15 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

Trees with green leaves

With the human population expanding at an increasing rate, it seems that our Earth’s natural resources are dwindling fast.

The good news is, conserving our natural resources has now become a major priority. People everywhere are taking note of this issue and starting to become concerned with how to be environmentally friendly. There are many changes, big and small, that you can make throughout your home that will have a positive impact on the environment.

So, if you’re ready to make a few home and lifestyle changes so you can help protect and preserve our Earth, here are 15 ideas that will show you how to make your house eco-friendly!

1. Switch to LED or CFL Light Bulbs

light bulbs hanging from black electrical cords

According to Energy.gov, traditional incandescent light bulbs use a lot of energy to produce light, and 90% of that energy is unnecessarily wasted as heat while the bulb is in use. Using incandescent bulbs could cost you about $4.80 in energy use per year, per bulb, and they only last for about 1,200 hours before they need to be replaced.

So, if you’re wondering how to make a house eco-friendly, one of the most common ways to do so is to swap out your regular incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs for short, are 75% more energy efficient than regular bulbs, and they’re relatively inexpensive to purchase — only about $2 more than regular bulbs. Your energy cost could go down to $1.20 per year, per light bulb, just by making the change to CFL bulbs. They also last quite a bit longer than traditional light bulbs as well — about 8,000 hours — making them an excellent, environmentally friendly replacement. However, some people aren’t fond of the brighter, sometimes harsh-colored light that fluorescents emit.

Which brings us to the other energy-efficient option in lighting: LEDs. LEDs emit light similar in color to incandescent bulbs, making the swap a little less jarring. This bulb choice is 80% more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and, like CFLs, costs only a few dollars more to purchase. Your average energy cost would be $1.00 per year, per light bulb, when using LEDs. LEDs also have the longest lifespan of any light bulb: 25,000 hours. This simple change sounds like a no-brainer to us!

Compace fluorescent lamps are 75% more energy efficient than regular bulbs2. Upgrade Your HVAC System

Heating and cooling your home is one of the biggest expenses for homeowners. Your HVAC system works overtime during the hot summer and freezing winter months, and this results in a lot of energy consumption, especially if your HVAC system is older or not energy-efficient. Look for HVAC systems that have the Energy Star seal to be sure it will maximize energy use and save you money in the long run. Also, make sure it’s properly installed using the Energy Star Quality Installation guidelines to save you even more energy and money upon installation.

If you have a large home, it may make sense to divide your home into different heating and cooling zones. This way, your HVAC systems are only running when and where they’re needed. Since hot and cold air disperses throughout varying levels of the home differently, having more than one zone will account for the natural fluctuations in temperature. Though the initial cost of having two systems will be higher, it could ultimately end up using less energy and saving you money.

3. Use Programmable Thermostats

If you’ve spent time, money and effort upgrading your HVAC system, why not go one step further and invest in a programmable thermostat? This simple swap is probably one of the easiest ways to cut down on energy use in your home.

You can use your new thermostat to program your house to remain at a specific temperature throughout the day. For example, if you work 9-5 Monday through Friday, there’s no need to heat or cool your house as much as you would when you’re home as when you’re away. Program your thermostat to be five degrees warmer throughout the day when you’re out of the house in the summer, and five degrees cooler during the winter. Then, you can program your air to adjust back to your normal temperature 30 minutes or so before you typically get home. You’ll never even know there was a temperature difference when you weren’t there!

By choosing a programmable thermostat, you won’t have to remember to change the temperature on your thermostat before you leave, and you won’t be unnecessarily heating or cooling your house when you’re not around.

4. Make Sure Your Home is Well-Insulated

As we’ve previously mentioned, you already shell out quite a bit of money each year for the heating and cooling of your house. So, it makes sense to ensure that the energy you’re using isn’t being wasted by having that climate controlled air seep out through your walls and attic because of poor insulation.

Effective insulation is an environmentally friendly home design that you can easily incorporate into your plans while you’re in the process of building your home. But, if your home is already built, taking the extra step to add proper insulation is well worth the extra expense.

There are many different types of fibers used to properly insulate your home — cellulose and fiberglass are two of the most popular — and both of these fibers will get the job done. The most important decision when it comes to installing insulation is finding a qualified insulation specialist to do the job right. Look for contractors who take the time to detect any possible deficiencies in your insulation, so you’re sure all the gaps are covered.

Insulation can be blown directly into your attic, making it an easy-yet-green addition to an existing house. You can also insulate the exterior of your home by wrapping your house with insulation underneath the siding. Make sure your contractor also tapes around any window and door frames to ensure there are no cracks and crevices where air can escape.

5. Use Ceiling Fans Year-Round

Ceiling fans are excellent, energy-efficient ways to circulate air from room to room, and they can be used all year long. In the summer, have your ceiling fan blades rotating in a counterclockwise direction. This will force the air downward and you’ll feel a breeze from the fan, helping to cool the room. In the winter, turn the fan to low and reverse the motor so the blades are rotating clockwise. This will create an updraft that will force the warm air that’s near the ceiling (remember — heat rises) down into the room.

By using ceiling fans to circulate the air, your HVAC system won’t need to work as hard in the summer or winter months to regulate your air temperature.

6. Install Energy-Efficient Windows

Installing new windows for an entire house can be a pricey undertaking. However, if you’re looking to maximize energy efficiency, installing windows that meet Energy Star guidelines can save you money by not letting valuable heat escape through your windows in the winter, or letting heat in through your windows in the summer.

New windows can also improve the overall look of your home, and they are often much easier to clean and maintain than many older styles.

7. Cover Your Walls With Low-VOC Paint

Volatile organic compounds, aka VOCs, are harmful chemicals found in many paints and stains used throughout homes. Typical household paint can contain up to 10,000 chemicals, many of which could be harmful. When paint is applied to our walls, these chemicals are released into the air. Paint-related products are the second largest source of VOC emissions behind cars, emitting around 11 billion pounds per year (How Stuff Works).

paint-related products are the second largest source of VOC emmissions

Paint manufacturers now offer many low or no-VOC paint options. Choosing these environmentally friendly paints will allow you and our environment to breathe more freely and still keep your home on-trend while doing it!

8. Use Recycled Materials Wherever Possible

Something as simple as recycling and repurposing old goods can have a major impact on our environment. Instead of adding more material to landfills, try finding a new use for old furniture and décor. Many times, just simply refinishing an old piece of furniture like an armoire or dresser can give it a whole new look, and the piece can be reused in another area of your home. If reusing certain items is not possible in your home, consider donating the items instead. Not only will this help keep down our overflowing landfills, but it will also help out your neighbors who might be have the perfect purpose for the items you no longer use.

9. Start Composting

Composting is a great way to reuse biodegradable materials for another purpose. By choosing to compost certain materials instead of throwing them away, you can save space in your trash and nourish the earth at the same time.

Starting a compost pile is simple. Add things like food scraps, grass clippings, shredded newspaper and even wood chips to your pile. Over time, this organic material will decompose and turn into nutrient-rich compost that you can spread over your garden to naturally fertilize and nourish your plants. Finalized compost can take several months to decompose, but the result is well worth it. And the best part is, you’ll know exactly what’s in the soil you’re feeding your garden!

10. Use Low-flow Toilets

Toilets use a lot of water every time you flush them. Some older toilets may use as much as 3.5 gallons of water per flush. Think of how much water that adds up to per day! Newer toilets are made to use much less water than older toilets, but if you’re really looking to go green, try installing a low-flow toilet instead.

Many low-flow toilets use less than 1.5 gallons of water per flush, which is a huge improvement. The only downside is you may have to clean your toilet bowl a little more often, as there is less water with each flush to wipe away dirt and bacteria. But think of how much water you’ll be saving at the end of the day!

11. Add a Water Aerator to Faucets

Toilets use a lot of water every time you flush them. Some older toilets may use as much as 3.5 gallons of water per flush. Think of how much water that adds up to per day! Newer toilets are made to use much less water than older toilets, but if you’re really looking to go green, try installing a low-flow toilet instead.

Many low-flow toilets use less than 1.5 gallons of water per flush, which is a huge improvement. The only downside is you may have to clean your toilet bowl a little more often, as there is less water with each flush to wipe away dirt and bacteria. But think of how much water you’ll be saving at the end of the day!

12. Install Solar Panels

The sun is one of the cheapest and most efficient power sources you can use in your home. Just by opening your shades, you can let the sun shine heat and light into your house throughout the daytime hours. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Installing solar panels on your roof can harness the power of the sun to provide energy to power your appliances, lights and electronics naturally.

Installing solar panels can reduce your home’s carbon footprint because the energy is clean and renewable. Some solar panels can even transfer surplus energy to a battery so it can be stored and used at a later time. And many states offer tax incentives if you decide to install solar panels at your home, so that alone can help make those installation costs more affordable.

13. Unplug Electronics When Not in Use

unplug electronics when not in use

Electronic appliances like TVs and computers use a lot of energy even when you’re not using them. When you turn off your TV, it actually goes into standby mode instead of fully shutting down, and electricity will still be used to power it. Even things like cell phone chargers, toasters and lamps still have a small amount of energy flowing to them if they’re plugged into an outlet when not in use.

If you can, unplug some of these items when you know you won’t be using them for a while. Or, an even easier method would be to install power strips and plug multiple items into each power strip. Then, when you leave the house for the day or go on an extended vacation, simply turn off the power strip to stop supplying unnecessary power to your electronics when you’re not using them.

14. Improve Air Quality with Houseplants

Fresh flowers and small indoor plants can really freshen up the interior of your home in more ways than one. Not only do they add color and life to your décor, they also act as a natural filter to improve the air quality inside your home.

Ferns, spider plants and palm trees are a few of the many plant species that effectively absorb air pollutants and toxins that are emitted from things within your home like carpet and furniture. So put your green thumb to work and add a few plants to your indoor décor!

15. Wash Laundry in Cold Water

Washing your laundry in hot water uses a lot more energy than you think, and it’s not always necessary to get your clothes clean.

By washing your clothes in cold water, you’ll be using over 80% less energy than you would if you used hot water. Many detergent companies even make eco-friendly detergent options that work to remove tough stains in cold water.

Start Your Energy-Efficient Renovations Now!

As you can see, there are many steps that we can take to make our homes more environmentally friendly. Even small changes can have a big impact on improving our environment. If you’re ready to incorporate some of these eco-friendly house ideas into your next home improvement project, contact Sunshine Contracting today so they can show you how to make your house green!

Schedule Your Free At-Home Consultation