Home improvement projects can add value and beauty to your home. And now more than ever, it is easy to make home improvements that are also environmentally conscious. These choices can help save money and preserve our natural resources. You can’t really argue with that.
10 home improvements that you can do to make your home more “green”.
1. Invest in a high efficiency heating and cooling system.
Of course, we are partial to Ductless Heat Pumps, but there is a good reason. Ductless Heat Pumps and other high efficiency systems can greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted and shave your utility bill. Look for products with high SEER ratings, which means they meet strict government standards on efficiency. The standard minimum set Federally is 13, but the higher the SEER, the better. Most Ductless Heat Pumps average around 20 SEER, but some are even higher.
2. Clean your Ductless Heat Pump filters monthly.
If you have a furnace or traditional heat pump or air conditioning system, clean those filters or replace them regularly. A dirty filter will restrict the airflow, forcing your unit to work harder and costing you more to run your system.
3. Install glass doors for your fireplace or consider a fireplace balloon if you don’t use your fireplace.
Fireplaces are just big holes that literally suck the warm air right out of your home. Glass doors are safer than fireplace screens and can also reduce the amount of heat that escapes through the chimney from your home. Try to use your fireplace for special occasions only as it may provide some heat but most of it just goes right up the chimney. If you don’t use your fireplace, a fireplace balloon can help put a stop to the escape of warm air. They are easy to use and install. See this past post to learn more.
Attics and walls come to mind, but doors and windows are two of the most obvious areas of concern when it comes to home energy conservation. Use weather stripping and caulk where you see gaps and check the attic for sufficient levels of insulation. If you can see the ceiling joists, you need more insulation. Attic insulation should be at least 12 inches, so if you need more, add it yourself or hire someone to come in and do it for you. It is money well spent and this is one investment with a quick return.
5. Upgrade outdoor lighting.
Outdoor lights can be important for safety and security, but keeping them on all night can burn energy and money. Consider installing a motion detector outside home to replace your outdoor lighting. Light fixtures activated by motion sensors or a timer will keep area well lit and save energy and money. Solar powered outdoor lighting is even more environmentally friendly.
6. Don’t waste water.
Check your home for leaky faucets and get them repaired as quickly as possible. Use cold water when laundering clothes and consider adjusting your “clean threshold”. Those jeans or that sweater can probably be worn a few more times than usual before washing them, and towels can be hung to dry and used a couple of times before being thrown into the hamper. Make saving water a family affair. Set a good example by teaching your children to turn off the water while they brush their teeth or take a quick shower. Installing a low flow showerhead, toilet or even a tankless or Ductless Hot Water Heater can make a big difference in your water consumption also.
7. Use powerstrips and unplug small appliances.
Use power strips for your home computers, televisions or other electronic devices. Even after you turn your device, power continues to flow. Power strips prevent the energy from being wasted and only cost about fifteen dollars. Simply unplugging other appliances like the toaster or coffeemaker stops the flow of electricity and saves money and energy.
8. Replace the standard light bulbs in your home.
Relying on natural light as much as possible is always the best option, but winter in the Pacific Northwest can be pretty dark. Candles are great, but sometimes you just need to turn on a light! Replacing a 100-watt incandescent with a 32-watt Compact Flourescent Light Bulb (CFL) can save you at least $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb, and it has been reported that if every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with a CFL, it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road. CFLs provide light without the heat of incandescent bulbs, and they use much less energy and last up to 10 times longer. LED bulbs are even more efficient, give off a more natural light and although were quite expensive when they first hit the market, are coming down in price significantly. And considering many LED bulbs are reported to last over 25 years, you won’t need to be replacing them anytime soon. Halogen bulbs are yet another option, although not currently as efficient as the other two, they are still better than standard incandescents and are said to give off a more natural, soft light than the other two.
9. Create your own compost pile.
This might not seem like a “home improvement” project, but it can end up being a “garden improvement project” that pays out in spades (pun intended)! Find a private spot in your yard to make a compost pile. Mix food wastes with dirt and use a shovel to turn the pile over every week or so to give it some air. Turn throwaways like eggshells, coffee grounds and veggie cuttings into rich healthy soil and garbage into something useful. This rich soil will feed your plants, yard, flower and veggie garden organically, helping you avoid the chemicals in fertilizers and the expense of buying them.
10. Consider an energy audit.
This can be as informal as you and your family inspecting your home for leaks and damage, or as specific as hiring a company to evaluate your home for energy leaks and ways you can make your home more comfortable and more efficient. Companies can check insulation, HVAC systems, windows, roofing and more. There are blower door tests and infrared technologies that can give you helpful information. You can then decide which improvements to make to get the best payback. Small and inexpensive changes can make a significant difference in your home’s efficiency and your family’s comfort. Many local utilities offer basic energy audits for free or at reduced costs More information is always powerful.