The garage is a big space that is often overlooked when making a home more environmentally friendly. The average garage is about 400 square feet – bigger than most bedrooms – and the garage door is the largest opening into the house. There are a lot of reasons for thinking green for your garage along with the rest of your house and yard.
A top reason is energy savings, and there are several ways of achieving energy savings in your garage. Most garages have a door into the main house, as well as sharing two or more walls adjoining the house. The construction of all of the walls, doors and windows in the garage can have a major impact on energy costs.
When garage walls are not insulated and windows are not double paned, a large amount of heat escapes from the house into the garage in winter. In summer, the opposite happens, with the uninsulated garage acting as a heat trap, making the house harder to cool.
The door between the house and garage should be a solid core, exterior door, which has more insulating value than hollow core doors typically used in the interior of homes. This door should also have full weather stripping like an exterior door to prevent drafts and fumes from entering the house from the garage. A deadbolt on this door is also a good safety idea.
The garage door itself is another place for energy savings. Newer garage doors are made with higher insulation value, as well as lighter and stronger materials. Many new garage doors are also manufactured with recycled and renewable materials, also reducing the total carbon footprint of your home.
Energy savings in the garage also includes replacing older, less efficient lighting. Newer florescent bulbs are as easy to install as changing a lightbulb. Small LED lighting is another option, allowing you to focus high intensity, low wattage light onto a workbench, laundry area or recycle bins.
Using your garage as a central place for all household recycling also makes sense. Bins that stack, but still have a slot for putting the cans and bottle through, or sturdy garbage cans with lids make sorting and storage easy and efficient. With a little energy saving light focused on the area, recycling is an easier and more pleasant chore.
The garage is a place where many people do auto repair, painting and other jobs that involve hazardous materials, like solvents and oil. Hardware stores sell special containers for storing use hazardous materials, and plastic gas cans work well also. Having these kinds of containers, clearly labeling them with the contents, and then taking them to a community hazardous materials recycling center is another way of making your garage and home kinder to the environment.
Many people have an extra refrigerator or freezer in their garage. Upgrading to a newer energy star model can pay for itself in energy savings over a few years, especially if you have an old, inefficient one. The garage door opener is another garage appliance that can be upgraded to a more energy efficient model.
If you are building your garage from scratch, you can really make big strides in adding green to your garage, starting with the concrete slab floor. Concrete contains Portland cement, a building material requiring a lot of energy during manufacture. Concrete contractors can order you a special batch of more environmentally friendly concrete, containing less Portland cement and replacing it with fly ash or slag.
Almost all building materials for a garage can be sourced from green, environmentally responsible sources. Recycled lumber, steel framing, straw bale or, rammed earth walls from local materials and living roof systems are a few ideas for a green-from-the-ground-up garage.
Doing nothing more than upgrading your garage door to an energy efficient model is one simple way of making your garage greener in a hurry. Ask your garage door specialist about environmentally safe polyurethane insulation, rainforest-free lumber and energy saving openers.