5 Easy Home Improvements to Make Your Home Green and Sustainable

Making your home more energy-efficient isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for your pockets as well. Many green home improvements may seem pricey up-front but they pay for themselves over the years in electricity and heating savings.

Doing our part to protect the environment is important for everyone because we all have to live on this planet together. Lowering your home’s energy footprint is a concrete action you can take to preserve the environment. Of course, making your house more efficient also reduces your electrical bills. Beyond the immediate savings of efficiency, which add up over time, your house will also increase its value.

Already updated houses are in demand, and increase the sale value in the future. There are a few specific renovations you can do that lower your electric bills, increase your house’s value, and help save the planet at the same time.

Energy-efficient Windows

Windows add warmth add light to a home, but if your windows are out-of-date you may be losing more through the windows then you’re keeping in. Installing all new energy-efficient windows can run US $8,000 or more, but most utility companies offer incentives to people who get them installed. Energy saving with all new windows run anywhere from US$100-US$400 a year, and new windows can add 70% of the cost of the project to the value of your home. Energy-efficient windows use the natural light of the sun to help regulate temperature, with special glazing to let in a certain amount of sunlight, and double-pane glass to help insulate your house. A local contractor will help you choose the best type of energy-efficient windows for your area.

ENERGY STAR Appliances

Electric-2Appliances, such as a refrigerator, washer and dryer, and dishwasher, are an important part of the daily comfort of your home. Old appliances use more energy than they need, driving up your energy bill. New ENERGY STAR appliances not only update the look of your house, they run better and more efficiently. ENERGY STAR is a program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy that guarantees any product designated ENERGY STAR uses 20-30% less energy than a non-ENERGY STAR product. ENERGY STAR appliances that use water, such as washing machines, also use 20-30% less water, saving water as well as electricity. ENERGY STAR appliances can be purchased anywhere appliances are sold.

Tankless Water Heaters

With a finite amount of fresh water available, conserving water is just as important as conserving electricity. Traditional water heaters have a tank in which a certain amount of water is heated continuously, wasting both water and electricity. Tankless water heaters heat water on demand, eliminating the need for the tank all together. Instead, water flows through a heat exchanger coil on the way to its destination, which heats up only when hot water is requested, lowering electricity use. Not having water sitting in a tank makes water use more efficient, as well as ensuring that your house never runs out of hot water. Multiple tankless water heaters can be added at different locations in your home so the hot water gets where it is most needed without having to travel the whole system.

Proper Insulation

Insulation is the invisible factor in home energy-efficiency, and poor insulation increases energy costs across the board. Proper insulation keeps your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter, while also helping muffle neighbourhood sounds. When your home is insulated, less energy is required to regulate the temperature, lowering your utility bills 10-30%. Green insulation options, such as insulation made of recycled newspaper, denim, or even wool, are more environmentally friendly than traditional fiberglass insulation and works just as well. Properly insulating your house will pay for itself in energy saving over the years.

Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures

Conserving water doesn’t just lower your water bill, it helps the environment. Water is a finite resource and the energy used to purify water in water treatment plants is significant. Lowering your water use lowers the demands on the water treatment plants, and therefore lowers their energy usage. Low flow plumbing fixtures, such as toilets, sink faucets, and showers, use less water than older fixtures while providing the same level of flow by being more efficient. Low flow fixtures can save up to 20,000 gallons of water per year and are easily retrofitted. You can install low flow shower heads and faucets yourself, and a low flow toilet can be installed by your local plumber relatively inexpensively.

When you want to do your part to save the planet, but you also want to lower your energy bills and add value to your home, there are some simple home improvements you can do to make your house greener. Some improvements just require a trip to the hardware store and an afternoon, while others require the services of a contractor, but they all increase the energy-efficiency of your home. That’s something both you and your pocketbook can feel good about for years to come.

 Bob Gorman, the author of this article, is a freelance writer

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