Going green is great — as long as you have several thousand dollars to plunk down on a new solar energy system or more efficient appliances.
But some of us (read: most of us) just aren’t in a position to throw away a perfectly good device or appliance just because it uses a little more energy. In fact, the vast majority of Americans don’t have the savings to make these kinds of purchases, even if they might end up saving us more money over time.
However, green updates don’t have to cost an arm and a leg!
In particular, there are several ways you can make your heating and cooling systems, as well as your windows, more energy efficient — and even limit your water use, all without spending more than $100. Here are a few of our favorite ideas.
6 inexpensive ways to add green upgrades to your home
Seal your windows and doors
A whole lot of heating and cooling can escape through a tiny crack in your window or under the door. While your windows may have been securely caulked when they were first installed, over time, seals around windows can degrade, causing drafts to enter your home—and conditioned air to leak out. Luckily, this is one fix that’s pretty easy to DIY. Take a utility knife and scrape away dried-out seals. Then apply new silicone caulking in a smooth bead around the stationary parts of your windows. Add foam tape around the moving parts—and between exterior doors and door frames, as well. Then top it all off with window and door sweeps on the bottom, and get ready to feel a whole lot warmer this winter!
Change your HVAC air filters
Heating and cooling systems by far use the most energy in your home, which is why so many green updates focus on this area. One extremely simply “upgrade” you can make to improve your HVAC unit’s efficiency is simply to change the filters on your furnace, heat pump, or AC. It may not seem like a big deal, but a clogged filter actually makes a huge difference on your unit’s performance. Plus, changing the filters often keeps you in the clear for problems like frozen air coils or overheated heat units. Twenty bucks to avoid a hundred-dollar visit from the AC repairman? It’s pretty much a no-brainer.
Purchase insulated thermal curtains
Drafts in the winter, and solar heat in the summer. Windows look lovely, but sometimes they can be a real drag. If your windows have old glazing or frames, sometimes it doesn’t matter how much sealing you do—they’re still affecting the comfort level in your home and, by extension, your energy use. Installing thermal blackout curtains is one temporary solution you can use to protect your home’s interiors from excess heat and cold until you can afford better windows. They’re made with a special material that reduces heat loss and gain.
Install a WaterSense faucet
Faucets account for 1 trillion gallons of water used annually by the US, so it’s important to make sure that we don’t waste a single drop! Purchase and install a new bathroom bearing the EPA’s WaterSense label, and you could cut back significantly on your home’s water use—and that means saving a little dough, too.
Buy a ceiling fan
You don’t have to go for a fancy model to reap the energy-saving benefits of an overhead fan. Turning on a fan in the summer allows you to raise the AC by up to as much as four degrees, according to the Department of Energy, and those four degrees definitely add up over time. If you have the means, look for products that bear the ENERGY-STAR logo, since this means they’ve been tested for maximum efficiency.
Repaint with VOC-free paint
Volatile organic compounds—never before have three little words stirred up so much controversy. VOCs, as they’re known, are organic chemicals that easily vaporize into the air. Health experts don’t really know the full extent of VOCs’ effect on our bodies—but in some studies, they’ve been shown to exacerbate symptoms associated with asthma and allergies. Repainting is a great way to refresh a space anyway, and when you do it with a VOC-free or Low-VOC paint, you’ll be improving your home air quality as well.