In warmer months, it’s tempting to crank the AC or plant yourself in front of the nearest fan. But these aren’t the only tricks to keeping cool. It turns out there are plenty of ways to buffer your home from the heat without racking up your electric bill. And they’ll make you feel like a DIY champ, too.
Keep your cool, and…
1. Keep your blinds closed.
As simple as this tip may seem, Family Handyman notes that up to 30 percent of unwanted heat comes from your windows, and utilizing shades, curtains and the like can save you up to 7 percent on bills and lower indoor temperatures by up to 20 degrees. In other words, closing the blinds essentially prevents your home from becoming a miniature greenhouse, which is especially the case with south- and west-facing windows.
2. Better yet, invest in blackout curtains.
Blackout curtains block sunlight, naturally insulating the rooms in which they’re installed. Consumer Reports recommends neutral-colored curtains with white plastic backings to reduce heat gain by up to 33 percent.
3. Be smart about your doors.
Closing off unused rooms will prevent cool air from permeating these areas during the hottest part of the day. You’ll want to capitalize on the cooler night hours, too, letting air flow naturally through your home.
4. Hack a fan instead of turning on the A.C.
Not even an air conditioner can give off a faux sea breeze, but this simple trick can. Fill a mixing bowl with ice (or something equally cold, like an ice pack), and position it at an angle in front of a large fan so the air whips off the ice in an extra-chilled, extra-misty state. Trust us: It’s magic.
5. Swap your sheets.
Not only does seasonally switching your bedding freshen up a room, but it’s also a great way to keep cool. While textiles like flannel sheets and fleece blankets are fantastic for insulation, cotton is a smarter move this time of year as it breathes easier and stays cooler. As an added bonus, buy yourself a buckwheat pillow or two. Because buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together in a pillow case.
6. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise.
You may not realize that your ceiling fan needs to be adjusted seasonally. Set to run counter-clockwise in the summer at a higher speed, the fan’s airflow will create a wind-chill breeze effect that will make you and your guests feel cooler.
7. Focus on the temperature in your body, not the house.
If your ancestors survived without air conditioning, so can you. From sipping tasty iced drinks to applying a cold cloth to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists, cooling yourself from the inside out is not a bad idea. Other tricks include being smart about your clothing choices and telling your partner you won’t be cuddling until the leaves start changing color. Also try keeping a bowl of cool water by your bed and dipping your feet if you feel warm in the middle of the night.
8. Turn on your bathroom fans.
Or the exhaust fan in your kitchen, for that matter. Both pull the hot air that rises after you cook or take a steamy shower out of your house or apartment.
9. Heat-proof your bed.
Go straight to the source, and put a cool Chillow under your head while you sleep. For feet, fill a water bottle, and put it in the freezer before placing it at the foot of your bed. And it sounds strange, but slightly dampening your sheets or popping them in the freezer before bedtime will majorly help you chill out.
10. Sleep low.
Heat rises, so hit the downstairs couch or basement, or put your mattress on the floor if the air feels cooler down there.
11. Let the night air in.
During summer months, temperatures may drop during the night. If this is the case where you live, make the most of these refreshing hours by cracking the windows before you go to bed. You can even create a wind tunnel by strategically setting up your fans to force the perfect cross breeze. Just be sure to close the windows and blinds before things get too hot in the morning.
12. Hack your windows.
To create a cooling pressure current, open the top section of windows on the downwind side of your house, and open the bottom section of windows on the upwind side. Also consider facing a box fan out one window to push hot air out, and try wetting a sheet then hanging it in front of a second open window like a curtain for a chill-infused breeze.
13. Ditch the incandescent lights.
If you ever needed motivation to make the switch to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, this is it. Incandescent bulbs waste about 90 percent of their energy in the heat they emit, so tossing them to the curb will make a small difference in cooling your home while lowering your electric bill.
14. Start grilling.
It’s obvious, but we’re going to say it anyway: Using your oven or stove in the summer will make your house hotter. If it already feels like 100 degrees in your home, the last thing you want to do is turn on a 400-degree oven. Besides, who doesn’t want to get more mileage out of their outdoor furniture and seasonal accessories?
15. Make a few long-term improvements.
If you’re really, really committed to the whole no-AC thing, you can make a couple changes to your home that will keep it cooler for seasons to come. Insulated window films, for example, are a smart purchase as they work similarly to blinds. And additions like awnings and planting trees or vines near light-facing windows will shield your home from the sun’s rays, reduce the amount of heat your home absorbs and make your investment even more worthwhile.
*Toscano, Samantha and Suzy Strutner (June 24, 2014). 15 Brilliant Ways To Keep Your Home Cool Without Air Conditioning. Retrieved from, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/07/28/ways-to-cool-your-home_n_5516182.html
Everything you need to do to keep your home and yard in tip-top shape this summer.
With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer's here, you'll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.
Check detectors. Check your home's smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they're working properly.
Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven't already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:
Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:
Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck's boards. If the water beads up, you're in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it's time to reseal that sucker.
Wash your windows. If you didn't tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now's the time to get your glass clean.
Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It'll give your plants a chance to grow.
Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks -- even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.
Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they're busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.
Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.
Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer's mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.
*Fenton, Laura (n.d.). The Ultimate Summer Home Maintenance Checklist. Retrieved from, https://www.thenest.com/content/summer-home-maintenance-checklist
When it comes to making eco-friendly changes these are the little ones that really add up to make a difference from the experts at Practically Green.
Swap Household CleanersSwitching to green cleaners reduces air pollution both indoors and out, minimizing exposure to both asthma and allergy triggers as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Look for plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels.
Go Meatless on MondaysHaving pasta or a vegetarian soup on Mondays might not seem like a big deal, but adding one meat-free meal per week (for a family of four) has the same impact as driving a hybrid car. Raising livestock produces a large amount of greenhouse gases, so cutting back, even one night per week, makes a big difference.
Shop for Sustainably-Raised MeatWhile sustainable isn’t a term certified by the USDA like organic is, it generally means that the animal was given ample room to roam, and wasn’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. Look for labels like free-range and organic as well as no-hormone and no-antibiotic.
Upgrade Your InsulationAdding insulation to prevent leaky ducts, walls, windows, and doors can improve your home’s energy draw by 20 to 30 percent. If totally redoing your insulation isn’t in your budget, try thermal shades, which block the sun in the summer and retain heat in the winter, or even something as low tech as a draft guard on your outside doors.
Leave Your Shoes at the DoorThink of removing your shoes when you enter a home as the equivalent of washing your hands. First, it couldn’t be easier. And second, it prevents the outside gunk like car exhaust, chemicals, and pesticides from being tracked all over your home.
Microwave Glass, Never PlasticHeating plastics can cause leaching into food and many contain hormone-disrupting compounds (not just the much maligned versions made with bisphenol-A or BPA). Plastics that are labeled “microwave-safe” can simply withstand a higher temperature before losing their shape. So when popping anything in the microwave, opt for glass or microwave-safe ceramics.
Don’t Dump, DonateBy some estimates, for every item of clothing donated, 27 pounds of carbon emissions are reduced based on the fact that you don’t another item being produced while one is headed to the landfill. Take items to a thrift store, a charity that accepts donations, or list them on Freecycle.org.
Choose Safe Pots and PansThe materials you cook with do have an impact on your food. The three safest options are cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel. Non-stick pans, while convenient, can be problematic if you scrape the coating and it gets into your food.
Select Fragrance-Free ProductsConventional fragrances often contain chemicals believed to disrupt hormones, and they can be harmful to the ecosystem when washed down the drain. If you like perfumed soaps, cleaning products, or cosmetics, read labels to find those made with essential oils.
Reduce Use of Bug Sprays and PesticidesTo control pests, prevention is your best bet. Keeping your kitchen crumb-free and sealing any holes in the walls or cracks in the foundation means you won’t have to use harmful chemicals in your home. If you do require pest-control, reach for greener alternatives or home remedies first.
*Zissu, Alexandra (n.d.). 10 Painless Changes You Can Make for a Green Home. Retrieved from, https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/green-living/green-home.
For most people, your home is the largest purchase you will ever make. It’s also going to be where a significant percentage of your money goes on an on-going basis. A house needs upkeep, and there are a lot of working parts, so making sure everything is maintained properly can be a big job. And if you’re concerned about your impact on the environment, you’ll need to go a step further than basic mandatory maintenance making upgrades around the house to save energy, conserve water, and increase your property’s efficiency. While many eco-home maintenance projects can cost a pretty penny, the good news is you don’t need to do all of them at once to reduce your home’s eco-footprint – you CAN have an inexpensive sustainable home! Even better, there are steps you can take that can make a big impact for relatively little money – plus, they’ll save you money in the long run. Here are 10 of the cheapest eco-friendly upgrades for your home.
#1 HAVE AN ENERGY AUDIT DONE.Spending a little bit of money to have a professional energy use assessment done will help you prioritize what needs to be done to make your home more energy efficient. A professional auditor will do a blower door test to see how airtight the house is, as well as use thermographic scanning to see where you are losing heat to determine where you need to install more insulation. The average cost of an audit is about $400, but the potential energy savings simply from reducing drafts in a home can range from 5% to 30% per year meaning you’ll recoup the cost rather quickly. If you absolutely can’t afford the expense, you can do a more basic DIY home energy audit with help from Energy.gov.
#2 INSTALL INSULATION IN YOUR ATTIC.Properly insulating is the number one way to increase your home’s energy-efficiency –and you might be surprised to learn that it’s a job you can tackle by yourself. It might not be the most fun you’ve ever had on a weekend, but it will significantly affect your heating and cooling bills. In fact, the Department of Energy states that a properly insulated attic can reduce your bill by 10 to 50% – just the attic! To keep the job eco-friendly you can blow-in wool insulation with a blower rented from a hardware store. Rolling out batts of recycled cotton denim insulation is another good option.
#3 GLAZE AROUND OLD WINDOWS.If you have an older home, you might need to repair some of the cracked glazing around the window panes. This can be time consuming, but not a very difficult job that just requires a one-inch putty knife and some glazing material. If you live in an old Victorian home, this will have a huge impact on heating and cooling bills.
#4 SPRAY FOAM AROUND EXTERIOR WINDOW AND DOOR TRIM.If you have old wood siding on the home, check your windows from the exterior. If you have large gaps around your window trim, it’s like having holes in the wall welcoming drafts and ushering energy out. Buy small cans of spray foam found at a hardware store and fill in those gaps with the expandable foam. When it’s dry, use a utility knife to cut away the excess. If the cracks are small, you can use caulk to fill them.
#5 CAULK AROUND INTERIOR WINDOW AND DOOR TRIM.After addressing the exterior of your home, you should also check for cracks around the windows and doors in the interior of your home. Look for cracks and gaps between your walls and the window trim and use caulk to seal them. Make sure to buy paintable caulk (not silicone caulk), so you can paint over it when it’s done.
If you haven’t caught on to a theme here, it’s all about properly sealing and insulating your home to reduce energy use.
#6 PAINT WITH NO-VOC PAINTS.The average paint job lasts 7-10 years, so at some point in time, painting is going to pop up on your to-do list. Painting the exterior might be a bigger job than what you’d want to tackle alone, but painting interior walls is a task that almost anyone can do. Another way paint can cut costs on your eco-upgrades is by using it to reface instead of replacing things like cabinets and floors. With increased awareness about health risks associated with toxic chemicals, no-VOC paints and finishes are very commonplace and cost comparable to conventional paints – especially when you figure in better spread rates (coverage) and better durability (so you won’t be re-painting again as soon). Do some research about what paint company you want to purchase from beforehand (unbelievably, many no-VOC paints still contain VOCs) to ensure you’re protecting your indoor air quality.
#7 INSTALL FAUCET AERATORS.These inexpensive plumbing parts screw onto the end of most faucets and can reduce your home’s water consumption by nearly 50%! Yes, for just about five dollars per faucet you can save a ton of water (literally) without sacrificing good water pressure. It’s also really easy to do, so there’s no need to call a plumber.
#8 INSTALL LOW-FLOW SHOWERHEADS.According to Energy.gov, showerheads from 1992 or older could have a flow rate of 5.5 gallons per minute. A newer, low-flow showerhead can reduce the flow down to 2.5 gallons per minute or lower. Again, by switching them out, you can lower your water usage by more than 50%. This job is fairly easy, as well, but if you don’t feel comfortable trying it yourself, a handyman can get it done for you very quickly.
#9 DECONSTRUCT, DON’T DEMOLISH.This is a great tip from Jessica on Freshome. She says, “If you plan on tearing down walls or even knocking down entire rooms, walk around your home first to see what you can salvage and re-use beforehand. Not only is this eco-friendly, but it will save money in the end. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Most likely there is a ton of material you can salvage and re-use. Consider everything from light fixtures to flooring, tile, bricks, cabinets, and molding.”
#10 LOOK FOR USED AND FREE MATERIALS.Habitat for Humanity has a wonderful store called ReStore where you can purchase used home fixtures such as lighting, cabinetry, flooring, vanities, and nearly everything else you can think of that goes into a home. If you don’t have a ReStore in your area, you can always look online for materials that someone wants to get rid of. Most communities have an online free market that you could keep an eye on to see if the perfect thing for your house pops up. Finding creative ways to use something that someone else doesn’t need anymore can save you tons of money, and it’s also great for the earth because you’re not using new natural resources and you’re keeping materials from ending up in a landfill.
ECO-EASY PEASY, RIGHT? FOLLOW THESE TEN TIPS WHEN THE BUDGET’S TIGHT TO SAVE MONEY UP FRONT AND OVER TIME, WHILE ALSO HELPING SAVE THE PLANET!
*"10 of the Cheapest Ec0-Friendly Upgrades for Your Home". (n.d.). Elemental.Green. Retrieved from, https://elemental.green/10-of-the-cheapest-eco-friendly-upgrades-for-your-home/.
This year, homeowners are more focused on renovating their houses rather than buying new. 2017 is continuing to see a hot seller’s real estate market, especially in places with booming economy like Seattle. Hot real estate markets mean that it’s often too expensive to buy a new place for many people, but it’s a great time to fix up your current home!
If you can’t afford to move, but you are getting bored or frustrated with your house, a properly planned remodel can help make it feel like a brand new place! And if you ever decide to sell your home in the future, strategically-done home improvements will help make it more desirable and attractive in the eyes of potential buyers.
No matter whether you’re remodeling to make yourself more comfortable or to entice potential buyers, it’s a no-brainer to lean towards environmentally-friendly design. Most green home remodeling projects result in huge savings on your energy bills, in addition to simply being the right thing to do for the future. And green is really in right now: a recent study found that homebuyers are willing to pay 3.46% more for a home with green features than a home without.
A lot of people are under the impression that green remodeling will cost them a fortune, but that’s not necessarily true. We’ve rounded up a set of 10 awesome (and cost-effective) green remodeling projects for your consideration. Read on to get the scoop on what goes into each project, how much each one might cost you, the kind of return on investment you can expect, and more.
1. Energy-efficient exterior doors
Replacing an old exterior door is a great way to improve your home’s energy efficiency. If your current door is worn, cracked, or isn’t energy efficient, replacing it with an Energy Star-certifiedexterior door can result in a savings of as much as 10% on your costs to heat and cool your home.
To replace your door, you’ll need to first choose what kind of new door you want. While there are a variety of options, the most energy-efficient and durable kinds are fiberglass and steel.
Fiberglass doors are often better looking, since they more closely mimic the look of authentic wood doors. They are also ideal for harsh climates (very cold or very humid), since unlike steel, they don’t sweat when exposed to cold or moisture. However, they are more expensive than steel, and easier for intruders to break into.
Steel doors, on the other hand, are cheaper, stronger, and usually more energy efficient in temperate or hot, dry climates. However, they may not be as attractive, and they can rust if not treated properly and exposed to the elements.
Many doors come in pre-hung in a frame and pre-drilled and can be installed yourself, but if you are choosing a door that is not the exact same size as your old door, you’ll need to hire a contractor (usually a carpenter) to install the door.
In 2017, a new exterior door offers some of the very best returns on your investment. This year, the average cost of a new exterior fiberglass door, including installation, is $3,276, and tends to add an average value of $2,550 to your home, for a 77.8% ROI. The average cost of a new exterior steel door, including installation, is only $1,413, and tends to add value of $1,282, giving a whopping 90.7% ROI.
2. Non-toxic carpet
If you want to install or replace your carpet, you should be aware that not all new carpets are the same. A lot of new carpets and their adhesives contain chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are not only bad for the environment, but also dangerous to breathe in, causing a host of symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.
Still, there is an ever-widening variety of Eco-friendly, non-toxic carpet available on the market today, and there are benefits of carpet over wood or laminate floors: carpet is cheaper and provides comfort, noise damping, and – most importantly – energy conservation. They are a great way of keeping the warmth in your house in the wintertime without turning up your heater.
When picking a green carpeting solution, look for carpets labelled “low VOC” and made from natural fibers like wool, jute, seagrass, or sisal. Choose lightweight carpets without petroleum-based padding – either no padding or padding made from felt is ideal. If the carpet requires adhesive, go for water-based, low-VOC glues, or ask your carpet installer to use these eco-friendly products.
This year, new wool carpet is running about $8-$10 per square foot. Installation is typically between $2.00-$4.00 per square foot. While return on investment data is somewhat hard to find on carpet alone (as opposed to a whole room remodel), there is widespread general agreement that potential buyers are turned off by old or dirty carpet, making replacing carpet a winning resale strategy.
3. Tankless water heater
Realtors say there is a big trend this year towards energy-efficient appliances like tankless water heaters. These eco-friendly heaters have a big initial purchase and installation cost – averaging between $2,500 and $5,000 depending on the size of your home – but also have a big immediate return on your investment: a tankless water heater immediately cuts your energy bills by about 20%. By some government estimates, well-placed tankless water heaters can cut your bills by as much as 50%.
What is a tankless water heater? It’s a water heater that heats or cools water on demand, as you need it – rather than storing a bunch of water and keeping it hot all the time. They last much longer than a traditional water heater with a tank – upwards of 20 years – and take up much less space. However, the water temperature from a tankless water heater can momentarily fluctuate if you turn the hot water on, turn it off, and then turn it right back on again – you may get either hot or cold water depending on how fast the water heater takes to catch up with you. Also, they are much more effective when installed closest to the point they’ll be needed – in kitchens and bathrooms – since they don’t have reserves of hot water and have to heat it immediately.
4. Radiant bathroom floor heating
Imagine going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, only to find that your bathroom is warm and you previously cold bathroom tile is nice and cozy beneath your feet. Radiant floor heating delivers exactly that. Homeowners and homebuyers alike consider this a luxury item, and it’s likely to impress potential buyers, adding value to your home in addition to the energy savings.
What kind of energy savings are we talking? It really depends on how hot you keep your house at night. Radiant floor heating makes a room feel warmer than it is because heat rises, and it keeps the floor feeling toasty. Consequently, you will probably feel comfortable dropping your thermostat by several degrees at night. The more you drop the temperature, the better savings you are likely to see.
There are two types of radiant floor heating: electric systems and hydronic systems (which use water for heat). For a 100 sq. ft. bathroom, expect to spend anywhere between $600 and $1200 to have it installed, depending on what brand and what kind of system you use.
The real downside to radiant floor heating is that it requires pulling up the existing bathroom floor, and it might require doing so again if you need a repair down the line. But if you are willing to pull up your old tile or are already thinking about replacing your bathroom floor, it’s a great and popular heating option.
Did you know that 40% of your home’s energy usage comes directly from all that artificial lighting? If you have a room that has no windows – common in bathrooms, and utility rooms – consider installing a skylight. Not only will the natural light from the sun reduce your energy bill substantially, but many of the newest skylights open to fresh air, reducing humidity (and the resultant mold that tends to build up in closed, moisture-prone spaces). It’s no wonder that skylights are so attractive to buyers.
According to RoofingCalc.com, the average cost to have a skylight installed is between $1,500 and $2,500, with some homeowners spending as little as $700 and some spending up to $3,500. How much the job costs depends on what kind of skylight you choose – fixed skylights that don’t open are the cheapest; ventilating skylights with remote control access are the newest, trendiest, and most expensive.
Of course, if you opt for the ventilating kind, remember that you are also letting in outdoor noise; this may not be the best choice if you live on a noisy street. And be sure to get Energy Star-certified skylights which don’t leak. VELUX America makes a solar-powered skylight, which is particularly energy-efficient and popular this year.
6. Curb appeal: native plants, raingardens, alternative lawns, and more
One of the least expensive ways to invest in your home and improve its resale value is to tidy up the landscaping. Curb appeal is a major factor for returns on investment in 2017, and nothing gives a home greater curb appeal than a beautiful lawn. In the past, however, many common landscaping practices (like frequent watering, pesticide use, and planting according to color rather than functionality) were anything but “green”. Today, it is much easier to have a beautiful and environmentally-friendly lawn because of the wide variety of Eco-solutions.
For instance, native plants (plants that grow in the area naturally) are always a great choice when deciding what to plant. They use less water because they’re used to the climate, and they have a natural resistance to local pests and diseases. Fill in flower beds with local flowers by asking your nearest nursery which varieties are native to the area.
If you’re really into gardening, try putting those native plants in a raingarden, a hot trend this year. A raingarden is a shallow, bowl-shaped garden designed to collect the runoff water from your lawn, driveway, gutter, and sidewalk. Not only do they tend to be gorgeous and attractive to butterflies, but they also reduce water usage and reduce soil erosion. Building a large one from scratch costs an average of just $500 – $1500.
The more gardens you have, whether for produce or flowers, the less lawn space you have. The less lawn you have, the less grass you have to mow, water, fertilize, and maintain. This translates into less water usage, less chemical runoff, less gas usage, and more free time and money for you. It’s no wonder that large planting beds and “alternative lawns” like moss gardens are hot this year.
7. Sustainable garage doors
You might be surprised to hear that a garage door can be eco-friendly, too. But a garage door is likely the biggest opening to your house and thus, if properly insulated, can really make a difference in your home’s energy efficiency.
The ideal garage door is made of ethically-sourced materials such as recycled steel or aluminum, rather than less-durable wood or new metals that require mining and importing. Many manufacturers and installers go further than this, promising non-toxic insulation, recycled packaging, and energy-efficient manufacture. When shopping for a garage door, look for a manufacturer that delivers these sorts of guarantees, or ask your garage door company to install only a steel product that is environmentally-friendly.
Many of the remodeling projects with the best ROIs in 2016 involve the exterior of the house and/or curb appeal. The garage door is no exception. This year, the average mid-range garage door replacement costs $1,652 with installation, and sees a fantastic 91.5% ROI.
8. Solar gate openers
Do you have a driveway gate on your home? If so, consider replacing your old gate opener with an automatic solar gate opener. You can save energy, improve the curb appeal of your house, and cut out the annoyance of having to get out of your car, open the gate, get back in your car, drive in, and close the gate again. As a bonus, if you install the gate opener before December of this year, you can get a federal tax credit for it next year.
The best part about a solar gate opener is that it is a pretty easy DIY project, and it won’t require an electrician, unlike a standard automatic gate opener. You only need to attach a solar panel to the gate, and run the wires to a nearby battery. (You can also convert a standard automatic opener to solar fairly easily.)
They cost between $500 and $1200 on average, and save you about $1,000 a year in energy bills.
The downside to a solar gate opener is that they only produce enough power to open and close a standard security gate between 8 and 10 times a day. If you have a lot of family or come and go frequently, you might want to choose another option. Also, you’ll need to make sure, of course, that the solar panels have access to sunlight – so it might not be the best choice for a gate that is hidden behind the trees.
9. Detachable studios from Kanga
Adding additional rooms to your home, such as a second story, an extra bedroom, a family room, or another bathroom generally will give a return on investment of between 50% and 70%this year. However, part of the reason that return is not as large as it could be is that adding additional rooms, even with mid-grade materials, is extremely expensive, and requires many types of contractors and months to complete. Some additional rooms can cost $100,000 or more to add. Also, the existing structure of many houses simply doesn’t allow for easy add-ons, requiring even more complicated and expensive remodeling procedures.
But if you’ve got a small house and a decent sized lot, there may be a much, much cheaper option for additional space — one that has the potential for an even greater return. Kanga Room Systems, a new and up-trending company based in Texas, offers beautiful standalone studios that can be added to your lot. They have design options that offer either a modern, simplistic aesthetic or a more traditional cottage look, and you can choose a studio as small as 8×10 or as large as 16×40. The best part is that Kanga uses only eco-conscious, energy-efficient products and sustainable materials.
If you live in Texas, Kanga will install your studio for you; otherwise, they’ll ship you a kit, complete with wiring, insulation, and the rest. An install of an 8×10 room costs just $8,199 at the base package, with many additional options available to purchase for trim, heating, flooring, windows, and siding.
10. Pellet stoves
According to a 2016 survey, everybody likes a cozy fireplace. Homeowners and homebuyers alike rated them as desirable, and likely to greatly increase a home’s value. But aren’t fireplaces dirty and environmentally-unsound?
As it turns out, there are a lot of clean, green fireplace options. The Department of Energy recommends pellet stoves. These electric-powered stoves burn tiny pellets of compressed organic waste. They are easy to operate and are much more efficient at heating than traditional wood stoves, creating little air pollution. A single pellet can burn up to 24 hours. They cost between $1,700 and $3,000 to purchase and install, and are available as either free-standing stoves or inserts for existing fireplaces. Most of them do not require a chimney or flue, either, which means installation is cheaper than a conventional fireplace. And they stay relatively cool while operating. The biggest downside to a pellet stove is that it requires regular cleaning, including at least once a year by a professional.
Depending on the size of the stove, a pellet stove can theoretically heat your entire home, and costs about $9 a month in electricity.
Bonus Green Home Improvement Idea: Eco-friendly Kitchen Countertops
Minor kitchen remodels are a popular option for homeowners looking to make a good ROI this year, with about an 83% return depending on what materials you use. It’s an old realtor’s adage that kitchens are what sells houses, and that’s no less true in 2017. Part of a good kitchen remodel is replacing an old laminate countertop with something a little better – and while you’re at it, you might as well go with the green option.
What is “the green option”? Actually, there are several. A good, eco-friendly countertop is made of recycled or sustainable materials, doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that can leak into the air, and is durable – the ideal green countertop would never have to be replaced again, since a lot of being green is eliminating waste.
One creative and very popular sustainable countertop material is recycled glass. Recycled glass countertops are beautiful, and so tough that you can actually set hot pots and pans directly on them. They are comparable expensive to regular granite, however, at $50 per square foot or more. IceStone makes a recycled glass countertop which has no problematic chemicals and was manufactured using 50% renewable energy.
A less expensive option is recycled paper. It may sound crazy, but recycled paper combines with resin to make one of the most durable materials ever. They are waterproof, heat resistant, and so durable that you can cut directly on them. The most popular manufacturer is PaperStone, who use a cashew-based liquid as resin for even more green goodness. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, and can even mimic wood. Recycled paper countertops start at $30 per square foot and are extremely easy to install yourself, saving you a pretty penny on installation costs.
What green home improvement update will you pursue this year?
*"Top 10 Green Home Improvement Upgrades, Plus Costs, & ROI in 2017". (n.d.). Remodelingimage.com - Remodeling Ideas, Costs, Tips, and Advice. Retrieved from, https://www.remodelingimage.com/top-10-green-home-improvement-upgrades-costs-and-roi-2017/.
Sure, you recycle, repurpose, and refurbish, but wouldn’t you love to really knock your friends’ organic hemp socks off? Turn them green with envy with these sweet, sustainable upgrades and remodeling ideas.
Detached workshops and studios carve out a nifty workspace, but you can make yours a green endeavor with these prefabricated rooms by Kanga Room Systems. They’re made with sustainable, high-quality materials here in the U.S., which means they don’t have to be shipped as far to reach you (as long as you live in America). Prices range from $7,150 for a 8-by-10-ft. room to $13,400 for a 14-by-24-ft. room.
Reclaim Your FloorsRenewable, durable, and versatile, reclaimed wood is recycled — no new trees are chopped down for your floors. For a truly green floor, make sure any adhesive backing is free of formaldehyde and other harmful VOCs. Prices vary depending on the source and how much work it took to transform the wood from its previous use into flooring, but expect to pay about $5-$15 per square foot. Reclaimed wood is a hot seller, so it should be clearly labeled.
Store the Sun's RaysPassive solar design captures the sun’s energy to keep interiors toasty and save you energy costs. Concrete floors and thick interior walls made of concrete, brick, or plaster soak up heat during the day and release it at night when sunlight goes away or your cozy fire goes out. That helps stabilize temp fluctuations and makes a room — or house — more comfortable. If your remodel plans don’t include passive solar design, you can always beef up your insulation.
Chameleon-Like RoofsBlack roofs that absorb heat or lighter-colored ones that reflect it are useful — for half the year. MIT students are working on a solution: color-changing roof tiles that turn light or dark depending on the outdoor temperature, so your indoor heating and cooling system doesn’t have to work as hard. Although they’re not on the market yet, the inventors of Thermeleon tiles claim they reflect 80% of sunlight when they’re white, cutting cooling costs by as much as 20% over a black roof.
Thumbs Up for TerrazzoChips of recycled glass cast into a concrete slab make up terrazzo, a green countertopchoice known for its durability and nearly limitless color options. Recycled components make up the bulk of the material — the glass chips usually come from post-consumer sources, such as bottles and windshields, which make terrazzo a greener choice than granite, but not cheaper. You can expect to pay about $57-$68 per square foot. On the upside, it’s easy to clean, and so tough that you can put a hot pot directly on it.
Righteous Rain GardensRainwater picks up all sorts of pollutants like salt, fertilizer, and oil on its way into storm drains, which then dump the water into rivers and lakes. Rain gardens — plants arranged in a shallow depression — help soak up rainwater. That reduces erosion, improves water quality and decreases the chance of flooding. Costs vary depending on the size of your garden and what kind of plants you use, but native plants are typically cheaper and better for wildlife, too.
Burning CleanWood-burning fireplaces are romantic, but they’re messy, inefficient, and produce pollutants that irritate lungs. A more eco-friendly choice: a direct-vent gas fireplace. Direct-vent fireplaces ($2,000 to $5,000) use outside air for combustion and convert up to 80% of the fuel they burn into usable heat (wood-burners convert only about 10% of their fuel). Direct-vent fireplaces don’t require a chimney, either — they can be vented horizontally or vertically.
Sun Gets In, Heat Stays OutLet the sun shine in with these outswing folding patio doors made of low-E tempered glass, which has a special coating that increases energy efficiency. Sunlight shines in, but low-E glass suppresses heat flow, reducing energy loss by as much as 50%. If new patio doors aren’t in the cards for you, there’s always window film, which essentially adds a low-E coating to glass.
Go Climb a TreeThere is a high-rise hideaway in Kyoto, Japan, built by the nonprofit Japan Treehouse Network, that it is meant to “break down the feeling of separation that exists between humans and nature.” It’s built from sustainable materials and doesn’t harm the tree. For your kids, it sure beats video games. See more treehouses, homemade cordwood masonry houses, and other gratifying, extreme green trends.
*"9 Green Remodeling Ideas That'll Make Your Friends Jealous". (n.d.). Houselogic. Retrieved from, https://www.houselogic.com/photos/remodel/green-home-remodeling-ideas/slide/working-alfresco/#slide/0.
After being cooped up in a stuffy house all winter long, it’s finally time to fling open the windows, shoo away the cobwebs and tackle your annual spring cleaning. But often, the chemicals found in conventional cleaning products can be more dangerous than the dirt they’re intended to clean. And the way we clean (with lots of disposable paper towels) isn’t always earth-friendly. The good news: There are many available alternatives that can help you make your home squeaky clean—and green.
Green Cleaning Products
The last thing you want to do is dump toxic chemicals into the environment in the name of cleaning, right? These days, you don’t have to make a special trip to the natural foods store to seek out environmentally-sensitive cleaning products. Seventh Generation, Method and Biokleen are three companies that offer full lines of household cleaners, and you can find them in just about every store. These products work just as well as their conventional counterparts.
Or, if you're up for a DIY challenge, you can make your own natural homemade cleaners yourself. It's easier than you might think! The basic supplies you’ll need to make your own green cleaners include:
6 More Green Cleaning Tips
1. Hang dry your laundry. Drying your clothes in an electric or gas dryer isn’t just hard on your clothes, but it’s also hard on the environment. Don’t stop with natural laundry detergent—to truly stay green, install a clothesline in your backyard. If space (or aesthetics) is an issue, look for a retractable clothesline, which takes up almost no space when not in use. Weather permitting, line-dry your clothes outside to reduce pollution, while also cutting your energy bill, getting more exercise, enjoying the fresh air and extending the life of your clothes. Plus, they’ll smell like a clean breeze (the real kind, not the chemical kind).
2. Add a little greenery. Install a living air filter—houseplants! Some of the most efficient air-cleaning houseplants include spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants and peace lilies. You’ll need 15 to 18 medium-size (six- to eight-inch diameter container) houseplants for the average 1,800-square-foot house. If that sounds like a lot, place a few plants in the room where you spend the most time.
3. De-clutter your wardrobe. Donate gently worn items to charity, where they’ll get a second life, and donate torn and stained items (if they’re made of an absorbent fabric) to your rag collection, where they’ll replace wasteful paper towels. And as you’re packing up your winter sweaters, replace stinky mothballs with a natural and better-smelling version: Stuff a lonely unpaired sock with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and whole cloves and tie it at the end.
4. Paint your walls green. If spring cleaning at your house involves a fresh coat of paint, consider the VOC content when choosing your paint. VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals that form vapors at room temperature. Some VOCs, like the ones in many paints, contribute to smog and indoor air pollution, and can cause a host of short- and long-term health problems. The good news is that many paint manufacturers have started making low- or no-VOC paints. The bad news is that many of those manufacturers have simply substituted VOCs with other non-VOC (yet still toxic) chemicals. For truly eco-conscious safe paint, check out these products: Eco-Spec, by Benjamin Moore; Clarity, by Dutch Boy; Enviro-Pure, by MAB Paint; American Pride Paint; and BioShield Milk Paint.
5. Swap out your Swiffer. Instead of continually buying expensive single-use mop pads, invest in a reusable mop. Casabella is one brand that’s widely available in health food stores and general stores. Their mop heads can be washed in your washing machine, hung dry and used again and again—well worth their moderate price tag.
6. Ditch the paper towels. Save trees, cash and landfill waste when you buy specially-made, washable cleaning and dusting cloths, available in all types of fabrics, from cotton to microfiber. Better yet, use what you already have and give an old piece of cloth (stained towels, ratty sheets and pillowcases, too-small t-shirts, etc.) a new life. Simply cut or tear your old item into smaller squares (if you want to get fancy, finish the edges with a sewing machine), and voila! Pop them in the washing machine with your laundry to clean, and use them again and again.
Cleaning up your home for spring doesn’t have to be dirty work. By implementing some of these ideas and products, you'll benefit your body, your home and the planet. Many of these changes are small ones, but their impact on your health and the environment can really add up over time.
Barnes, Liza (March 14, 2017). Go Green with Eco-Friendly Spring Cleaning Tips. Retrieved from, http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1073.
As the eco-friendly housing trend continues to grow, mortgage lenders are jumping on the green bandwagon. Many lenders are starting to offer bigger loans or discounts to buyers who choose to make energy-efficient improvements to their home.
The idea of an Energy Efficient Mortgage is not new. In 1979, Jimmy Carter signed an executive order that directed the secondary mortgage companies, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to offer incentives to green buyers. But few buyers took advantage of the programs until the recent trends towards energy-efficiency.
The concept is simple: Homes that use less energy will have lower utility bills. The money saved can be counted as income, thus allowing the homebuyer to qualify for a bigger loan to increase his home's efficiency.
These loans don't cover any old green update; the updates need to lower the home's energy costs. That means environmentally friendly products like bamboo flooring and recycled glass tiles don't qualify. If in doubt, ask yourself: Will this update save on my energy bill? If not, it's probably not eligible.
To apply for an energy-efficient mortgage, you'll need to get a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) report to measure your home's efficiency. The evaluation rating is on a scale from 0 to 100. A "0" means the home uses an infinite amount of energy (not a good thing) and a "100" means it uses almost no energy (a great thing). The average home built to code minimum typically has a rating of about 80.
Once the inspector looks through the house and gives a rating, you'll get a list of suggested updates. You'll show your report to prospective lenders.
The ProgramsThe simplest energy-efficient programs offer discounts to buyers who are purchasing an eco-friendly home. Bank of America has a Green Mortgage Program which offers buyers a $1,000 credit or an interest rate deduction if their future home meets Energy Star requirements.
Other companies offer discounts for a green lifestyle. Bluegreen Financial, which is based in Orlando, Fla., gives discounts on its broker fee for buyers who buy Energy Star homes and appliances. The company also awards discounts if the buyer works at a green company, drives a biodiesel, electric or hybrid car, or has no vehicle at all. In addition, the company donates 5 percent of its profits to the Rainforest Alliance or the environmental charity of your choice.
The more complex programs offered by Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration incorporate the cost of energy improvements into the cost of the loan. Find an FHA lender, to get started.
To qualify for the FHA's energy-efficient mortgage, the buyer must:
There are also several state programs that help homebuyers go green, so be sure to research your area's options.
*"The Lowdown on Eco-Friendly Financing". (n.d.) Home and Garden Television. Retrieved from, https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/the-lowdown-on-eco-friendly-financing
Everyone's talking about eco-friendly home updates, but what's in it for you? Here are 10 reasons to take the plunge into a greener lifestyle.
1. You'll increase your home's value
There's a growing buzz among buyers about eco-friendly homes. And what's not to like: Green homes use sustainable materials that are better for the environment, and have lower utility bills and healthful air.
That means you'll boost your home's value with big and small eco-friendly projects. So whether you splurge on solar panels or buy an affordable water-saving shower and toilet, you'll have that much-needed edge with buyers when you sell your home.
2. The energy savings will add up
The U.S Department of Energy believes if current buildings were green-improved, the country would use $20 billion less in energy per year. That's not chump change!
You can get your piece of the discounts with your own energy-efficient updates. You'll be surprised at the amount of money you'll save with small updates, like installing tightly sealing insulation.
And while some green updates are more expensive, energy-savers can be cheaper than the power-hogging alternatives. For instance, many homes are built with HVAC systems that are too large. A properly sized system will be cheaper upfront and will save energy later.
3. You'll save money on your water bill, too
Green updates that reduce the amount of water it takes to run a home will certainly save you money, and they can be especially important in states with water-use restrictions such as California, Arizona and Nevada.
Inside the house, Energy Star appliances and water-saving plumbing systems will drastically cut water usage. For instance, toilets built before 1982 use a whopping 5 to 7 gallons of water per flush. Replace the water-guzzler with a high-efficiency model that uses fewer than 1.3 gallons per flush and you'll see almost instant savings.
You can also save money in the yard with a low-flow sprinkler or irrigation system. Less agua can actually help grass by preventing over watering and minimizing weed growth. Your wallet will thank you, and you can still have the greenest lawn on the block.
4. Green homes are durable
Eco-friendly homes might use recycled products, but that doesn't mean they'll wear out sooner. Recycled-content decking, which is made from recycled plastic and wood fibers, can last five times longer than traditional wood decking, and it never needs to be treated or painted.
Durable materials mean you'll spend less time and money maintaining your property; you'll get more money in your pocket when you decide to sell.
5. You'll breathe better air
You know that new car -- or new home -- smell? That's the sweet smell of toxins from building materials slowly seeping out. The air inside a conventional new home can be 10 times more polluted than outdoor air.
Green homes have better indoor air quality than other brand-new and pre-owned homes, making the indoors physically healthier and more comfortable for homeowners. For example, using paints, cleaners and adhesives low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) reduces exposure to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. With a few green updates, you can breathe easier knowing that your home's air is clean.
6. You'll get more done
That's right: Cleaner air can help you be more productive. A U.S. Department of Energy study found that poor indoor air quality not only affects your health, it also affects your brain.
The workplace study found that people with better air quality got more done and took fewer sick days. So go green and watch your to-do list dwindle.
7. Your project will create less construction waste
A huge trash bin that's constantly full is a common fixture at a construction site. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that building waste accounts for about 20 percent of all trash in landfills or about 136 million tons per year. But it doesn't have to be that way. About 85 percent to 90 percent of those materials can be recycled.
Green remodeling and building focus on reducing the waste created during the project and reusing materials whenever possible. Don't ditch the wood from that old barn door; use it as a funky coffee table. Reusing materials will lower your costs, and give your home some personality. If you really can't use something, find a recycled goods company that can. Your old stuff won't help anyone if it's jammed into a landfill.
8. Green homes preserve their surroundings
Building green involves more than just putting some solar panels on your rooftop. An eco-friendly home aims to have the smallest possible impact on its environment.
Green building means working with the land rather than against it. Forget clear-cutting the entire lot; take down only the trees and bushes that would interfere with construction. The remaining trees can help cool the house in the summer and act as a windbreak in the winter.
Using nontoxic adhesives, paints and cleaners will benefit the landscape as your home ages. And locating the home near shopping and other services will keep the amount of driving down -- a win for the entire environment. You'll rest easy knowing your home is healthful for you and Mother Nature.
9. Green homes are designed to be adaptable
A home that's truly built green is built to last. So while you might want to devote an entire room to your pool table in your 20s, you may want to trade it in for a playpen in your 30s. Green homes contain typically open spaces, so it will be simpler to rearrange than remodel.
10. Conserving resources is a top priority
Another core value of green remodeling is conserving natural resources. Green building means looking for recycled or renewable materials that will have a minimal impact on the environment. Using antiques in your home is a great way to create something new without using any new natural resources.
Don't worry, your home's looks don't have to suffer. Many sustainable products look just as good (or better) than their conventional counterparts.
For instance, traditional hardwood floors are beautiful, but they can be from old-growth trees that take decades to grow. The supplies for a bamboo floor can grow in less than a year. Using the fewest possible resources makes environmental sense, and it'll be easier on your wallet, too.
*"Top 10 Reasons to Go Green". (n.d.). Home and Garden Television. Retrieved from, http://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/top-10-reasons-to-go-green.
There are many different ways to build an eco-house, just as there are many different structures for most modern conventional houses. Determining which is the best (and greenest) option is a matter for debate, but architectural and personal preference, geographic location, current trends and, of course, cost all play an important part. Some of the most traditional materials and methods are outlined here, along with more recent developments.
Mixing Green and Conventional MaterialsBuilding an entirely green house or renovating an existing structure to completely green specifications is rarely a practical option. Instead, it is more likely that a green solution is reached by combining green and conventional methods. When considering a green new-build, such as a straw-bale house for example, using a solid concrete foundation could be the best option because the risk of subsidence and egress of moisture is greatly reduced. Equally, with a renovation project, using thermally efficient blocks for an extension will improve the green credentials of a house, even though much of the existing structure may be made from less green alternatives.
An Ungreen Means to a Green EndThere is often a conflict of interest when it comes to determining what is and what isn't "green." While the structural elements of an eco-house may ultimately perform in an energy efficient way, their initial production may involve the use of materials or techniques that are far from ecologically sound. A house constructed entirely from poured concrete, for example, with thick, well-insulated walls, is a green option in the long term. However, the initial outlay of energy to produce the concrete in the first place is high—and consequently very ungreen.
Types of FoundationMany green homes are built on conventional foundations, predominantly because they offer a sound defense against subsidence and damp. However, it is still possible to use less conventional foundations for a green home. The two examples shown here have been used successfully in straw-bale constructions. The use of rammed earth held in place by old car tires, and compacted rubble reinforced with steel rods, clearly demonstrate that concrete is by no means the only material capable of providing a solid foundation for a house structure.
Rammed-earth foundations consist of compacted subsoil. For the rammed earth to form a solid base for the structure's walls, it needs to be contained within an effective mold. A modern example of a type of mold is shown here — the compacted earth is being contained within old car tires.
In this example, a trench is filled with compacted rubble or stone. Some blockwork or natural stone is required above ground level to provide a solid base for the structure. Rubble foundations form an ideal base for a straw-bale home, as reinforced steel bars can be buried into the rubble for extra strength and support.
Types of RoofingIn a structural sense, most green roofs follow the same design as conventional roofs, with the main difference being that any materials must be obtained from sustainable sources. Wood is the most common component and should be sourced from responsibly managed forests. Equally, roof coverings must be green—wooden shingles are a clear green alternative to concrete tiles, and thatch is a roofing material with excellent green credentials.
Green Living Roof
A green living roof is a truly "green" option as the covered surface consists of plant matter. A living roof offers good insulation, retains a high percentage of rainwater (reducing stormwater run-off), and provides a habitat for wildlife. However, the main roof structure must be strong enough to support its weight — a key concern, especially if considering a retrospective fit.
Extensive Green Living Roof
A green living roof may be described as "extensive" (shown here) or "intensive." An extensive roof is typically planted with sedum, which requires a low-level of maintenance for use on often inaccessible roofs. An intensive roof is similar in nature to a roof garden: it has good access and a greater variety of plants. Higher maintenance, however, is usually required.
Types of WallsA green structure must score highly in terms of sustainability and performance — the materials should come from a sustainable source and the building should be well-insulated. Some conventional structures, such as modern timber-framed houses, can be considered green as long as they conform to these principles. The alternative methods described here, however, arguably come closest to the ideal of a truly green construction.
Wood Post and Beam
Large wooden timbers are used to create the loadbearing structure of the house. Wooden post and beam differs from a conventional timber-framed house in that the size of the timbers often means they form an integral part of the aesthetic finish of the house, and may be visible from the inside, outside, or both. Straw bales may be used as infill.
After wood, earth- or soil-based structures make up the next biggest category of green structures. Compressed soil, usually in the form of blocks, is used to build the structural walls of the home. Although modern building standards question the integrity of such structures, history has shown that they can easily withstand a variety of climates.
Bales can be used as either loadbearing blocks or infill for a timber-framed house. Although straw-bale constructions have been built around the globe, climate is an important consideration as it is vital that water is kept out of the structure. Straw bales are a perfect example of what is essentially a waste product being used in major construction.
Structural Insulated Panel
This type of eco-house construction is an example of green building at its most developed. Highly efficient insulation is integrated into building boards to form large panels. These panels can then be clipped together in a custom-made design. Structural insulated panels may be used to form the roof structure as well as the walls of a house.
*"The Basics of Eco-House Construction". (n.d.). DIY Network. Retrieved from, http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/maintenance-and-repair/sustainability/the-basics-of-eco-house-construction