Taking steps, no matter how small, toward a sustainable lifestyle can feel incredibly gratifying – which is probably why we’ve seen such large growth in sustainability movements in recent years. Whether you want to eat, dress or commute more sustainably, there’s an abundance of information out there on what kinds of positive changes you can make.
In this article, we’ll be looking at eco-friendly upgrades and changes you can make within your home, not only to become more energy-efficient and sustainable, but also to hopefully save you some money long-term.
When it comes to going green, turning off the lights when you exit a room is an age-old piece of advice, but there are other lighting-related methods to conserve energy and maintain a well-lit household.
When we think of windows and sustainability, the first thought that probably comes to mind is natural lighting. And while it’s true that windows are a great asset for lighting up your home during the daytime, certain upgrades can be a smart investment and result in even more energy-efficiency (and therefore, more savings in your pocket!).
If you have the means and are interested in upgrading your home, consider installing smart windows. This sophisticated tech may be an intimidating investment at a price range of $50 – $100 per square foot – contrary to standard windows, will run you more around $10 – $15 per square foot – but the reflective glass in smart windows can cut your energy consumption down by about 12%.
Smart windows change color according to the amount of sunlight on a given day, acting as their own kind of blinds. This feature will help keep your home cool during hot summer days and let in more sunlight on colder ones, ultimately cutting down your energy costs.
However, as such a big investment smart windows really only make sense if you’re confident that the house you’re in is a long-term home. If you’re planning on moving or downsizing in the near future, you may want to try out smaller changes to make your home more eco-friendly.
One of those changes can be something as simple as replacing or updating your window seals. Making sure that unwanted air isn’t getting in or out of your home will help streamline your home’s heating and cooling and should still help out with overall energy efficiency.
Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
Perhaps one of the easiest and smartest ways to go green in your home is by simply switching out your lightbulbs. Energy-efficient bulbs not only have a longer lifespan than traditional incandescent, but they can also cut down energy consumption by 25% up to a drastic 80%.
So, the next time your lamp burns out and you need a replacement, keep an eye out for these energy-efficient bulbs:
– Halogen incandescent
– Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
– Light emitting diodes (LEDs)
We’ve discussed several methods beyond natural lighting to improve your home’s sustainability, but at the end of the day, natural lighting is still a key component to cutting down on artificial light and saving energy.
For those rooms without windows – typically bathrooms – skylights are a great option for making the most out of the daylight. Similar to any major installation, skylights will run you a pretty penny upfront but can save you loads in electrical over time.
Most skylight installations average $1,500 – $2,500, though the price is dependent upon what kind of skylight would suit your home and your individual preferences.
Consider Solar Panels
If you’re really looking to go all-in on the sustainable home movement, solar panels can be a great start. Although they’ll cost you a hefty $13,000 – $22,000 on average, solar panels have been shown to increase the value of homes in addition to saving you money long-term.
However, before making the investment it’s important to research and learn if solar panels are an option well-suited for your home. Typically, these fixtures are only worth the money if you’re living in a sunnier climate where you can generate enough electricity to justify the upfront costs.
Additionally, depending on the size and structure of your home, solar panels could just be difficult to install. It would be best to contact a specialized solar panel installation company and have a professional come out to audit your home to give you an estimate specifically for your house and its location.
Eco-Friendly Bathroom Updates
With all of the energy and water consumption that occurs in a bathroom, some small changes can make a huge difference. Let’s take a look at some easy tweaks you can make toward sustainability.
Water-Saving Shower Head
Low-flow shower heads are a great way to reduce water waste in your home – particularly heated water, which is a costly energy expense in many households. For the most efficiency, you’ll want to look for shower heads that have a water flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm or gallons per minute.
Of all the eco-friendly changes in this article, low-flow toilets are perhaps the most polarizing. They do after all, have a reputation for being pricey and worst of all, low performance. Less water must mean that low flow toilets can’t flush as powerfully, right?
Wrong. Although these are the most common misconceptions that mar the low-flow toilet’s image, recent models are actually given Maximum Performance ratings, or MaPs, to evaluate the effectiveness of an individual model.
The payoff is also well worth it in terms of saving water and the planet – low-flow toilets can cut your water usage anywhere from 20% – 60% annually. Replacing even just one low-efficiency toilet in your home can make a huge difference.
Eco-Friendly Kitchen Improvements
Another room which eats up a lot of water and energy is the hub of the house: the kitchen. Upgrading your appliances and faucets is a great way to streamline your home’s energy usage.
The same way you might want to consider updating your shower head or windows, an upgrade to your kitchen appliances can help you save energy without sacrificing quality. Energy Star certified appliances abide by strict EPA guidelines and are more eco-friendly than standard appliances due to their energy-efficiency.
Whether you’re looking for a new refrigerator, dishwasher or even an energy-efficient air purifier, Energy Star appliances will have you covered.
Just like swapping out your shower head can save you an abundance of water each year, a low-flow kitchen faucet is also a sustainable home improvement to reduce your water waste. You can typically purchase quality, low-flow fixtures for as little as $10 – $25 from your local home improvement store and reap water savings of up to 60%.
Energy-Efficient Heating And Cooling
Heating and cooling accounts for a large quantity of energy consumption in most homes. Here are some different ways you can scale that consumption down.
Programmable thermostats have risen in popularity in recent years and for good reason. With their scheduled temperature settings, these smart thermostats can adjust to your schedule in order to increase energy savings. A programmable schedule may pull back on AC while you’re out of the house or adjust temperatures when you’re asleep.
You can also always manually adjust your home’s temperature to best fit your comfort level, but for those of us who spend a good chunk of time away from home, a programmable thermostat could be a smart and simple way to save money on heating and cooling.
If you’re interested in updating your ceiling fans or making the switch to a greener fixture, Energy Star also carries various residential ceiling fan models – all of which meet the EPA’s guidelines for energy efficiency.
When it comes to increasing the value of your home, you probably know the importance of an attractive front door. Not only can a new front door increase curb appeal, but the right one can also be much more energy-efficient.
The same way that you want your windows to have reliable seals, you want your front door to as well. Energy Star-certified doors come with tight fitting seals, usually installed with magnet strips to create a seal that cuts down on air leakage around the edges.
Add Extra Layer Of Insulation In The Attic
Your attic is the easiest place to install more insulation – not only because it’s typically the most accessible, but also because you don’t even have to use the same insulation that’s originally installed. Ensuring that your attic has well-distributed insulation can improve the energy-efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling, and in turn, your own comfort.
The Bottom Line
No matter how many changes you can or can’t make to your home, it’s important to remember that there is no one right way to be sustainable. Any small changes you can make are a great step toward helping our planet and can make a difference.