5 Easy, Green Home Upgrades You Can Make Right Now

Lower utility bills. The chance to add interesting new finishes to your home. Playing your part in helping protect the planet. Whatever your reasons for making them, green home updates can be a great way to make your home more sustainable and energy efficient. Even small upgrades can help your household to save money, while having an impact on the environment and your own overall health and wellbeing.

And for homeowners looking to the future, green updates can be an easy and effective way to make your home more appealing to buyers.

In fact, according to findings from the U.S. Green Building Council, more than half of consumers “rank green and energy efficiency as top requirements for their next homes.” Research also shows that greener properties may just sell at higher prices, and sell more quickly, than comparable homes without environmentally friendly touches, according to a 2016 study.

So, where should homeowners get started, as they consider how to best conserve water and electricity, and reduce household waste? With all of the information, statistics, and ever-changing options out there, it can be intimidating to move forward with green fixes, no matter how motivated you may be to make a change. Many homeowners also tend to believe that going green is going to mean taking on major construction or renovation projects.

In reality? There are plenty of little changes and updates you can make right now that can have a profound effect.

In many cases, focusing on the basics can allow you to not only benefit the environment, but also create a better living space for you and yours. Take some time to look around your home, and pay attention to those little details, thinking about what changes you could make that may have an impact.

As you explore, here five simple, effective green upgrades to consider for your Chicagoland home:

Switch to Eco-Friendly Lighting

It’s a small upgrade, but changing out your old bulbs to more sustainable options is an easy step toward a greener household. Energy efficient bulbs may use as little as 20 percent of the power of a typical incandescent, resulting in greater efficiency and a much longer shelf life. What’s more, you can save up to $75 on energy bills per year by switching out just your five most-used light sources around the house, helping create a healthier planet while putting more money in your wallet.

Make Changes to Keep the Heat In

One very simple upgrade you can focus on to reduce energy usage and keep the heat in without breaking the bank? Search for open cracks and sources of air leakage in the house and take steps to close them up. By simply sealing up the gaps in your foundation, attic, or walls where heat escapes, you can use less energy — and spend less money — to heat or cool your space. For simple fixes, a simple caulk gun that’s not too pricey can be a great tool for helping you to start saving on your gas or electric bills. There are also easy attachments you can add to your windows and doors to help cut down on drafts.

In other cases, replacing your outdated, leaky windows with more energy efficient models can help you keep in warmth in the winter, and cool air in the summer. Depending on the age of your home, it may also be time to reassess your insulation. Upgrading the insulation in your attic and basement can really help you control your home’s temperature, and save on your energy bills.

Reduce Your Water Usage

Taking a long, hot shower after a tough day’s work can be rejuvenating, even therapeutic. But when you allow gallons of water to escape down the drain? That’s not so green — and not so easy on your water bill.

Fortunately, changing federal standards are starting require common fixtures like toilets, showerheads, and sinks to use less water. So, if your fixtures are a few years out of date, doing some simple upgrades can help you dramatically cut down on wasted water.

At the same time, think about your water heater. There are extremely energy efficient models available now, including tankless water heaters. And for really quick fixes? In many cases, simply tightening your faucets and fixtures to reduce drips can help conserve plenty of water. Look for and repair any leaks in the plumbing lines around your home, and consider investing in pipe wrap. This affordable material fits snugly around your pipes, improving their insulation and allowing you to waste less time waiting for your shower or sink to heat up.

Control Your Cords

Without taking an actual, physical survey around the house, think about how many things are plugged in right now. Perhaps the TV, refrigerator, electric toothbrush, or printer? For most of us, it’s probably all the above and then some.

In many cases, the gadgets and appliances we leave plugged in use “phantom energy” while connected — even if not in use. It’s a small amount, sure, but with the amount of items in your home all plugged in at once? Together they can account for as much as 10 percent of household energy use.

Now, it can be tricky to unplug every source of energy in your home. But doing some simple unplugging — like the microwave, the coffeemaker, or your laptop — can help make a difference.

And there are plenty of other ways to make reducing “vampire” appliances second nature. For example, some smart power strips and outlets automatically reduce your energy consumption. Others allow you to program in timetables, so you can easily set certain appliances to go dark at different times throughout the day. In many cases, you can also sync up smart appliances and connected plugs to your smartphone or a smart hub, making it a breeze to monitor and limit your appliances’ energy use over time.

Save Water From a Rainy Day

In addition to reducing water waste from the inside, you can make green home upgrades from the outside, too. For instance, if you have any outdoor space you’d like to improve, you can install a rain garden. This is a feature that allows rainwater from your roof, driveway, or street to easily soak into the ground, helping prevent runoff, a major source of waterway pollution. This green upgrade also translates to less landscaping to tend to, which may just mean more free time, and money, for you to enjoy.

Similarly, installing a rain barrel can be a great way to harness natural water, so you don’t have to constantly go to your spigot every time you want to care for your lawn or plants. With this system, you can set up a tank to automatically collect rainwater from your gutters or another source. You can then store and reuse this water for outdoor chores and maintenance.  

Finding What Works for You

Your home is your own space. It is a place to reconnect and feel safe. A green home is a healthier home, and a healthier home, often enough, means a healthier you.

Want to talk about other ideas for updating your Chicagoland home? Curious what features buyers are most interested in today? Need help finding the home that’s going to be the right fit for you? Our agents are hyperlocal experts who know all of the trends and changes in Chicagoland real estate. 

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