How to Prepare Your Home for Climate Change

Red skies above toxic smoke stacks emitting carbon pollution into the skyPhoto by(Shutterstock/Roschetzky Photography)

Climate change is a frightening reality that we, and especially future generations, will be forced to grapple with. The evidence points to climate change having drastic effects on our lives much earlier than scientists had previously anticipated, and the frequency of extreme temperature and weather events is also climbing at an alarming rate.

That means you need to start considering how to prepare your home for climate change. Extreme climate events pose the greatest threat to our homes and access to the utilities we rely on every day. Luckily, there are steps you can take right now to start preparing yourself for the potential consequences of a rapidly warming earth.

“The best home improvement investments for climate change include: improving insulation especially in the attic and use spray foam to seal gaps around drafty locations like windows and doors, replace old windows with thermal insulated windows, replace existing shingle roof coverings with thicker 50-Year architectural shingles or metal roofing, capture rainwater runoff from the roof for irrigation and gardening purposes; consider alternative heating sources like geothermal or solar-powered heat pumps to reduce dependency on fossil fuels,” said Hubert Miles, CMI, Founder, and Lead Editor of Home Inspection Insider.

Electrify your home
Solar panels on roof in a residential estatePhoto by(Shutterstock/Kathie Nichols)

Converting your home to a fully electric setup is one of the most important steps to brace for climate change and climate change regulations that may beat you to it.

According to a 2021 report by Pecan Street, millions of homes in the United States will require upgrades to their electrical systems to handle the increased demands of improvements like solar power and electric vehicle charging. The good news is that after those improvements, which can require a significant upfront investment, there’s tremendous money-saving potential.

Solar power means you can save on energy bills or even sell extra energy back to the grid, and with the US Inflation Reduction Act guaranteeing a 30% tax credit for home solar systems, it’s a great time to switch. An electric vehicle you charge at home means huge savings on gas.

One of the first targets for an electrification project should be your heating system, which can account for as much as 29% of your utility bill. Also, consider an upgrade to your water heater, another major culprit. According to the US Department of Energy, your water heater uses more energy than your refrigerator, clothes washer, dishwasher, and dryer combined, and upgrading to a heat pump water heater can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Heat pump clothes dryers are another worthy upgrade, more efficient than gas or conventional electric dryers.

“Preparing your home for the effects of climate change starts with taking a closer look at your electrical system, " said Terry Thom, Super Electric Owner Reno, Nevada. “Simple updates such as installing energy-efficient light fixtures, upgrading to a smart thermostat, and adding weather-resistant outlets can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also help protect your home from power outages during extreme weather conditions.”

Finally, consider swapping out your gas stove for an electric model. A high-efficiency electric stove is three times as energy efficient as a gas range and 5-10 percent more efficient than a traditional electric cooktop.

Address your windows

Windows are one of the most important battlegrounds for defending your home from extreme weather events. They’re also crucial for achieving energy independence, if that’s your goal. As a benchmark for climate change preparedness, it’s a worthy one.

Modern, energy efficient windows can save you an average of 12 percent on energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, upgrading drafty windows with durable materials like wood, fiberglass, and extruded aluminum can protect against gale force winds and lashing rains, and coverings and tints can reduce the amount of heat trapped in your home as average temperatures rise.

You may also want to consider exploring other drafty areas of your home like doors, vents, crawl spaces or attics. Attics can be a drain on your home’s heating and cooling system if the house is either not properly insulated from the attic or the attic from the outdoors. Taking steps to make sure your attic is energy efficient, can help you in the long run.

Harvest rainwater
Hands touching rainwater in tankPhoto by(Shutterstock/Alexander Knyazhinsky)

With the looming specter of water scarcity and the diminishment of freshwater reservoirs, home water collection makes more sense every day. Rainwater is naturally filtered and relatively clean. It is a great option for watering plants because it’s not chlorinated the way tap water is and it’s good for your lawn and even for drinking. Collecting rainwater can help slash your utility bill and prepare you to weather a drought or other extreme climate emergency.

Harvesting rainwater can be as simple as placing rain barrels under your rain spouts or in any area of your property exposed to the sky. You can also use a more sophisticated method like redirecting runoff to an underground system that collects water across a broad surface, filters it through sediment and collects it in a tank that fills over time. This could even supplement your in-house water supply directly. Even simple, low-cost harvesting can provide a surprising volume of water, while more advanced collection systems can wholly replace your conventional water supply in rainy climates.

Prepare your home for rising water
Flooded homes with water up to the roof tops massive flooding.Photo by(Shutterstock/Roschetzky Photography)

Preparing your house for rising sea levels is essential if you live in a coastal region. Locating your home on Climate Central’s Risk Zone Map or FEMA’s Flood Map will give you some idea of the flooding you may face as ice sheets and polar caps continue to melt. Even if your home is further inland or appears to be safely above the level of rising waters, some of the businesses, services and infrastructure you rely on located closer to the coast may be affected.

Consider buying flood insurance if you think your home may be at risk, and proactively address your home’s vulnerabilities. Stilts can be installed under your home to lift it above anticipated surge levels, and FEMA has a number of resources and advice for mitigating potential disaster risks on its Best Practices Portfolio page.

Sealing and waterproofing your home by a process called dry floodproofing is also a great way to safeguard your home against storm surges or rising waters.

Start now, save later

The earlier you start preparing your home for the effects of climate change, the greater rewards you’ll reap. Even if you’re not directly affected by some specific disaster, most of the energy-saving, utility-bill-slashing measures we outlined save money over time. The longer they’re in place, the faster they pay for themselves and the greater benefit you’ll reap.

There’s also the conservation dimension of eco-conscious measures—the sooner we all start promoting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse emissions, the less apocalyptic climate change’s effects will be.

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