Whether you’re starting a huge remodeling project or just giving your house a minor face lift, implementing eco-friendly home improvement strategies not only helps you go green, it saves green, too.
Small green home improvements can shave off hundreds of dollars from your energy costs annually, while major ones can boost your home value by thousands.
Here are 10 home ideas to help you live a greener lifestyle for less.
1. Install solar panels.
Just think: Instead of losing money on a sweltering hot day, you could be saving it — that is, if your house has solar panels. Now more efficient and better looking than their old-school counterparts, today’s solar panels can convert almost 20% of the sun’s energy into electricity. Installing them lowers your utility bill and your greenhouse gas output — and nets you a tax credit up to 30% of the installation cost. And if you ever decide to sell, solar panels could boost your home’s value by as much as $15,000.
2. Invest in Energy Star products and energy-efficient appliances.
More than 70 different product categories of eco-friendly Energy Star products exist and upgrading to them is good news for your wallet. Whether you swap out an old fridge for an energy-efficient model that could save you $60, update ceiling fans with Energy Star models that cool with 40 percent more efficiency, or simply choose an environmentally friendly light bulb (LED or CFL), you’ll be using 30 percent less energy — saving yourself close to $600 each year on energy costs. Making the change eliminates 5,500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions — a good move for the planet, too.
Pro tip: Save almost $2,000 over the course of a hot water heater’s lifetime by installing an Energy Star tankless model.
3. Start a compost pile.
You don’t need a green thumb to start composting, but your efforts will benefit your yard, garden, and wallet. Professional yard fertilizing can run $50 to $80 per treatment, but your composting efforts can use your food scraps to help you save cash. Throw your kitchen scraps and yard waste into a compost pile and spread the decomposed material in your flowerbeds, in your garden, and around your trees. It enriches soil, minimizes plant disease, and even reduces pests, sans chemicals. Added bonus: Lowering your carbon footprint.
4. Upgrade to energy-efficient windows.
A bright, sunny house might earn you extra likes on an Instagram design-lover’s feed, but windows are not your friend when it comes to energy efficiency. Standard double-pane windows can waste between 30 to 40 percent of a home’s energy consumption. A smart green home improvement is to install low-emissivity storm windows outfitted with a special, invisible coating that reflects infrared heat to shave off up to one-third from your utility bills.
Pro tip: Use insulated cellular shades to help with your energy savings. These accordion-like blinds have a honeycomb pocket that acts like an insulator and reduces heat by 40 percent or more, which can knock off about 20 percent off your energy expenses.
5. Bulk up on insulation.
Home insulation isn’t the sexiest home remodeling project, but adding it can net you about 10 percent energy savings. Otherwise, warm (or cool) air leaks through minor cracks in your attic and walls. Combine all those leaks, and it’s like having a window open 365 days a year.
6. Replace your toilet and showerheads.
You don’t need to undergo a major bathroom renovation to go green. Toilets alone use up nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Avoid flushing money down the drain by installing a low-flow toilet carrying the WaterSense label. Instead of using 3.5 gallons per flush, they use as little as 1.28 gallons, reducing water waste by as much as 60 percent and saving you more than $110.
Cut your water usage even more by installing low-flow showerheads, which could reduce your annual water usage by as much as 2,700 gallons. What’s more, an energy-efficient showerhead will also reduce your water heater needs, lowering the cost of your utility bill.
7. Outsmart your air conditioning.
Are you a set-it-and-forget-it person when it comes to your home’s thermostat? If so, it’s time to change this habit. Adjusting your thermostat 7° to 10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting can save up to 10 percent off your heating and cooling expenses. And consider installing a programmable thermostat or even a smart one, which costs around $100 to $250 and tracks your energy habits to optimize your heating and A/C needs without wasting energy as you leave the house or get ready for bed.
Pro tip: Think about installing a heat pump, which is an energy-efficient alternative to central air conditioning.
8. Optimize water use in your yard.
The predictability of a lawn sprinkler system is also its downfall. Most irrigation systems run on a timer that pairs with certain zones, which would work just fine in a perfect world where weather is predictable. Except that it’s not. A smart irrigation controller will run you between $100 and $200 and works with the local weather forecast to fine-tune your watering schedule. No need to change pipes or sprinkler heads, just swap your old controller for this smart system.
Pro tip: Installing rainwater barrels to collect rainwater run-off from your roof can save you over $200 a year.
9. Green your interiors.
Forgo pricey air filters that can cost hundreds of dollars. Not only are houseplants like English ivy, spider plants, and pothos easy to maintain, they help absorb carbon dioxide and rid the air of noxious gases like formaldehyde and other pollutants.
10. Swap carpet for hardwood.
Carpet collects dust and only has a five- to 15-year lifespan. After that, it’s tossed in the landfill. But plenty of sustainable hardwood options exist that won’t break the bank. Bamboo, Brazilian cherry, or white tigerwood, and fast-growing pine are all eco-friendly alternatives — plus they’re more affordable than traditional oak flooring. Bonus: Hardwood floors can add about 2.5 percent to a home’s total value.
You might think you need to build a custom home or spend gobs of cash to have an eco-friendly house. But you can make one (or several) of these green upgrades to your existing home. Some of these home improvements are more affordable than others, but in the long run, all will help save the planet — and your hard-earned money, too.
- Which of these green home improvements have you made to your house?
- What other eco-friendly upgrades have you made to your home?
- How do you save money to pay for home improvements?