In recent years the “green” movement unfortunately comes with a major misconception: the expectation that making a living space more eco-friendly comes with bank account-draining expense. ...Especially when it comes to a big job like updating your home’s exterior siding. This is one area where efficiency matters since the material used for siding is key in protecting your home from extreme heat or cold and various weather elements. Keeping costs down while getting the maximum protection, efficiency, and long-term sustainability out of exterior siding might just seem like an impossible task...
But, there’s good news! Many of the materials used for siding have been on the market for years, and several of the sustainable options are far from costing you an arm and a leg. Whether the siding is made from recycled or engineered materials, there’s a great variety of materials to choose from when it’s time to re-side your home in a more “green” and sustainable way.
Insulated Vinyl Siding
Vinyl siding is a popular choice due to its low-maintenance. Insulated vinyl packs an added layer of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam for extra thermal retainment on the back panels, and is proven to be highly impact resistant with great sound absorption.
Sustainability : This siding will typically last several decades (30-50 years), so you won’t have to find a replacement any time soon. But the chemical composition of the vinyl means that it will also last a long time in a landfill.
Energy Efficiency : By switching to insulated vinyl siding, the R-value (a measurement of a material’s thermal success) can potentially improve by four times, which ends up significantly reducing your energy bill.
Cost : This option can be slightly more expensive than engineered wood.
Final Word : Protecting your home with this material can be a fairly cheap option that will lower your energy costs and offer maximum protection. There are also many color options for insulated vinyl siding. But, a major downside is that it wouldn’t break down easily in a landfill.
Mad scientists are now creating slabs of engineered wood siding made from wood fibers that are bound together by a resin coating. These fibers are then compressed to form strong boards. The result is a fairly cheap, sustainable material that can be used to side a home.
Sustainability : The fact that it’s composed mainly of wood materials means that this siding has high renewability and it’s highly biodegradable.
Energy Efficiency : There is a wide range of color options for this type of siding and it offers durability and is weather-resistant, but its effect is virtually negligible as a thermal insulator.
Cost : This option is the cheapest of the bunch.
Final Word : The price tag on this option is budget-friendly, and you don’t have to worry about hoarding landfill space in the future. However, engineered wood siding won’t save you very much money on your heating bill and your carbon footprint will continue to grow.
Created through a mixture of sand, clay, cement, and wood pulp, this type of siding material is highly durable and long-lasting.
Sustainability : When we say it’s long-lasting, we mean it. Just like the insulated vinyl siding, fiber-cement will last you decades. It also requires little to no maintenance and doesn’t swell or warp in extreme weather.
Energy Efficiency : The thermal insulation is virtually negligible, but the strength of this material means it’s highly unlikely that a home with fiber-cement siding will suffer from drafts.
Cost : Typically a few dollars more per square foot than insulated vinyl siding.
Final Word : While fiber-cement siding is more expensive than the other more energy-efficient options, you’re investing in this material’s durability. If you’re highly green-conscious, know that energy used to produce this siding is significantly higher than its counterparts.
Stucco is a plaster-like material that is made by mixing sand, cement, and water. When crafted correctly and maintained well, stucco will last until the day the house comes down.
Sustainability : Certain types of stucco are more eco-friendly than others. For a sustainable option, look for stucco made from an earth and lime mixture rather than the traditional mix of sand and cement. The stucco will need to be repainted and retouched every so often, but it is the longest lasting type of siding on this list.
Energy Efficiency : Stucco is negligible as a thermal insulator, but it protects well against outside airflow.
Cost : One of the more expensive options on this list.
Final Word : Stucco is expensive and it won’t be lowering your energy bills, but it’s an incredibly eco-friendly option -- and some people just love the look!
The classic. It’s au natural, charming, and it looks great.
Sustainability : You don’t have to worry about wood being non-renewable. It’s also easily recyclable. Wood siding just requires diligent, consistent maintenance and refinishing to ensure that it lasts for your home’s entire lifecycle.
Energy Efficiency : Wood siding is a better thermal insulator than all of the above except insulated vinyl. It’s natural R-value is about 40 times that of stucco and 4 times the R-value of brick siding.
Cost : Along with stucco, this is one the most expensive options on the list.
Final Word : It’s probably the most expensive on this list and requires the most work to maintain, but you really can’t beat plain ol’ wood when it comes to eco-friendly siding.
When selecting updating your home’s exterior siding, it’s important to consider the cost of new siding versus the value it will have for you going forward. Ask yourself if the opportunities for reaching sustainability, decreased energy consumption, and the reduced overall carbon footprint that the new siding might provide would be worth the cost. Since this is a big job for your home’s improvement, be sure to weigh the cost of each sustainable siding versus the value it provides and decide which option is right for you.