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Eco-friendly Upgrades That Pay for Themselves

Reducing your home’s carbon footprint has a host of benefits, from savings on the operation of your home’s systems to reducing their impact on the environment. However, many environmentally responsible choices are expensive and it can feel overwhelming to try to retrofit your existing home with eco-friendly changes.

The good news is that there are some changes you can make that are not only good for the planet, but good for your pocketbook, both upon installation and every month on your utility bill. Below are some of the most cost-effective changes—including many that you can DIY—in order to help you create a smarter, greener home.

Smart Home Upgrades

There are a variety of smart home upgrades to consider that can more than pay for themselves over time. A smart thermostat allows you to exercise greater control over your home’s climate control, either through programming temperature adjustments ahead of time or through changing the thermostat settings remotely. In addition, smart plugs and power strips allow you to cut passive power consumption from appliances that are plugged in even when not in use, including coffee pots, video game systems, and televisions.

On-demand Hot Water Heater

One of the most expensive appliances to run in your home is the hot water heater. Because a traditional water heater must keep a tank of water hot at all times, the hot water heater runs whether you’re there or not, 24/7. By contrast, a tankless, on-demand hot water heater offers you unlimited hot water without the need for constant energy expenditure. In addition, tankless hot water heaters often last up to twice as long as traditional water heaters before they need to be replaced.

exterior of home with white siding

Mature Landscaping

Among the biggest returns on investment when it comes to home improvement is mature landscaping. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), exterior home improvements including lawn care, flower and planting beds, and new trees offer 100 percent return on investment. In addition, when you use environmentally friendly cultivation methods and choose plants that are native to your region, you improve both the look and health of your property. If you’re thinking of selling your home, a landscaping makeover is one of the most cost-effective improvements you can make.

Pest-control Planting

If you’re tired of paying for monthly or quarterly pest control, consider the power of natural solutions to curb your home’s pest problem. Citronella grass or flowers like marigolds, mums, or petunias can all help repel a variety of bugs and rodents. In addition, basil, rosemary, lavender and other herbs provide two benefits for the price of one—an herb garden for tastier cooking and the benefits of natural pest control.

line of pipes on basement wall

Plumbing Upgrades

A few simple plumbing upgrades can make a big difference in your water use and in your utility bill. Aerators for sink faucets, a low-flow showerhead, and a tank bag to convert a standard toilet into a low-flow toilet are all easy and inexpensive DIY ways to make your money go further and to be kinder to the environment. In addition, because you can upgrade all of your home’s plumbing fixtures in just a few minutes and do the work yourself, you save even more money.

Eco-friendly Insulation

Traditional fiberglass insulation can save you energy and money, but its manufacturing and air quality impacts can be detrimental to your eco-friendly efforts. Cellulose insulation, made from 80-85 percent recycled newsprint, offers the ability to add insulation in an environmentally responsible way while lowering your heating and cooling costs. Denim, sheep’s wool, and aerogel are other insulation alternatives that can keep your home toasty for less money and less environmental impact.

light coming through window with sheer curtains

Seal Window and Door Trim

Use a feather or ribbon to check for drafts, and add caulk around interior window or door trim and foam filler around exterior trim. This simple fix will help you to keep the cold air outside in the winter and inside in the summer. This is a great money-saver since the material is affordable and you can do the work yourself in just a few minutes.

Solar Tube Lighting

While you may be familiar with skylights, you may be less familiar with solar tube lighting. Unlike skylights, which bring natural lighting into your home in a limited way, solar tube lighting can bring sunlight from one opening into multiple rooms of your home. That saves money on your power bills by providing daytime overhead lighting at no cost and without bringing additional heat inside. While you won’t get the sky view provided by a beautiful set of skylights, you will get the money-saving benefits along with a lower installation cost.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating offers a host of benefits over traditional heating methods, from lower cost to operate to safer heating to more long-term reliability. Radiant floor heating systems require virtually no maintenance and come with 30-year warranties—longer than even the most generous HVAC system warranties. In addition, you never have to worry about a burn from a radiator or lower air quality from a dirty air filter, so this heating option is healthier and more energy-efficient.

Looking for more economical and eco-friendly updates and upgrades? A real estate professional can help you gauge the most desirable features in your local market, and can tell you what buyers are looking for so that you can make changes that pay both now and in the future when it’s time to sell. In addition, a real estate professional can introduce you to reliable local repair and improvement professionals who can help you make the changes you want.

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Kimmer Plunk

Based in Memphis and serving clients in West Tennessee and Northwest Mississippi. Serving others is a reward of its own and part of what makes me happy, and I've been doing that for 30 years through various activities including Girl Scouts, PTO, various board positions, unhoused ministry, and professional (award-winning) teaching. I treat others the way that I want to be treated including being readily available, listening to your desires, answering your questions thoroughly, and walking you through the home purchase process. My ultimate goal is to see that you find the home of your dreams and experience the least amount of stress during the process.

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