Eco-Friendly Home Improvements That Save You Money
Purchasing a home is already a large investment, but to make the most of this asset, you’ll need to spend some time and money upgrading it. Doing so can increase the overall value of your property and help you save money on monthly expenses.
However, not all home upgrades are created equal. You have to be deliberate in how you change your home to benefit, both financially and personally, from updating it. To that end, here are some of the best improvements you can make to your home:
Install Solar Panels
Consider getting solar panels for your home. Though you’ll have to spend some money to have them installed, you can look for solar incentives, tax credits, and rebates to reduce those upfront costs. It will likely take several years for your solar panels to pay for themselves, but in time, solar panels can help you save money on your monthly utility bills.
Look into solar battery storage for additional savings. A battery allows you to store more of the sun’s energy for later use, even during a blackout or power outage. If it’s allowed in your area and you manage to generate enough power, you can even make money from your solar panels by selling your power back to your utility company.
Additionally, solar panels will boost the value of your home. Like remodeling your kitchen or putting in a pool, solar panels are a home upgrade, and buyers will pay extra for it. One study discovered that buyers are willing to pay $15,000 more for a solar home. Keep in mind that the actual value of your home may differ greatly, depending on the local housing market and demand for solar in your area.
Switch to Energy-Efficient Appliances
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that heating, cooling, lighting, and refrigeration account for the majority of annual household energy use. This means that your refrigerator, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and other appliances are likely the biggest users of gas and electricity in your home and the biggest charges on your utility bill.
If you haven’t made the switch already, swap out your existing appliances for ones that use less energy. Simple upgrades, like changing out your incandescent light bulbs for LEDs, can make a surprisingly large difference for the environment and your wallet. However, if you’ve got the budget for more significant changes — like updating your HVAC system or getting a tankless water heater — they’re certainly worth making.
You will have to spend some money to purchase and install your new appliances. But, because they use energy more efficiently, you won’t be paying as much for your power and gas bills each month. You can also use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to look for discounts and special offers that reduce the upfront cost of upgrading your appliances.
Use Low-Flow Fixtures
Similarly, low-flow water fixtures benefit both your finances and the environment. Simply put, they help reduce your water usage, which, in turn, lowers your water bill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that switching out a single bathroom faucet can decrease water flow by at least 30%.
As a bonus, low-flow fixtures can also reduce energy costs. When less water runs through your faucet at a given time, your water heater uses less power to warm it up.
To enjoy these benefits, all you have to do is purchase and install low-flow fixtures in your home. These fixtures are fairly inexpensive and usually simple to install on your own. Use the EPA’s WaterSense Product Search to find low-flow toilets, faucets, showerheads, and other fixtures. You can also shop for them at most hardware stores, but look for the EPA’s WaterSense label to ensure the fixture meets their efficiency standards.
Update Your Roofing
You should also consider updating the roof of your home. This is an inevitable expense for homeowners, as all roofs deteriorate over time, no matter what roofing materials were used in their construction. After all, they are designed to protect your home from the elements and keep you safe and comfortable when you’re inside. Further, leaving your roof in shambles can have costly consequences, such as leak damage or decreasing the overall value of your home.
Not only does updating your roof help you avoid those expenses, but it can also help you save money. What’s more, depending on the work you do, this may also increase the overall value of your home, especially if you have plans to sell it soon.
To keep things affordable, you may want to stick to patching holes, fixing loose shingles, or simple fixes. If you can, though, it may be worth doing a complete overhaul. There are also new roofing materials that make your home more energy-efficient and better protect it from the elements. By replacing your entire roof, you stand to get the most value out of your investment and reap the benefits of a new roof for years (if not decades) to come.
Plant More Trees
On top of boosting your curb appeal, planting trees on your property can have a dramatic impact on your energy usage. Researchers have discovered that planting shade trees can reduce the amount of energy buildings use for cooling and heating. In addition, the Partnership for Home Energy Efficiency reports that shade trees can lower the air temperature by three to six degrees, helping you save $100 to $250 in cooling and heating costs each year.
Trees provide another layer of protection for your home. In the warm and sunny months, a tall tree will shade your house and help keep it cool. During colder times of the year, trees can insulate your house, making it warmer. They also block cold and potentially damaging winds, minimizing their impact on your home.
The kind of trees you should plant depends heavily on your local climate and the location of your home, as well as your personal preferences. If you need more information, Energy.gov provides a great overview of landscaping for shade. You can also refer to local nurseries, landscapers, or gardening experts for more specific advice about shade landscaping in your area.
Use Native Plants for Landscaping
To save even more, you can reconfigure your landscaping entirely with native or drought-tolerant plants. Unlike traditional lawns, native plants will thrive without a lot of additional water or maintenance. These plants are meant to live in your area, and they’ll do well with what your climate naturally provides.
Lawns and non-native plants require frequent watering to survive. The EPA has discovered that outdoor watering accounts for 30% of all water use in the U.S. Depending on water rates in your area and the size of your garden, this could cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars annually. If you switch up your landscaping, you can save that money instead.
From swapping your lawn for local grass to full-on xeriscaping, there are many ways to incorporate native plants into your yard. If significant updates aren’t feasible, you can make smaller changes — like putting in a few native plants at a time — and try to reduce the amount of water you use in your yard.
What to Expect After Updating
After updating your home, take some time to enjoy your upgraded space. It will likely take a little time to reap the financial fruits of your labor. In some cases, you may discover a more immediate benefit — solar panels typically come with a federal tax credit, for example — but this is ultimately a long-term strategy to improve financial health.
The same goes for the environmental benefits of your updates. You probably won’t see any jaw-dropping, immediate differences, but you’re making incremental improvements that will add up over time and make an immense difference.
As long as you’re strategic about the upgrades you make, you’ll be on the path to living comfortably in your home while improving your long-term financial health.