Matthew Lyons

5 Cheap Green Home Makeover Ideas


If you live in an older home, reducing your family’s environmental impact might be easier than you think. Even for beginning DIYers, there are simple, cheap fixes that can make your home greener and less expensive to live in. Here are a few of the easiest projects to get you started.

Clean your A/C condenser

This is the simplest job on our list, and it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce your energy costs—especially if you live in a hot climate. Check out this tutorial for a complete rundown on DIY air-conditioner maintenance—but if you want the short version, just brush the dust out of your A/C unit’s condenser fins, and then spray down the internal coils with a garden hose. Depending on the size of your home and the climate in your area, taking five minutes once a month to clean out your condenser can save you hundreds of dollars a year in cooling costs.

Blanket your water heater and pipes

The simplest way to improve your water heater’s efficiency is to insulate it with a furnace blanket—they run about $20, and allow your heater to maintain the water temperature with less effort. For extra credit, you can pick up some foam pipe insulation and carefully seal off your hot water pipes with some duct tape. Remember to clean the pipe exterior before insulating, and snugly cover every inch of the pipe, particularly joints, for maximum efficiency.

Install a tankless heater

Even with excellent insulation, a traditional water heater works all day to keep 40-80 gallons of water at 120 degrees F, which is a constant drain on your electricity or gas. If your household doesn’t use much water on a daily basis, an instant water heater can be up to 25% more energy-efficient than a tank heater. They’re cheaper and easier to maintain, cost less to run, and free up storage space. Installation is as simple as connecting the inflow and outflow, and you can have it done in an hour.

Give your furnace a tune-up

While you should always call a professional for any job involving your gas or electrical lines, there are a few DIY-friendly maintenance projects that can make your furnace run more efficiently. If you have a gas water heater, be sure to shut off the gas before you start.

For starters, gently vacuum out your furnace blower and burner with a vacuum hose. Then, carefully and thoroughly scrub the blower blades. (Note: be sure to clean each blade entirely, to avoid an imbalanced rotation that can damage the blower.) Finally, clean off your igniter and pilot light with a can of compressed air, being careful to avoid touching the igniter itself. Also, if it’s been three months or more since you’ve changed your air filter, you can see immediate savings by swapping it out. Each of these steps will help your furnace run cleaner, greener, and cheaper.

Repair leaks and drips

Leaks and drips are wasteful, costly, and obnoxious to listen to in the middle of the night. Fortunately, they’re also easy to repair. For most fixtures, all it takes is a crescent wrench and screwdriver to tighten things up. Before you jump in, making sure you know what kind of fixture you’re dealing with (a compression, cartridge, disc, or ball faucet) can help you diagnose the problem more quickly and easily.


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