In the dead of winter, when staying warm and cozy can mean making the heater work overtime, many homeowners look for home improvements that will keep energy bills from soaring. So this is the perfect time to do green home improvement projects that help save energy use any time of year.
"There are a lot of things you or a professional handyman can do around your home to help cut back on energy use," said Scott McKenzie of Handyman Connection. "That's something that will benefit both your budget and the environment."
Not all green projects are major undertakings. There are simple ways to make your home more energy efficient:
Small home improvement projects
- Switch out light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED versions.
- Install occupancy sensors so lighting will come on when people are present and automatically turn off when they leave the room.
- Clean or replace furnace filters once a month.
- Clean the air conditioner filter regularly.
- Add insulation to hot water pipes.
- Install a water filter and quit buying bottled water.
- Replace your showerhead and faucets with low-flow versions. This won't reduce water pressure but water consumption and energy costs can be reduced by up to 50 percent.
- Insulate the water heater and turn it down to 48 degrees and cut your water-heating bill in half.
- Install ceiling fans.
- Weatherize your windows and doors with caulk, weather-stripping and sealants. The average home can lose 30 percent of its heat or air-conditioning though the windows.
- Replace the thermostat with a programmable one with a timer.
Bigger home improvement projects
- Home remodeling projects are the perfect opportunity to make your home greener. If you don't have the knowledge, tools and time, hire a reputable home improvement company.
- Replace standard toilets with high-efficiency toilets. These newer models use 20% less water, and dual-flush, water-saving toilets can save you about 20% on your monthly water bill.
- Install a new gas water heater with a timer if your current water heater is more than 10 years old.
- Insulate your roof, walls and attic with natural insulation.
- Put in a whole-house fan.
- If you have an attic, put in a solar attic fan to vent hot air out.
- Install solar panels.
- Replace windows with modern energy-efficient windows.
- Avoid formaldehyde-based particle board when putting in new cabinets.
- Take out wall-to-wall carpeting and put in wood flooring. Carpeting traps dust mites and allergens; carpet mold is one of the leading causes of respiratory problems.
For more information, see our Remodeling a Green Home research center.