Today, there is a swelling of interest in living an eco-conscious lifestyle.  Homeowners everywhere reconsider how their daily habits and their home themselves impact the planet.  In 2019, 59% of homeowners reported interest in sustainability, and the interest has continued to grow.  While some may dive all into a greener lifestyle with a zero-waste mentality, others are just beginning to change the makeup of their home.  No matter where you are on the greener home spectrum, you can start to create a shift toward a more sustainable lifestyle with a few key home improvements.  

Step One: Seal it Up

Thousands of cracks and crevices can allow air to slip in or out within a home.  Whether you realize it or not, one-third of your home’s heating can escape through drafty windows and doors.  Other areas where drafts can occur are around vented areas such as the clothes dryer and also chimneys. New construction homes are less likely to have these cracks because they undergo a blower door test to catch air leaks.  If your home is not newly built, you can test for air drafts using a smoke pen.  By releasing a stream of smoke you can see where it is pulled.  This will show you where air is escaping from your home.  These are the areas you will need to focus on sealing.  Fortunately sealing your home is fairly easy and inexpensive.  Use weatherstripping to seal moving components such as doors and windows.  Weather stripping is easily added because it has a sticky back that you press onto the area you are sealing.  You will use caulk to seal any opening or cracks between door frames, windows frames and other non-moving parts of the house.  You’ll need to have caulk, a caulk gun, and a putty knife.  Clean and dry the area that is going to be sealed.  Apply a fresh line of caulk and let it set for 24 hours.  This simple task will stop drafts from coming in and out of your home and in the process reduce your heating and cooling costs.  


Step Two: Insulate

Insulation may be one of the least thought of energy-saving tactics, because it is an expenditure that you don’t see.  But while it may be unseen, quality insulations will save you quite a bit of money on heating and cooling costs.  Insulation has a high return on investment with most recouping their investment in six months to two years.  Properly installed insulation also prevents moisture condensation which controls moisture damage to building materials as well as mold and mildew growth.  A properly insulated home not only controls heating and cooling costs, it also reduces outside noise.  Without proper insulation noise from cars, trucks, and noisy neighbors can get irritating.  But a well insulated home can reduce the amount of noise that passes into your home, creating a peaceful more relaxing space.  

Step Three: Get an Energy Audit

Homeowners that are serious about making green improvements should consider getting a home energy audit.  A professional will come to your home, inspect every room, and analyze your more recent utility bills.  They will perform airflow tests and thermographic scanning.  With the collected information, the auditor will give you suggestions on improvements.  Some utility companies provide home energy audits at little or no cost.  

Step Four: Replace Access Points

Windows and doors can be expensive.  But if yours are severely outdated or beginning to crack beyond repair, you could lose quite a bit of energy. Condensation or moisture between window panes, draftiness, warping or visible rot, and window stickiness could all be signals for windows that need to be replaced.  According to Energy Star, replacing your old windows with new energy-efficient alternatives could shrink your energy bill by 12% on average annually.  Energy efficient windows are also a sought after home upgrade by buyers. When surveyed buyers said they would be willing to pay an average of $8,728 more for a home to save $1,000 a year in utility bills.  Replacing your door will also add to your home’s curb appeal while reducing drafts and utility costs.    


Step Five: Upgrade Your Thermostat

You twist the knob or hit the up or down arrows on your thermostat a couple of times a day to warm or cool your home, but have you ever stopped to consider how your thermostat affects your lifestyle?  If your thermostat is old, it doesn’t matter if your HVAC system is brand-new, you will not be optimizing your temperature control capabilities.  A new thermostat is much more reliable and can detect temperature changes faster leading to a more efficient home heating and cooling system, creating a greener lifestyle.  Smart thermostats are becoming more and more popular among homeowners and buyers.  A smart thermostat learns your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjusts specific room temperatures depending on how you use the area.  Smart thermostats can also be set for vacation mode to keep your home at an energy-efficient temperature while you are away.  

Step 6: Install Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are not just for a warm summer day.  They are actually perfect for keeping the air flowering independent of your HVAC system.  The direction a ceiling fan rotates can be changed depending upon the season.  During the summer, the blades should spin counterclockwise at high speed so that air is pushed down and cooled.  During the winter, ceiling fan blades should turn clockwise.  Set your fan to a low speed so that the warm air that likes to collect around the ceiling is gently circulated.  

Step 7: Go Tankless

A tankless water heater is a great green home investment as it provides hot water instantly while reducing energy usage by close to 34%. A tankless water heater provides hot water at a rate of 2-5 gallons per minute.  You may want to avoid a tankless water heater if your household uses more than 40 gallons of water per day or if you constantly need simultaneous hot water use, such as running the dishwasher, washing clothes, and taking a shower all at once.   If you are in such a situation, you can always wrap your existing tank in a water heater blanket to keep it insulated and improve efficiency.  


Step 8: Upgrade Your Appliances

An old, out-of-daterefrigerator doesn’t just make your kitchen look out of date, it is also a drain on your utility bill.  Upgrading your kitchen appliances to energy-efficient versions is an easy way to lower your energy costs and create a greener home.  In the past fifteen years, the amount of energy used by refrigerators has decreased by nearly half since the 1970s.  The same is true of dishwashers that use much less energy and water during a cleaning cycle.  Smart range hoods are also beneficial to a green home as they reduce the amount of pollutants that enter the air when you are cooking on the stovetop or in the oven.  All intelligent appliances are slightly more expensive. However, they are in demand, with nearly 90% of moderate-income homebuyers preferring home with energy-efficient appliances rated with the Energy Star symbol.   

Step 9: Take Your Greener Lifestyle Outdoors

Your indoor space is moving toward a green lifestyle with energy-efficient upgrades and a fresh insulation layer.  But is your yard as green as it could be?  There are a couple of ways to make your outdoors as green as your indoors.  Start by collecting rainwater.  This is extremely easy to do.  Place a rain barrel in your backyard and use the collected water to water your lawn or garden, wash your car, and pressure-wash your house.  You’ll save on your water bill and conserve water.  You can also create a xeriscaped yard.  Xeriscaping is a way to landscape while reducing the need for irrigation through self-sustaining gardens.  Plant trees that will provide shade rather than a gazebo and add drought-resistant plants and give back to the soil.  Finally, you can start a mini garden to grow your food.  Easy to maintain herbs and vegetables such as basil, mint, spinach, and peppers are easy to grow in pots or containers and do not require much gardening know-how.  You’ll save on your food bill in the long run, but you will also have the added mental health benefit of working in the soil and providing food for yourself.  

Creating a green living environment can take time, and it is a bit of a journey.  Start with one task rather than try to take on your entire house at once.  Generally, a green lifestyle is accomplished by small day-to-day changes that, in the end, make a big impact on the environment and on your lifestyle.