10 Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Ideas

Today, it’s more important than ever to consider eco-friendly or “green” products and materials when you improve your home. This is of course because we want to do our part to keep the environment healthy, but it’s also because most of us can’t afford to waste money on inefficient homes. Many products and materials that are eco-friendly can also help your pocket book–think inexpensive heating and cooling bills, low water bills, and affordable gas or electricity bills.

Fortunately, there are many options today for those who want to make eco-friendly home improvements. Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

1. Tons of water is wasted each year in the bathrooms of homeowners, so take a look in there when you’re doing your green remodeling. For the toilet consider a dual flush model. These are designs that use two different flush settings depending upon what you need (usually a powerful mode that offers 1.6 gallons and then a nice and gentle .8-gallon flush as well). This can greatly help reduce water consumption in the home over the course of a single year.

2. Paint goes a long ways in adding curb appeal to the outside of a house or cheering up drab spaces inside. It’s also an easy and relatively inexpensive home improvement that will make a huge difference. When you are selecting paint, stick to only brands that use non-VOC or non-volatile organic chemicals. Typical paint has high levels of VOCs, which is neither eco-friendly nor particularly healthy. You may need to search for brands and special lines that offer low and reduced VOC levels, but they are becoming more readily available. Just ask at the paint department of the home improvement store, and someone should be educated enough to help you find an eco-friendly paint that will suit your needs.

3. Flooring is one of the first things people think of when they remodel, and there are lots of ways to get what you want and still be eco-friendly. For those who are looking for a natural type of material then cork flooring is a great option to explore. It is durable, comfortable to walk on, and also boasts the use of no toxic adhesives that can harm the environment. There are a wide range of colors and designs for cork floor tiles, showing that the material is not meant just for walls and bulletin boards anymore.

4. Your floors may not really need to be replaced at all. Reusing and refinishing already existing materials is a hallmark of the green movement, so another viable home improvement option that you can look into is refinishing the floors that you currently have. This is especially plausible if you have wood floors underneath any other type of floor in your home. While it may take some work to make them shine again, it is worth the effort.

5. Carpets can be eco-friendly too. Sometimes it’s hard to beat the warmth and softness of carpets, but if you want to be green and healthy (carpeting is well known for harboring dust mites, pet dander, and mildew, all of which are hard to get out even with steam cleaning), consider carpet tiles. These are typically created from recyclable materials and are very easy to install as well as clean. This makes them a beautiful choice as well as a simple option for carpet across an entire room. You can even get outdoor carpet tiles to spruce up balconies or rooftop decks.

6. If you’re going with carpets, know that carpet padding isn’t always necessary. Skip the carpet padding if possible. This is usually additional material that is used when using traditional carpet and involves additional labor, materials, and chemicals and also makes it much harder to keep the carpet clean without the use of harsh chemicals.

7. In the bedroom look for organic bedding. Many off-the-shelf bedding products are treated with a chemical called formaldehyde, which is intended to make them soft, but this is a huge toxic chemical and very hazardous to the environment as well as your own personal health. Look for organic bedding to avoid the dangers to your health.

8. As for the bed itself, consider eco-friendly mattresses. There are several companies that have them available; most are typically made from a material called natural latex rubber, which is friendly to the environment. Also these mattresses pose fewer problems when it’s time to replace them.

9. Think solar power whenever possible. This can save you a lot of money in the long run. For example, if you are replacing your water heater, consider a solar powered model. This will reduce energy usage, lower your power bill, and ensure that you always have plenty of hot water on hand, even if the power is out in the rest of the house.

10. If you’re not ready to take the big remodeling step, you can make green choices just in your home furnishings. One of the best things you can do is purchase used furniture. This helps to keep old furniture out of the landfills, and it reduces the demand on forests and materials to build new pieces from scratch. Also, older pieces tend to be higher quality than what’s put out today (i.e. solid hardwood instead of particleboard), so you may actually get a better piece of furniture just by sanding and staining an old coffee table or perhaps reupholstering old chairs and sofas. Getting used furniture is a great way to save some money and be eco friendly all at the same time.

There are far more home improvements to save money and create an eco-friendly home than listed here, but these should get you started. As you go down the remodeling road, you’ll find plenty of other ways you can create a home that is healthy to live in and is friendly to the environment.

Guide to Green Home Improvement

More and more homeowners are making the move towards improving their homes’ environmental friendliness. Although some of this movement is thanks to increased eco-consciousness and stewardship, many homeowners have joined the movement because it helps them to save money on energy costs and avoid putting toxins into their home. Whatever your reasons are for going green, there are several easy ways to improve your home while also improving its environmental friendliness.

Plantation Shutters

Adding shutters inside your home is a timeless and beautiful way to reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint. Plantation shutters are custom fitted to your windows, so they are able to insulate your home better than other window coverings. This added layer of insulation helps to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter without using any additional energy.

In addition to lowering your energy usage for climate control, plantation shutters are able to reduce your dependence on indoor lighting during the day. Simply open the shutters or their louvers to allow natural light to flood your home. By using natural lighting, you will be able to reduce the number of light bulbs you use, as well as reduce your energy consumption.

VOC Free Paint

Paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your home, but it can also come with a nasty host of chemicals. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxins that are emitted by traditional paints. These toxins release into the air and your cleaning solutions, polluting your home and the nearby environment. Instead of filling your home with toxins from traditional paint, ask your local home improvement store about VOC free paints. These paints contain none of the toxic VOCs associated with traditional paint, which means they’re better for you and for the environment.

Upgrade to LED

Although many homeowners have embraced longer-lasting CFL bulbs, these bulbs still present several problems for the environmentally conscious. They contain toxic mercury and require special disposal to avoid having that mercury pollute the environment. In contrast, LED bulbs are able to last twice or even three times as long, use less energy, and do not contain mercury. Upgrading your lighting to LED bulbs can be a large initial investment, but you will regain that investment over time through reduced energy costs and not having to replace bulbs as often.

These steps are some of the easiest ways to start to improve your home’s energy usage while also making it a more enjoyable place to live.

Green Home Improvements: Take Advantage of Tax Credits for Energy-Saving Home Improvements

Green home improvements have been encouraged in recent years through the offering of tax incentives. For people interested in making their homes more energy efficient and gaining the tax benefits at the same time, here are some tips to help you understand what types of green home improvements qualify for a tax credit and how to make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to earn your benefit.

Some green home tax credits are expiring at the end of 2010. Although we are approaching year-end, there is still time to take advantage of some of these money-saving incentives for energy-saving home improvements, but you must hurry.

Tax credits are offered on a wide range of green home improvements and upgrades. Some are very inexpensive to do; other can be quite costly even with the tax credit. Here is a summary of what is available for 2010.

The simplest and least expensive energy-saving home improvement that qualifies is adding insulation. Insulation for your attic can be purchased for no more than $50 to $100, and if you install it yourself (which is fairly easy and straightforward to do) there is no additional cost. This will earn you a tax credit of 30% of the cost.

For more expensive investments, tax credits of 30% of the cost, up to a maximum credit of $1500, are available now for the purchase and installation energy efficient furnaces and air conditioning units, energy efficient windows and doors, and water heaters. The credit includes the cost of materials and also the cost of installation for all these items except for the installation on doors and windows (don’t ask me why windows and doors are excluded; it makes no sense, but that is the law).

It is important to remember that these tax credits apply only to your primary residence. Second homes and rental homes and apartments do not qualify for the items listed above.

But I have saved the best part for last. There are even better tax benefits available for rooftop solar panel arrays, small residential wind turbines, and geothermal heat pump systems. For these specific green home improvements, the tax credit covers 30% of all costs, including installation without any upper limit. Even better, for these specific energy-saving investments the tax benefits can be claimed for your primary residence and second homes. Unlike the previous cases, new constructions are also okay. And get this: these government-provided subsidies are not expiring at the end of 2010. Tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal heat pumps are available through the year 2016.