Depending on one’s lifestyle and living habits, there is a lot that can be done to improve a living space. In today’s day and age, technology makes life much simpler, which is why there is a lot you could do in and around your home to make it better. Increasing energy efficiency and reducing the environmental footprint are among the biggest considerations. Green is definitely the way to go, so if you’re a fan of the DIY approach, the following ideas are bound to become your favorites:
- Plan your apartment;
- Go solar;
- Rain gardens;
- Kitchen & utility room appliances;
- Bathroom fixtures & faucet upgrades;
- Rain water collection system.
- Plan Your Apartment
If you’re in the process of renovating, remodeling or even building your home, it obviously pays to think everything through beforehand. A bigger living space will require more energy and resources, which will cost more, and vice-versa. Planning the layout and design of each room will require a bit more work, but it pays in the long run. It goes without saying that insulation is the obvious item on the list to pay extra attention to, since it’s vital for keeping indoor temperature pleasant both during hot and cold weather. Similarly, thick walls and lots of concrete are a good alternative to insulation, as they have a similarly positive effect on indoor temperatures.
- Go Solar
You might have heard of PV or photovoltaic solar systems, which are growing in popularity. Solar panels installed on roofs have today become a reliable way to either completely replace or augment electrical energy in homes. Needless to say, they come with numerous benefits: tapping into renewable energy, using less fossil fuels, causing lower energy bills and, in some states, enabling tax benefits. On the other hand, they do have some downsides as well. For instance, it may easily cost you up to five figures to install solar panels for the purpose of covering most of your electrical needs. It can take up to a decade to recoup that value yourself.
Bottom line, if you’re certain you’ll be in the same home for a decade and a half, you could try leasing the panels, thereby avoiding financial responsibility for the initial costs. However, if you plan on selling the home, the panels then pose a burden. (Looking to sell your home and relocate? Check out Square One Condos for sale.)
- Rain Gardens
The thing about rainwater is, it can be highly useful: collecting and storing it is completely free and it can be used for a number of purposes. However, on its way into storm drains, it picks up various pollutants like oil, fertilizer and salt. That means all those pollutants eventually find their way into lakes and rivers. One smart way that can help soak up all that rainwater are rain gardens. These plants arranged in a shallow depression decrease the chance of flooding, improve water quality and reduce erosion. Cost-wise, you’re looking at different options based on the kind of plants you want to use and the size of your garden. However, native plants are not only cheaper, but safer for wildlife as well.
Everybody loves a fireplace, sure. But, compared to the greener and more environmentally friendly direct-vent fireplaces, wood-burning fireplaces are no match. They produce pollutants that irritate lungs, not to mention they’re inefficient (they convert only about 10% of their fuel into usable heat) and messy overall. Direct-vent fireplaces, however, convert up to 80% of their fuel by using outside air for combustion. Another benefit is that they can be vented both vertically and horizontally. In other words, they don’t need a chimney.
- Kitchen & Utility Room Appliances
Cost-wise, renovating a kitchen is far more expensive than merely updating it. Additionally, you need substantial power to operate the major appliances in a typical kitchen, like laundry machines, refrigerators and stoves. The trick here is to weigh your options. On one hand, replacing all your old appliances with new, more energy efficient devices is good for the long run (a typical 30% save annually). But, it’s expensive to do that all at once. On the other hand, it might even be unnecessary. For example, if you own an 8-year-old refrigerator, chances are it’s not a significant drain despite being less than optimal. In that case, the wiser option is to leave it be for another couple of years.
- Bathroom Fixtures & Faucet Upgrades
When talking about water efficiency, it sometimes gets confusing because most people don’t view water as being necessarily expensive. However, the problem is it adds up over time. A great way to add to the balance of increased energy efficiency is to convert to low-flow faucets, shower faucet sets and toilets. Contrary to the previous tip regarding kitchen appliances, addressing all items at once IS the way to go here. Doing so will mean you won’t just be enjoying cost savings, but also contributing to less need for another all-important resource: water.
- Rain Water Collection System
Installing a simple collection barrel on your property makes perfect sense even if you’re not trying to be more efficient with resources, and especially so if you are. Common uses include washing your car, watering the lawn or plants, refilling toilets and the like (obviously, you’re not going to use it for bathing or drinking). It’s a fairly simple setup: a downspout is tapped to your roof that channels into the collection source. On the downside, you’re limited by the storage container’s size, unpredictability or rain and guarding against the wrong things dripping in. However, the pros outweigh the cons as it’s a low-initial-cost way to get your hands on a free resource.