The pandemic has changed our lives and our schedules. Many of us are stuck inside more than we’ve ever been. After staring at the same four walls for several months you might be looking for ways to spruce or upgrade your home – and you wouldn’t be alone! Home Depot and Lowe’s have reported soaring sales as people across the country purchase tools and other supplies to fill their spare time with home improvement projects. But you can take your own projects to the next level by making them sustainable. Here are 13 ways that you can improve your home and help the planet while maximizing efficiency. The costs range from a few dollars to replace light bulbs to a few thousand dollars for a new roof, but the potential savings are endless.
1 – Change Those Bulbs
The easiest, most affordable way to boost efficiency and save money is by replacing older incandescent bulbs with EnergyStar certified LED ones. Not only do these bulbs last 15 times longer, but they also use up to 90 percent less energy than their counterparts. Although LED lights can go for around $8 apiece, each bulb can save $50 over its lifetime.
2 – Seal Pesky Energy Leaks
This can be done by caulking or weatherstripping windows and doors with environmentally friendly caulk before having to replace them entirely. This will save you money and keep the AC and heat from escaping through the cracks. Caulk costs $5 to $10 per tube, depending on the brand, and weatherstrips typically cost under $10 per roll/strip.
3 – Install a Programmable Thermostat
This is one of the easiest ways to start saving money and the environment quickly. Programmable thermostats remove the hassle of manually changing the temperature by allowing users to set a temperature schedule for the day. Newer thermostats often have apps that allow you to make adjustments from your phone as well as vacation modes that can keep your home at a constant, energy-saving temperature for however long necessary. They run between $100 and $300 and can save you up to 10 percent a year on heating and cooling.
4 – Pad Your Insulation
While recently-built homes may already have sufficient insulation, homes that are 10-plus years-old might benefit from more insulation in the attics and walls, to help lower heating costs. There are plenty of eco-friendly insulation options to choose from, including sheep’s wool and denim. Insulation costs can vary greatly depending on the type, but is generally priced between $1.50 and $3.50 per foot of material. Insulating a 500-square-foot room yourself would cost around $150 to $200.
5 – Install Energy Star-Certified Ceiling Fans
Not only will fans add style, but they will also keep air flowing in rooms while maximizing efficiency. Fans can help reduce AC and heat costs by circulating the air in warmer and cooler months, and EnergyStar models will ensure no electricity goes wasted. Energy Star ceiling fans run anywhere from $60 – $600 depending on the model, material, and installation charges.
6 – Go Low-Flow
Making the switch to low-flow faucets, showers, and toilets will make you and the environment happy! Low-flow features help reduce water waste, save energy with less water to heat, and lower utility bills. They can even increase the value of your home. While the cost of installing low-flow utilities will vary depending on the utility and model, a low-flow toilet will likely run between $380 and $620.
7 – Use Eco-Friendly Paint or Wallpaper
Are you looking to give your office or bedroom a makeover? A good place to start is with the walls. Thanks to many existing eco-friendly paints and wallpapers, the only challenge will be picking out your next style! Environmentally-friendly paints include ones that are vinyl-free or those made with low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like latex paint. These kinds of paints are less toxic and can increase the freshness of the air in your home. Sustainable wallpapers include natural material-based ones and those which come from managed forests. Basic wallpaper typically runs from $400 to $1,100 per room if done by yourself, and eco-friendly paint generally costs around $30 to $60 per gallon.
8 – Go Tankless
The benefits of switching to a tankless water heater are plentiful. Not only do tankless water heaters last longer than traditional models, but they are also more efficient and can help you save on utility bills. Tankless heaters heat water on-demand, meaning you won’t run out of hot water during your shower as a traditional tank heater might. Tankless water heaters offer 24 to 34 percent energy reduction compared to tank heaters, and they are significantly smaller than a traditional tank water heat – which means you can store them in easier to reach places. The national average cost of a tankless water heater is around $1,000, and installation is an additional $2,000.
9 – Say Goodbye To Old Doors and Windows
Consider replacing doors and windows if they are past the point of being rescued with caulk or weatherstrips. There are a variety of energy-efficient doors and windows that can help prevent heat/AC loss, and it is important to consider their energy performance ratings to help you choose the most efficient options. Double-pane windows and steel doors are two great options for boosting efficiency along with other benefits. Energy-efficient doors can cost around $730 to $1,100, including installation labor, and $300 to $1,000 per window including labor.
10 – Replace Old, Less Efficient Appliances with Energy Star Rated Appliances.
By replacing all of your appliances with energy-efficient versions you can save nearly 30 percent on appliance-related energy expenditures – offsetting the cost. Prioritize the appliances that are more than 10 years old, as they are likely to be the least efficient. Appliance cost will vary depending on the type, but a large Energy Star refrigerator will cost you around $1,500 to $3,000 and, on average, about $200 for installation.
11 – Try Sustainable Flooring
Tired of the hardwood in the living room or the tile in the kitchen? Flooring is a great way to add flair to a room and there are tons of green flooring options. One option is cork (yes, like the cork in your wine bottle), which is harvested from a tree that does not have to be cut down and can last decades. Other eco-friendly floor types include bamboo and reclaimed hardwood. Bamboo, a type of grass, is a sustainable alternative to hardwood that grows to maturity in just three to five years as opposed to trees which can take as long as 20 years. Using reclaimed hardwood from extremely old trees is a green alternative to installing hardwood, which could be linked to deforestation. Sustainable flooring can range from $1.50 to $100 per foot depending on the type. New flooring can cost you up to around $4,600 for a medium-sized living room (330 square feet).
12 – Make Your Roof Cool
If you are looking to make a big change that will also boost your home’s efficiency, consider replacing your roof with “cool” materials. A cool roof is typically made with reflective paint, tiles, shingles, or a sheet covering. These kinds of roofs reflect the sun and are less heat-absorbing than standard roofs. This keeps homes cooler, reduces the need for AC, and keeps roofs from overheating, which can exacerbate wear. Pricing for cool roofing varies depending on the material, but you can expect it to cost $0.75 and $3 per square foot. The national average cost of roof installation is $7,211.
13 – Get Your Solar On
US solar panel shipments reached an all-time high in 2019, and there’s no better time than now to turn to the sun for your home’s energy needs. Installing solar panels on your home’s roof can vastly reduce your carbon footprint, save you money on energy bills, and many states even offer financial incentives like tax breaks for those who go solar. It is always important, however, to consider whether solar panels are a good investment based on whether your home is shaded and your roof shape. While solar panel costs vary depending on your state and system size, on average panels cost between $15,000 and $25,000, which includes system cost and installation.