Kermit got it wrong: Being green can be easy — at least when it comes to owning a green home.
Though some eco-friendly improvements can be expensive — installing a home solar panel system, for example, costs an average of $23,113, according to HomeAdvisor — there are a number of budget-friendly changes you can execute to make your house better for the environment.
Here are nine expert-recommended moves that won’t drain your bank account.
Join a solar project. Traditional heating methods — coal, oil, and natural gas — use fossil fuels. To switch your home to renewable (or “clean”) energy, John Oppermann, a real estate broker and green home specialist in New York City, recommends joining a community solar project. “Such a project allows people in the area to lease a portion of a solar farm that corresponds to their own home electricity usage. Then the utility provider pays you for the electricity generated by your allocated solar panels,” he said.
Doing this can also trim your energy bill, Oppermann says, “as the [utility provider’s] payment to you is higher than your lease payment to the project.” Find information at earthdayinitiative.org/dojust1thing.
Clean green. Many people, even if they want to be “green,” still make the mistake of using home cleaning products that contain substances that are toxic for the environment. Oppermann’s solution is simple: “Using natural cleaning products like Seventh Generation, Method, Mrs. Meyer’s and others are good ways of maintaining a healthy space at home.”
Or, you can take the do-it-yourself route by creating a simple mixture of 1 cup water, half a cup of white vinegar, and one-fourth of a cup of grease-cutting dish soap — a combination that will clean most surfaces in a home, says Debbie Sardone, co-owner of SpeedCleaning.com.
Buy some house plants. Plants purify air by absorbing carbon dioxide. Also, studies have shown introducing certain plants into your home can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and improve your concentration. Don’t have a green thumb? Choose low-maintenance spider plants, which are effective at removing formaldehyde from the air.
Plug air leaks. Air leakage can drive up your heating bill. “Common culprits could include attic hatches, bath fans without dampers, fireplace flues that do not seal when closed, or even windows that have been closed but not latched,” said Chris Briley, a green house consultant in Portland, Maine.
Insulate your attic. Adding attic insulation is one of the most effective and affordable ways to insulate a home, Briley says. Although estimates vary depending on the type of insulation and where you live, insulating a 500-square-foot attic costs $803 to $1,550, according to Homewyse.com; that works out to $1.61 to $3.10 per square foot.
Get a heat pump water heater. Instead of generating their own heat like traditional electric water heaters, heat pump water heaters (also known as “hybrid” water heaters) use electricity to move heat from one place to another. As a result, “they can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters,” according to Energy.gov.
Heat pump water heater prices range depending on their size. One 50-gallon model from Rheem costs $1,170 (plus installation); if you have a big house, you may need the 80-gallon model for $1,700.
Change your thermostat. Install a programmable or smart thermostat. Both will give you better control over your heating and air-conditioning system. A programmable thermostat lets you control when your home’s heating or air-conditioning system turns on according to a preset schedule.
Proper use of a programmable thermostat helps households save an average of about $180 a year in energy costs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A programmable thermostat costs $20 to $150, HomeAdvisor says. A smart thermostat costs, on average, $200 to $300.
Buy LED bulbs. Light-emitting diode bulbs generate less heat and last longer than traditional incandescent lighting. In fact, LED products produce light about 90 percent more efficiently than incandescent lightbulbs, EnergyStar.gov says. LED bulbs cost about $10 apiece, while incandescent bulbs cost about $1 a pop.
Tweak some habits. People can make easy, low-cost adjustments to their behaviors that will benefit the environment, according to Phil Kaplan of Kaplan Thompson Architects in Portland, Maine, including: