Expert Advice on Green Buildings

5 Ways to Green Your Home for Under $100

Improving your home's energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water efficiency and waste management doesn't have to break the bank. These 5 do-it-yourself ways to green your home cost under $100, and some will even save you money on your energy bills.

1. Switch to more energy efficient light bulbs.

As you may already know, replacing your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs) is a great way to save both energy and money (over time).

As Howard Jeandenis explained in his previous article, article, CFLs typically cost 3–10 times more than equivalent incandescent lamps. However, a CFL lasts 6–15 times longer than an incandescent and uses 3–4 times less energy.

If you already have CFLs, or if you want to take a giant leap for your home's energy efficiency, you can upgrade to light emitting diodes (LEDs). ENERGY STAR rated LEDs (60 Watt equivalents) uses at least 75% less energy than incandescent lighting. They last 35-50 times longer than incandescent lighting and about 2-5 times longer than fluorescent lighting.

LEDs have been decreasing in price, which improves their return on investment. In fact, the Philips EnduraLED, the first ENERGY STAR rated 60W equivalent LED, retails for as little as $24 online (according to Google). A Philips study showed that replacing 100 standard 60W incansedcent lights with 100 60W equivalent A-Shape EnduraLEDs (12.5W A19 lamp) would save $1567.50 per year (given that electricity costs are $0.11 per kilowatt hour) - so replacing your incandescents with LEDs could be a big money saver over time.

2. Use low VOC paint.

While some homeowners may consider a "green home" synonymous with an energy efficient home, there are other factors that play into a building's sustainability - such as water efficiency, occupant comfort, and indoor air quality. Indoor air quality plays an important role in green homes, because it boosts resident health and happiness.

One way to improve your home's indoor air quality is to use paints, sealants and coatings with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that are emitted from solids and liquids, including paints and other household products.

According to Denise Colestock, a green-buildings.com expert, "some short term affects of VOCs, include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and worsening of asthma conditions. Some long term affects include cancer and liver, kidney or central nervous system damage. The toxins can also harm a fetus."

See my previous article on 3 Zero VOC Paints for low-emitting paint ideas. Benjamin Moore's Natura Zero VOC paint costs about $20 per quart on worldpaintsupply.com.

3. Insulate your water heater.

Insulating your hot water heater is a cheap, easy and money saving way to green your home. In fact, the Rocky Mountain Institute found that insulating your hot water heater only costs $10.07 for every ton of carbon saved.

A quick search on Home Depot's website showed water heater insulating blankets that cost less than $30, and they should only take an hour or less to install yourself. The cost of the insulation should pay itself back in a few months.

4. Seal and weatherize your house.

As Omer Kalafatoglu described in his previous article, sealing the air leaks in your house is an extremely cost-effective way to save money. As he said, "you will need a caulk gun and caulk ($4 and $6), a spray foam ($15) and weather stripping ($0.3/ft)". This cheap do-it-yourself project can save money on heating and cooling, which we all know can get expensive because of high energy costs.

As Kalafatoglu explained, you will want to seal any wall penetrations to the outdoors that have been made for for utility piping and cables, plumbing, or air conditioning. You will also want to seal windows and doors, chimneys, etc.

5. Buy or program a programmable thermostat.

A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically adjust the temperature based on the time of day. This means that you can set the thermostat to increase or decrease your home's temperature based on whether or not you're home or sleeping. Naturally, you can save money on energy bills by turning down the heat whenever you don't need it.

The Rocky Mountain Institute claims that using a programmable thermostat is the most cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions at $9.34 per ton of carbon saved. Many programmable thermostats are available for under $100. For example, this Cadet 7-day, highly rated programmable thermostat is $64.99 at Home Depot.

You may already have a programmable thermostat, but just need to set it to start saving money and energy. Also, if you're willing to spend more than $100 and want the thermostat to program itself, you can check out a smart thermostat, such as the Nest, which programs itself based on your habits, the weather, and more.

Related Advice: