Green Living: Tips for an Eco-Friendly Garage
When you’re trying to go green in your home, the garage might be the last on your list of considerations. However, there are ways that you can improve energy efficiency and reduce your environmental impact.
Here are some ideas on how to go green in your garage.
Make Sure You Insulate
Your garage traps heat in the summer and cold in the winter, making it harder and more expensive to cool or heat the rest of your home (though this is not the case if you have a detached garage).
Insulating your garage isn’t the same as insulating your home. Typically, garages aren’t heated or cooled, so the exterior walls don’t necessarily need insulation. However, the shared walls with the interior of your home need proper insulation to make sure your home is up to local codes.
If your garage is heated, insulation is even more important and sometimes required. In Boulder County, for example, you must bring the exterior walls up to code if you want to add heating to your garage.
For all walls, both exterior and interior, seal cracks with caulking, and use drywall for areas that have more serious damage. In some cases, if the damage is extensive enough, you might need to add more insulation before sealing up the wall.
In our area, the wall between your garage must also be well insulated, as required by code. This adds an extra layer of protection and reduce your home’s energy use for heating and cooling.
Just like you insulate your home to keep temperatures inside comfortable, you should insulate your garage to achieve the same goal. Here’s a quick list of ways you can insulate your garage:
Use weatherstripping or a garage door threshold seal to line the bottom of your garage door opening and keep outdoor weather out. This will help keep the temperature of your garage closer to the temperature of your home, which means you’ll need to use your heating and cooling system less.
You should also check the perimeter of your garage door and make note of any larger openings or cracks.
If you notice the garage door not staying flush against the vinyl side seals, tighten any loose screws. If that doesn’t do the trick, more weatherstripping or brush seals can help.
It’s also a good idea to replace your weatherstripping over time, to make sure it’s still in good condition.
Even though the door between your garage and your home isn’t directly exposed to the weather, making sure it’s well-sealed and weatherstripped is still important. It acts as an extra layer of protection from the undesirable garage temperatures and reduces your need for extra heating or cooling.
If the areas around the edges of your windows aren’t sealed or caulked, you’re sacrificing insulation in your garage. And that means you’ll use more energy trying to get your home to a comfortable temperature.
Insulation is given an R-value that indicates how well it insulates. A higher R-value means better insulation.
Look for insulation made of wool, cotton, aerogel, polystyrene or Icynene. These materials are either renewable, have minimal environmental impact, and offer a high R-value to keep your footprint on the environment small.
Upgrade Your Garage Door
ENERGY STAR does not approve or provide tax credits for energy-efficient garage doors, but there are doors that are designed to be more energy-efficient than others. Garage doors that contain eco-friendly insulation materials will help maintain the temperature in your garage.
Stay away from single-layer doors, as the insulation is minimal or non-existent. Double-layer doors often have standard polystyrene insulation, but triple-layer doors have thicker polystyrene or polyurethane insulation, making them the best option.
There are also garage doors that are made of recycled materials that you can purchase for your home. Ask your local hardware store to see if they have any suggestions.
Invest in Windows
Many garages don’t have them, but adding some windows or skylights can help make your garage eco-friendlier.
More natural sunlight means less reliance on electric lighting sources during the day, and it also warms up your garage on sunny winter days. In the summer, install some black-out blinds to keep it cooler inside.
Install windows with multiple panes, low E-glass (which helps maintain temperatures), and gas fills of argon, krypton or another non-toxic gas. ENERGY STAR has guidelines about what to look for in energy-efficient windows in your area.
Look at Your Lighting
Although windows can enhance the lighting in your garage, you will still need lighting at night and in darker areas.
CFL and LED bulbs are known for energy-efficiency, but LED is the better choice when it comes to your garage. They’re bright, they last longer, and they’re more resistant to cold.
Get Green Appliances
If you have a fridge, freezer or other appliances in your garage, shop around to find the energy-efficient models. ENERGY STAR has recommendations for energy-efficient refrigerators.
Though it may seem small, swapping out your old fridge for a more efficient one can make a huge impact. ENERGY STAR says switching to an ENERGY STAR certified model could help save Americans more than $800 million in energy costs and prevent more than 14 billion pounds of greenhouse gases.
Use Heat and A/C Responsibly
Some people don’t use heating or cooling in their garage at all, but for those who do, it’s important to do so mindfully.
Installing a programmable or “smart” thermostat can help you not only control the temperature and settings, but also monitor energy usage and see tips for how to reduce it.
Keep temperatures low in the winter, higher in the summer, so that your system doesn’t have to work too hard, especially if it’s not a space you spend a lot of time in.
Monitor Electricity Usage
Much like a smart thermostat can help you monitor your heating and cooling energy usage, you can get other products that monitor the energy usage or your electronics.
WeMo, Belkin and several other brands make a whole line of products that help you monitor and reduce energy use.
Unplugging your power tools and other electronics and appliances when not in use can also help reduce your energy output.
Turn Your Garage into a Recycling Hub
Recycling is always a surefire way to go green, and you can use your garage to make it even easier. Set up a recycling station, with different bins for different types of recycling, so that you can reduce your footprint on the environment.
Remember Your Driveway
When you think of going green in your garage, you might not consider the driveway. But there are ways you can make your driveway more environmentally friendly.
A driveway made of permeable pavement helps prevent excessive water runoff and improves stormwater quality, protecting local rivers, streams and groundwater.
What’s on the Roof?
Just as your driveway can help reduce your carbon footprint, so can your roof. Here are a few ways you can use your roof to go green in your garage:
- Install solar panels
- Collect water from your roof to wash your car later
- Create a living or green roof
- Use recycled shingles
Using Your Car
Some changes to your daily driving habits can also make an impact on your green living aspirations.
During the summer, wait to pull your car into the garage until after it’s cooled down. If you pull in while the engine’s still hot, you’re bringing in unwanted heat. During the winter, you can pull right in without waiting.
If you have an electric car, you can also install a charger in the garage as a green option.
Save Home Heat can install an electric car charger in your garage >
How to Build a Green Garage
Starting from scratch? There are additional ways you can go green when building your garage.
- Use eco-friendly cement that doesn’t contain Portland cement, which is harmful to the environment
- Find eco-friendly or recycled building materials, including metal and lumber
- Materials that are locally sourced have a smaller environmental impact
- Go as small as possible; the bigger the space, the bigger the footprint
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