Green Home Improvement: Reduce Your Impact

The “Green Building” movement is defined as building practices that increase the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water and materials. The green building movement also is concerned about the impact the building has on health and the environment through better siting, design, construction and maintenance through the life cycle of the building.

The green building movement has its roots in the energy crisis of the 1970’s. At this time people became interested in saving energy. Better insulation practices, more efficient heating and air conditioning systems were developed. With a heightened awareness of individual impact on the environment, building materials and practices are now being looked at for their environmental footprint.

Can the average homeowner make their home “green?” The answer is a resounding yes there are a number of projects within the reach of the average do-it-yourselfer.

Solar Shingles

A great place to start with the greening of your residence would be a rooftop solar installation. Solar shingles are a wise choice. They are relatively easy for the average handyman to install. They can provide you with all your electrical needs. You might even be lucky enough to see your meter spinning backward, resulting in a payment from your local electric utility. Solar shingles are silent, long lived, up to 40 years. The best feature of all is that you may, with installation of solar shingles, be eligible for tax credits and rebates from your local electric provider. Solar shingles will be a great selling pint for your home. They will add about 10% to the value of your home.

Solar Hot Water

Solar hot water is a great way to save over 50% on your hot water heating costs. Not only will you save money but you will be harnessing the renewable energy of the sun. Because of this, you will reduce your carbon footprint because you will use substantially less fossil fuel to heat your water. Solar hot water heaters have an approximate life of 20 years, are easily installed and maintained and add an approximate value of 10%-14% to your home.

Whole House Fans

Whole house fans use 75% less electricity than central air conditioning. Even in a house with central air conditioning, a whole house fan, when used when the outside air is at 82 degrees or below, provides enough cooling and energy savings. Whole house fans can be installed by a homeowner with moderate handyman skills. One of the biggest objections that people have is with the noise they make. The more expensive the fan, the quieter it will be. The expense though will be offset by energy savings in a few short years.

Attic Fans

Whether solar powered or tied into your homes electrical system, an attic fan can give you dramatic savings in your home electrical use. Attics can reach a temperature of over 150 degrees. This super heated air can make your homes cooling system run overtime. An attic fan can help reduce the cost of cooling your home by over 30%. An attic fan can also help extend the life of your roof, draw moisture out of your home, helping prevent damage and reduce the temperature of your upstairs rooms by 10 degrees. This is a green home improvement project that can be done by a homeowner with moderate skills.

Compact Florescent Lights

This has to be the easiest green home improvement project. Even the person who is all thumbs can usually replace a light bulb. These bulbs are phenomenal. According to Energy Star, if every home in the United States replaced just one conventional light bulb with a Compact Florescent Light (CFL) we would realize an energy savings enough to provide all the yearly electrical needs for 3,000,000 homes. The average CFL uses 75% less energy than the standard bulb and has over 10 times the life. A compact florescent light also is 75% cooler than a standard bulb, helping to reduce home heating costs. This truly is the simplest and most cost effective green home improvement projects.

Install a Geothermal Heat Pump

While out of the league of most home do-it-yourselfers, a geothermal heat pump is a fantastic green home improvement. Even though a heat pump runs on electricity (you already installed your solar panels, right?) you will increase the efficiency of your heating by 3 to 5 times over your traditional furnace. A geothermal heat pump can also help cool your house in the summer. While you are at it, go to your local hardware store and buy duct tape, the shiny foil kind, and tape all the seams in your ductwork whether you have a heat pump or a traditional furnace. Taping the seams in the ductwork will increase the efficiency of any heating system.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Another thing you can do to make your home more green while increasing the comfort and value of your living space are install a programmable thermostat. With this device, you can tailor your heat and cooling use to when you need it, when you are in your home. A programmable thermostat can turn your heat or cooling down when you are at work and turn it back up before you arrive home, bringing your living space to a comfortable level. You will notice an energy savings with your first months use. This is also a very easy project to do.

Energy Efficient Windows

Multiple pane, gas filled, special coatings. Windows have gone high tech. Replacing your old windows with new; energy efficient models can really save you money, protect your home and increase the value of your home. Various models have special coatings on the glass to keep the heat in during the winter and the heat out during the summer. If your skills are up to this project, you can do it yourself. If not, even with the cost of professional installation, these windows will pay for themselves in a few short years. Some local utilities even have low cost financing available.

Other Projects

Other green home improvement project can include recycling, composting, adding a wood burning fireplace, extra insulation and even grey water recycling. While all projects may not increase the value of your home, the bottom line to green home improvement is to reduce your impact on mother earth.

Resources

Here is a list of resources for ideas and materials for “Green Living:”

Energy Star

Efficient Windows Collaborative

Honeywell Thermostats

Servicemagic

Treehugger

Greenhome

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