From starting a compost bin to installing solar panels, there are plenty of ways, big and small, to make your home more sustainable this year. Long-lasting home improvements can not only reduce your impact, but they can also improve your health and well-being while racking up energy savings. Additionally, according to Zillow’s Top Home Trends for 2022, sustainability is a top priority for young homeowners.
Whether you’re planning to relocate or just want to make your pad more environmentally friendly, consider these eight lasting upgrades for your home.
1. Install energy efficient lighting
Improving the lighting in your home is one of the easiest, longest lasting improvements you can make to your home, and it offsets a large chunk of the energy use. LED lights use up to 90% less energy than regular bulbs (and save the average customer about $ 225 per year); other subtle changes to the lighting in your home can also make a big difference to your energy bill.
During the summer months when you need to keep your home cool, drawing curtains on your windows can ease the burden on your air conditioner. If you are shopping for curtains, keep in mind that light colors will reflect sunlight the most as it enters your home. While you probably need to use your home lights more often with curtains, keeping your home cool will save more energy than keeping it on (especially if you’re using energy-efficient bulbs).
If you are in the process of designing your own home, consider your climate when deciding where to place the windows, how big they should be, and whether you want them covered. Those who live in cooler climates can use the sun to heat their homes through the south-facing windows during the winter. Skylights, glass doors, and windows can also naturally light up a home to keep costs down – don’t forget to cover them when the weather warms up.
2. Use recycled, reused or salvaged materials
We’ve all heard the phrase reduce, reuse, recycle, and there should be no exceptions when improving a home. New construction and renovations usually create unnecessary waste – and a lot of it. In most cases, there is a lag between where the materials in your home are coming from and where they are going when you no longer need them. Many homeowners are unaware that equipping (or in some cases even building) a home with recycled or salvaged materials can offset a huge amount of waste while saving money.
If you’re looking to renovate any part of your home, whether it’s with new flooring, cabinets, doors, or whatever, consider using recycled materials. Recycled or salvaged materials (wood, beams, doors, flooring, copper, etc.) are always structurally sound and available in quantities and prices that might surprise you. Accessibility to reused materials remains the biggest obstacle preventing this practice from reaching the general public.
That being said, an increasing number of resources are available to find salvaged materials near you. Here are some of our favorite options:
3. Upgrade or seal windows and doors
The US Department of Energy estimates that 30% of household energy is lost through windows and that a lot of warm air escapes through drafty doors also in cool seasons. If your home suffers from high utility bills during hot or cold months, energy efficient windows may be the solution for you. These windows are designed to prevent your heated or cooled air from leaving your home.
Not ready to replace your old windows or doors? You can improve the efficiency of your home anyway by resealing them with weatherstripping, caulking, glazing, storm doors or window treatments.
If you think you have a door or window that is drafty, here’s a simple test to find out: Light a candle and place it next to the window or door seam that might be drafty. ‘air. If the flame bends, it means your window or door is letting air in or out of your house.
4. Switch to solar power
Installing solar panels on your roof is just one way to take advantage of solar power – many solar home devices have become affordable and easy to install in recent years. Here are some of our favorite solar-powered sustainable home improvements for 2022:
- Solar panels: The cost of solar panels has fallen by more than 70% over the past decade, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). However, solar panels still come at a significant price and may not work well for every home. If you are unsure whether your home is a good choice for solar power, this article may help you: Are Solar Panels Worth It?
- Solar attic fans: In hot climates like the Sun Belt of the United States, heat trapped in attics can find its way into other areas of the home, damaging the insulation, roofs, and structural integrity of the house. a house. Solar Powered Attic Fans provide an affordable, adjust-and-forget solution to keeping your attic cool and well ventilated without drawing any energy from your home.
- Solar water heaters: Heating water accounts for about 20% of residential energy use, according to the DOE. Solar water heaters can provide a cost-effective and sustainable method of reducing home energy consumption by heating, storing, and insulating your hot water for use anytime.
- Outdoor solar lights: Installing solar lights allows you to get rid of extension cords and surge protectors. From solar string lights and solar floodlights to path lights, you’ll likely be able to find a solar alternative to any outdoor lighting need. Some of these lights can even be used indoors if your interior captures enough natural light from outside. Modern outdoor solar lights come with rechargeable lithium batteries, ensuring they stay powered through the night.
5. Add color with eco-friendly paint
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of things like paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. These compounds are emitted into the air as gases and contain harmful and carcinogenic chemicals that can cause short and long term health problems for humans and the environment.
Nowadays, VOCs are mostly found in older or cheaper products. So if you are considering a home improvement project that involves painting, be sure to choose a product that does not contain these compounds.
6. Start a compost bin
Did you know that food scraps and yard waste make up over 30% of what we throw away? Considering that the United States produces nearly 300 million tonnes of waste per year (about 5 pounds per person per day), finding a way to reduce, reuse, or recycle this waste can have huge environmental impacts.
Starting a compost bin allows you to turn this waste into organic material that can be added to the soil to help plants grow. Healthy soil is important in the fight against climate change, and composts allow you to help fight one banana peel or used ground coffee at a time.
You do not know where to start ? Here’s a quick guide.
7. Plant a garden
We could devote an entire article to the benefits of creating a home garden, whether it’s a full outdoor plot or just an indoor herb garden. For the sake of brevity, here are some of the most notable benefits that gardening offers to the environment and to your personal health and well-being:
- Plants are very effective natural air purifiers that absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants. In return, of course, they provide us with cleaner oxygen and fresher air.
- Plants reduce erosion and improve soil health.
- Pollinators like bees are the engines of a healthy ecosystem. Adding even a few areas of pollinator-friendly plants or flowers to your garden can provide valuable habitat for animals that otherwise experience widespread habitat loss.
- A well-designed garden can add a lot of value to your home. Additional curb appeal, better air quality, and greater biodiversity all help homes sell faster than homes without strategic landscaping.
- Studies show that even to look at a garden can reduce stress, improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and relieve muscle tension. Creating your own garden offers these benefits and more.
- Let’s not forget that growing your own food not only provides you with delicious and healthy ingredients for meals, but also a sense of satisfaction, confidence in the quality and health of your products, and a deeper connection to the natural world. .
8. Invest in energy efficient appliances
This one probably comes as no surprise. If you need to replace any of the following appliances soon, consider choosing energy-efficient models, such as those that are Energy Star certified. The reason we recommend investing in these particular devices is that your savings on your energy bill should quickly pay off the price difference:
- Washing machine
- Heating / cooling devices
- Smart thermostat
- Water heater
- Ceiling fans
Confused about where to start with sustainable home improvements? Most of the best solar power companies offer energy efficiency audits, or home efficiency ratings, to identify improvements that will provide the most value to your home’s energy system. To get in touch with a solar company near you, use this tool or fill out the form below.
Karsten Neumeister is a solar energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Prior to joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the New Orleans renewable energy sector, focusing on solar energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten can be found climbing, canoeing or writing songs when he is not at work.