Green is good!
One goal you most likely have as a homeowner is to minimize your monthly expenses. Another goal you hopefully have as a human is to minimize your impact on the environment. Good news: you can address both by making your property a shining example of energy efficiency!
Below are five approaches to “greening up” your home:
Installing solar panels on your home may be costly at first, but they can create big savings. Calculating the time it will take for a solar system to pay for itself depends on a number of factors that vary by state, including the cost of electricity and available tax credits, rebates and incentives. In Massachusetts, it takes roughly 4 years to pay off a typical 5-kW system, whereas in Louisiana it can take up to 20 years since the state discontinued its solar tax credit.¹ Therefore, before installing solar panels on your home, you’d be wise to research the benefits your state offers and decide if it makes sense from a financial standpoint. If you’re an eco-warrior to the core, however, and want to do your part to reduce your home’s environmental impact no matter the cost, installing solar panels is the way to go.
Putting in a skylight (or two or three) is not just good for the environment, it’s good for you! Studies have shown that natural light can improve people’s mood and increase test scores, productivity and speed of recovery from surgery!² Carefully plan the placement of skylights according to the path of the sun in different seasons. For most homeowners in North America, skylights on south-facing, sloping roofs may run the risk of overheating rooms, while those on north-facing roofs tend to create softer, less intense illumination. Surrounding vegetation and terrain, among other factors, can also affect your ultimate vision. Once installed where you want them, your skylights should start creating significant reductions to energy costs—according to a 2005 study, expected savings are roughly 22%!ᶟ
As organisms that take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, people are perfect partners with plants, which do the opposite. By populating your home with plants, you establish a naturally inviting interior along with a number of health and financial benefits. They are hard-working air purifiers, minimizing the effects of dust and harmful gases that can cause respiratory illnesses, headaches, nausea and fatigue. Plants also release moisture into the air during photosynthesis. This increases your home’s humidity, thereby regulating the interior temperature by warming cooler rooms and cooling warmer ones.⁴ This minimizes the need to mess with the thermostat and drive up your energy bill.
Think of your home as a bucket: if there’s even a small hole, the precious water that’s supposed to stay inside will slowly leak out, meaning you have to make frequent trips for more. Likewise, the hot or cool air in your house that keeps you comfortable will dissipate into the atmosphere if your windows aren’t properly sealed, meaning your A/C and furnace units have to work harder to maintain the temperature you want. Inspect your windows closely to determine if the original caulking or weather stripping is dried, cracked or missing. If it is, clear off the useless material, clean the window frame and reapply. Another way to minimize heat loss through windows is to hang waffle shades. These eco-friendly fabric treatments are made with cells that trap air to provide excellent insulation.
Without buying new products or installing new features in your home, the best way to let nature know you care is by practicing disciplined living habits. Simply eliminating careless tendencies can take a big chunk out of your annual energy costs and carbon footprint. Don’t leave the water running when brushing teeth or scrubbing dishes. Take short showers. Put on more clothes instead of turning up the heat when you catch a chill. Collect rainwater for the garden instead of using the hose. Know what you want before opening the refrigerator. Turn off lights and unplug the TV since even “stand-by” mode sucks up electricity. Following these tips and others will result in lower utility bills and a reduced impact on the environment.
Whether adding new features, repairing old ones or simply altering your behavior, your efforts to create an eco-friendly home can help the environment as well as your wallet!