When Should I Go Green?

The answer to this question is, AT ANY POINT AND TIME YOU WISH, but you can start today! During a recent home show, I had several conversations with individuals in which the final statement always went something like one of these: “I really want to do some of these repairs, but I don’t have time,” “I want to put in some upgrades and improve my efficiency, but I’m doing a lot of remodeling right now,” and finally, “I’m sure my home is really inefficient, but I really don’t want to know how bad it is!”

If only the individuals who made these statements just took the time to look into energy efficiency and sustainability, they might realize how wrong these statements are! To keep you from making the mistake of believing these statements, let’s look at each one and see how we can really act to correct these problems:

“I want to put in some upgrades and improve my efficiency, but I’m doing a lot of remodeling right now.”
If your walls are open and you are performing repairs, why aren’t you at least adding a few efficiency or sustainable features? I always tell my clients that the time to make adjustments is while you’re working on your home! For years I worked in insurance restoration, and we always told homeowners that you can turn a bad situation into a good one by making improvements you had always wanted to do. The same goes for any type of work when you are considering sustainable improvements. I understand that when someone is performing a remodel that there can be big cost associated with it, but some items cost little to nothing to perform. Here are five items to consider – and remember there are hundreds more. Just look at your situation and make improvements accordingly.

1. Increase your insulation.
If your walls are open, make sure your insulation is correctly installed, and beef it up a little if possible. This cost: little to nothing more than what it is costing you to replace the insulation, anyway.

2. Caulk joints and seams in the walls.
Make sure you limit the air leakage in your home. Having the walls open is an opportune time to stop leakage, even if it is one or two walls.
3. Donate old materials
Don’t send your old materials to the dump if they are reusable! Someone may have a good home for that old toilet or cabinet.
4. Use low or no VOC paints
Almost all remodels include paint. Make sure you use one that will not emit gas.
5. Consider future use
A lot of individuals look only a few years down the road. Consider what you would need if your family grew or an unfortunate accident caused someone to be handicapped, and make adjustments or plans for the future (i.e. block for handicap bars in the bathroom, increased door sizes to allow for a wheelchair, or make adjustments for a office to be easily turned into a bedroom).

“I really want to do some of the improvements, but I don’t have the time.”
This is a classic excuse, and believe me, I understand how people may feel! However, this is easier than you think. You don’t have to take a lot of time to make these improvements; in fact, many improvements are as simple as changing your habits. Here are five items that you can start today.

1. Use CFL’s
This one is self explanatory, but you would be surprised how many people still don’t do this!

2. Label your appliances with replacement information.
This one plays right into individuals who don’t have a lot of time. Often, when an appliance goes, we don’t have time to find the replacement we want. Take that time now and place a label on the back of the appliance with the replacement model, cost, and place of purchase, with a backup in case that store doesn’t have it. (However, remember you need to update this every so often with new information!)
3. Turn off your ceiling fans when not in the room.
Again, this one is self explanatory, and for those of you who already know me, you won’t be surprised at this one!
4. Adjust your thermostat.
Just a small change in temperature on your thermostat can make a big difference in the cost to heat and cool your home. Set the winter temperature to 68 degrees and the summer to 78 degrees.
5. Adjust your freezer/refrigerator temperatures.
Setting the temperatures on your refrigerator can help make it run more efficiently. The refrigerator should be between 36 and 40 degrees and the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees.

“I’m sure my home is really inefficient, but I really don’t want to know how bad it is.”
I have no explanation for this comment. If you thought your HVAC wasn’t running correctly or you had rotted siding, you wouldn’t ignore them and not call professionals just because you were worried how bad it really is. If you don’t have the funds for an expert to assess your home, then educate yourself and look for the deficiencies, but please don’t ignore them! There are plenty of things you can do to improve your home that don’t cost a lot.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Many people still do not have a programmable thermostat, and some that do still aren’t using them to their full potential. According to the EPA, a programmable thermostat can save you $150 a year. Based on current prices, if you can install the thermostat yourself, this give a 6-month payback; if you can’t, the payback will still only be one to two years, which is still great!

If you already have one, then make sure you have it programmed correctly. Have it adjust the temperature while you are out of the home and at night. If you are not doing this, then you are not saving yourself the money that you could be. Many people have them programmed incorrectly because they have different schedules than what their thermostat may have allowed for, such as working Wednesday thru Sunday instead of the standard work week. The thermostats are becoming more flexible, with some allowing for day-to-day changes instead of the week and weekend schedule many people are used to. So, if you have this situation, check into a different model to see if it can work with your schedule.

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