Eco-Friendly Home Makeover Ideas This Summer

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Summer is the season for working on your house! In between paragraphs here, I’ve been outside putting up a new clothesline, building my patio, installing a flagstone walkway and harvesting herbs. If you want to upgrade your home, make it eco-friendly to reduce your utility bills, save our natural resources and reduce your carbon footprint.

Eco-friendly weatherization

Sealing the envelope of your home will save a lot of money and natural resources. You don’t want to be heating the outdoors! Neither do you want to be cooling outdoor summer heat! You can get a blower door test from a certified energy rater to find air leaks. You can do something similar by closing all the exterior doors and windows, opening all the interior doors, and running a big fan to blow air outdoors. You can also turn your furnace to ‘fan’ while you check for air penetration. You may want to have some incense or something else that smokes so you can see where air is moving most.

Caulking and weatherstripping problem areas

Caulk is your friend! Not very romantic, but oh so useful! Where?

  • Door and window trim outside and inside
  • Exterior wall penetrations where electric, gas, satellite and phone lines enter, and around water spigots, outlets, dryer vents, AC and fans
  • Trim where the wall meets the ceiling between heated space and attic
  • Trim where the floor meets the wall
  • Basement windows

Weatherstripping is an inexpensive way to prevent leaks.

  • Exterior doors – If you can see the outdoors when the door is closed, the frame needs some weatherstripping.
  • Attic access door
  • Windows – Weatherstrip the frames so the window is tight.

Photo: Kristin Brenemen

Insulation is a great eco-friendly home investment

  • Ceiling and subfloor – You can install batts yourself, but you will need a professional company if you want it blown into the attic.
  • Perimeter of the foundation – This is standard in newer homes, but if you have an older home, it is probably lacking.
  • Ductwork in attic and crawl space or basement. You may want an HVAC contractor to do a pressure test first.
  • Electrical outlets and where wiring for ceiling fixtures comes through the ceiling

Eco-friendly HVAC, plumbing, appliance, et al upgrades for your home

  • Replace furnace and AC filters.
  • Upgrade to an energy efficient furnace with an AFUE rating of 85-90%.
  • Replace old windows with low-e windows. These are made for different regions of the country and for the various orientations of your house. Learn to read a window label!
  • Put windows on the sunny side of your house, and install thermal mass on the inside. The mass collects heat from the winter sun and radiates it back into the room slowly after dark.
  • Install window coverings. Draperies keep winter heat in and summer heat out.
  • Put an insulating blanket on your hot water heater.
  • Install solar hot water. This has a relatively short payback period and will slash your water-heating bill while saving natural resources.
  • Install low-flow faucets in kitchen and bath sinks and shower.
  • Install low-flow or dual flush toilets.
  • Install a tankless water heater.
  • Buy a front-loading washing machine, and install an outdoor clothesline.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs.
  • Install solar PV.

In the Yard

  • Grow food.
  • Plant native plants.
  • Replace concrete and asphalt with pavers to prevent erosion and run-off. It is also much cooler to not have heat-absorbing materials close to your house.
  • Collect rainwater for irrigation. You can also use this water indoors if it is filtered and tested for potability.
  • Install a gray water system from the laundry, kitchen and shower to irrigate outdoor plantings.

Photo: jasonvance

Some of these projects are major, and some are minor and inexpensive. Don’t try to do all of them at once! Make a priority list – those most desirable for you, those that will fit in your budget, those that need a professional, and those that you and your neighbors or a work party can accomplish. No matter which upgrades you choose, all will make your home more eco-friendly, save you money, reduce your carbon footprint, and save our precious natural resources.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.