Improve Your Home on the Cheap
by Dav Camras
Improving your home's energy efficiency, indoor air quality and water efficiency
doesn't have to break the bank. Below, I have listed several easy options to green
your home on the (relative) cheap that should help you to save money on your
1. Buy some heavy blackout curtains for your windows and/or doors. Instead of
buying new windows with multiple panes or opting for those stylish but not
well-insulating blinds, blackout curtains can be found for under fifty dollars
and can reduce heat loss/gain by a quarter. That gain, of course, is when you
draw your draperies. In addition, if there is no insulation in your walls, the
draperies will also act as a layer of insulation trapping the cold air on one
side and the warm room air on the other (in the summer the reverse is true).
2. Weather strip or re-do your existing weather stripping on your exterior
doors (and windows if possible). If that door sweep is worn down or missing
and you feel the cold wind billowing in, a quick trip to the hardware store and
an hour or so of time will make your home significantly more comfortable.
The same goes for your attic hatch. Put some weather stripping around the
opening and stick a layer of insulation on top. You will be surprised at how
warm your hallway (or closet) all of a sudden feels.
3. Buy or finally program a programmable thermostat. A programmable
thermostat allows you to set the temperate of your home based on the time of
day. This means that you can set the temperature to increase or decrease
based on whether you are awake, sleeping, home, at work, shopping, etc. If
you have a regular schedule, you can set your thermostat to follow your
schedule and then forget about it. You won’t waste money heating or cooling
your home when you’re not there or when you’re asleep. There are even
companies making thermostats that set themselves during a “learning”
period. These are still somewhat experimental but if you love the “latest and
greatest” gadgets, you might like to try one.
4. Install a timer or photocell for your porch and/or outdoor lights so they will
automatically turn on when dark and off when light. Then, you won’t have to
remember to do the switching but for seasonal adaptations.
5. Upgrade your lighting from incandescent (the traditional metal filament that
glows orange/white) to either CFL (compact florescent) or LED (light
emitting diode) bulbs. Typically, only 10% of the electricity is used for
lighting and the rest is wasted as heat. If that fixture is a ceiling can, the heat
then escapes right up into the attic. The great heat potential is why those old
Betty Crocker ovens we used as kids worked great with just a 100W bulb.
However, when replacing lights, you now should pay careful attention to the
new information found on the side or back of the cartons. Manufacturers are
now packing in a lot of new information on the box, but knowing what all the
numbers and symbols mean translates to you getting a bulb that will save you
money, and one that you’ll actually like. Stay tuned next issue for my detailed
light bulb primer on how to understand and choose a new kind of light bulb.
Dav Camras is the owner of HouseSmart Green Solutions (housesmartgreensolutions.com), has extensive experience in the technical aspects of green science with an MS in water and wastewater treatment, certifications as a HERS Whole House Rater, Certified Green Building Professional and BPI- Building Analyst. To promote greener living, Dav started HSGS, a home energy consulting firm.
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