accessibility for many sustainable options. This could be holding people back, because this lack of choice could mean that those options available are expensive and hard to get. In addition, regulations in some areas may make it more difficult for homeowners who want to take more sustainable steps.
There are many ways to create a more sustainable home. There are also many ways to make mistakes when undertaking this project. We asked the 14 experts what they believe to be the top mistakes homeowners make when it comes to making their homes more energy efficient. The top three things mentioned most were not insulating the attic properly, not filling gaps and cracks, and not carrying out an energy audit.
Energy audits are probably the best place to start when making any green updates to your home. Thats because an energy audit can tell you the exact places where your home is losing energy, and how to fix them. With an energy audit, you dont have to guess where to invest or what area to tackle first, youll know exactly how to proceed to get the best results.
Adding insulation is always a good start creating a more energy efficient home. But many homeowners arent insinuating their attics properly, which can be a big source of energy loss. An under-insulated attic can let heat escape in the winter, causing ice dams and ruining your roof. It can also let a superheated attic transfer heat down into your living area during the summer months, making your air conditioner work harder than it should to cool your home. By insulating your attic properly, you eliminate these issues, and help make your home more comfortable at the same time.
Sealing up cracks and gaps serves the same purpose. Cracks and gaps in your exterior walls and around windows and doors can cause thermal transfer. This means that heat can escape in the winter and enter in the summer, making your HVAC system have to work harder to keep up. By sealing up gaps and cracks, you help prevent thermal transfer, making your home more comfortable and lowering energy bills.
Other mistakes mentioned by experts include using older, less efficient light bulbs, not insulating your windows enough, and not regularly maintaining your HVAC system. These things may be small, but together they can help you lower your energy costs each month, while also making your home more sustainable and more comfortable.
The most common habit holding people back from having a more sustainable home is leaving lights and appliances on unnecessarily, and 9 experts agree. These items can be a serious drain on energy and resources, particularly if they are on, but not really in use. By taking the time to shut things off, you can make a big difference in the efficiency of your home.
As Alan Duncan of Solar Panels Network says, Our habits become a big part of who we are, especially if weve been indulged in them for many years. In this regard, transitioning into a sustainable lifestyle requires killing old habits, which is a big challenge. Whether its turning off lights when you leave a room, servicing your boiler regularly or using recycled furniture, you have to try and make changes in your life to move towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
Using too much water is also one of the most common habits for many homeowners. Ways to solve this can include shutting off the faucet when brushing your teeth or when scrubbing dishes. You can also invest in water-saving appliances and faucets to help cut down on the amount of water that enters your home.
Leaving appliances plugged in unnecessarily can also be a bad habit. Many appliances will draw power even if they arent fully on or in use. By taking the time to unplug them, you can help save energy.
There are many facets to creating a greener, more efficient and sustainable home. From understanding what options are available to knowing what the potential obstacles are that may hold you back. By understanding these different aspects, you can use this information to make more informed and better choices for your home going forward, letting you adapt your home and way of living.
If youd like to get to know the experts we spoke to for this report, youll find their information below.
Adam Graham is an industry analyst at Fixr.com. He analyzes and writes about the real estate and home construction industries, covering a range of associated topics. He has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens and The Boston Globe, and written for various outlets including the National Association of Realtors, and Insurance News Net Magazine.