Green home improvements make it possible to be kind to the earth while improving your own quality of living through energy savings, lower water bills, and a more pleasant indoor environment. Consider the following ways to go green with home improvements.
- Start by assessing your home's energy efficiency during the past year with the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick. With a few minutes of time and utility bills from the last 12 months, you'll be able to compare your home's energy use with that of similar homes around the country, and get recommendations for changes and upgrades to make in the coming year.
- For a more tailored and specific assessment, hire a qualified professional to perform a comprehensive home energy audit.
- Seal air leaks and ducts, and add insulation where needed so that your heating and cooling system doesn't have to work quite so hard.
- Speaking of heating and cooling, consider a system upgrade among your green home improvements. A furnace or air conditioner that's over 10 years old may be due for replacement with an Energy Star qualified model. Such products meet the strict energy efficiency guidelines set forth by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, and can save you up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Support your systems by changing air filters regularly (which will also contribute positively to your indoor air quality) and installing a programmable thermostat.
- Replace appliances and lighting with products that have earned the Energy Star label, including refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, electronic equipment, and lighting fixtures. Switching in compact fluorescent bulbs is a simple green home improvement that will brighten your outlook when you open your monthly utility bill.
- Inside, install WaterSense-labeled high-efficiency toilets (HETs) and shower heads, as well as water-saving faucets and under-sink flow restrictors.
- Outside, make water-wise changes to your landscaping.
- Select plants and ground covers that require little water, and consider reducing turf area in non-recreational spaces in favor of a wider swath of indigenous plantings and ornamental, low-water grasses.
- Set up a rainwater collection system and use the proceeds to water your yard and wash the car.
Improve indoor air quality
- Choose green home improvement materials and finishes that won't release significant pollutants into your living space. These include non-toxic caulks and adhesives, formaldehyde-free building products and no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints.
- Give your home and yourself the gift of an electronic whole-house air cleaner, such as the Aprilaire Model 5000. Installed by an HVAC professional as part of your central heating and cooling system, this wonder clears the air of most airborne pollen and mold, respirable dust and virus-sized particles, killing bacteria and spores and trapping the rest. What's more, the Aprilaire Model 5000 keeps dust and dirt from hindering the efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment and, unlike other air cleaners, requires only annual maintenance.
- In addition to regularly changing your furnace filters, choose the more sophisticated replacements which can screen out up to five times as much dust as traditional models.
- If you don't have one already, install a carbon monoxide detector to protect your family from this otherwise undetectable danger.
Protect natural resources
- When planning a repair or remodeling project, research and incorporate green materials, including wood from sustainably managed forests, products made from such renewable resources as bamboo, and items incorporating recycled content.
- For green touches with historic flair, prowl architectural salvage lots for fun finds and rare materials.
- Recycle, recycle, recycle! Get your family in the habit by setting up an in-home recycling center for collection of glass, plastic, and paper products, and deliver used batteries and toxic chemicals to designated collection centers in your community as part of your green home improvement plan.