Making your home greener doesn't require major construction or spending a lot of money. Here are six low-cost, low-time-investment, eco-friendly home improvement projects to make your home greener today!
It's a good idea to get a professional energy audit of your home before doing any energy efficiency improvements. This way, you'll know where to focus your efforts and where the building itself is already working well. Often, your electricity provider or gas company will offer an audit for free!
1. Swap Light Bulbs
The cost of LED bulbs is coming down so much that it makes sense for more people to use them. LED stands for low-emitting diode, and these bulbs work the same way the small light on your oven display works with a tiny circuit board and a heat sink. According to ENERGY STAR, LEDs are 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. They also contain no mercury, while the swirly compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) do contain some. ENERGY STAR notes that CFL bulbs use only 70% less energy than incandescents, so LEDs are your best bet for efficiency.
Switch out your most inefficient and most used bulbs first. If you've still got a few incandescents hanging out in the basement, swap those before changing out a CFL. Be sure to safely dispose of used CFLs with your household hazardous waste—contact your local waste and recycling centers to determine the best method of disposal.
2. Update Showerheads and Faucets
Take stock of your showerheads and faucets. You may want to test how many gallons per minute they use—just put a bucket with the gallons ticked off under each and see how much water they collect after thirty seconds and double it. While the conventional shower uses five to eight gallons a minute, low-flow showerheads only use 2.5 gallons—or less—per minute. Some aerate the water, making the water go further and feel like a conventional showerhead.
Low-flow faucet aerators are also an easy swap. They screw right onto the end of your faucet, replacing the current nozzle and often only use one gallon per minute. These low-flow upgrades will help you reduce water usage and water-heater usage, reducing that energy cost, too.
3. Update Downspouts
Stormwater is rainwater that makes its way to storm drains that usually then route to waterways. Debris and oil in roadways can pollute the water, and it is also significantly warmed by roofs and driveways in the summer or warmer climates. In the winter, road salt in cold climates may also pollute the water.
You can reduce your home's stormwater pollution by diverting your downspouts from emptying directly into storm drains. Instead, you can install a pretty rain chain that slows water down and routes it into your yard where it will percolate into the soil. A rain garden or rain barrel can also collect rainwater for yard use. Note that these solutions may not work for every property and every climate.
4. Wrap Your Water Heater
This is a really quick fix! Since adding insulation is known to keep heat in, adding it to your water heater can help you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water for your home. I recommend buying a kit from a home improvement store with insulation cut to the right size and fasteners or tape to keep it in place.
5. Install a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat is one that you can configure to change the temperature of your home on a schedule. Program the thermostat to set the home at a lower temperature while your family is sleeping. In the winter, keep the house cooler while everyone is away for the day at school and work. In the summer, let the temperature rise when you are away.
There are some smart thermostats available that you can control with your phone, or you can get the standard variety with all the controls on the wall. Our thermostat knows that if both our phones are out of the house, it won't run the air or heat, but once it sees that we are getting close, it will kick back on! This makes it really convenient to save on heating and cooling costs, and I am thankful that it keeps our energy usage lower.
6. Pair Recycling and Trash Bins
Do you have a recycling bin in the bathroom? No? Do you always remember to recycle your toilet paper roll or shampoo bottle? By adding a few extra recycling bins around the house, you'll be much more likely to recycle every time! Be sure every trash bin has its own recycling bin buddy. Also, be sure that you are up to date on what you can recycle in your community!
Additional Energy Efficiency Projects to Consider
To make your environmentally friendly home even greener, you might also consider more involved energy efficiency projects, such as:
- Replacing single pane windows or insulating your attic
- Caulking around windows and doors inside—a cheap but time-intensive project that will help to seal your home against conditioned air loss
- Installing low-flow toilets
- Looking for the ENERGY STAR logo when shopping for new appliances
Are you inspired to start a DIY eco-friendly home improvement project? For more ideas, follow the Thinking Sustainably board from @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
Starting small is a great way to incorporate sustainability into your family's home. There are easy, inexpensive ways to make your home more eco-friendly and energy efficient.