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3 of the best eco-friendly home improvements to save $1,000

Woman works to build eco-friendly home

This year brought with it new and compelling reasons to stay close to home, and many Canadians are choosing to renovate their spaces instead of spending their hard-earned cash on travel. While renovating your home is an excellent way to improve its value, home renovations don’t often result in a return on your investment until you take the step to sell your home. One category of home renovations buck this trend, however, and that’s eco-friendly home improvements.

What eco-friendly home improvements are worth the switch?

Eco-friendly home improvements typically make your home cozier and better for the environment, but they’ll also save you money due to reduced energy and water consumption. Some home renovations will save you a little, while other significant renovations will save you thousands of dollars. Here are our top eco-friendly home improvements that will save you at least $1,000.

#1. Air Sealing

Construction workers installing new window in house

Cutting down on drafts not only makes your home cozier, but it will also save you money. Anywhere there is a draft, warm air is escaping, and you’re spending money to heat and cold air that will eventually end up outside. Air sealing prevents this heat loss and saves you money.

Air sealing is an easy DIY project and involves a few steps. One way to accomplish this task is through caulking. Caulking is the process of applying a soft latex substance to places that air will leak. The caulk will eventually harden and seal drafts. It would be best if you caulked inside and outside your home, focusing on the seams around frames of doors and windows, and around exterior protrusions like faucets or outlets.

Next, install weather stripping around exterior doors to prevent chilly drafts from entering your home. You can also install weather stripping behind outlets and light switches located on exterior walls, as the electrical box behind them can be a source of heat loss.

Finally, in unfinished spaces like your basement or attic, you can air seal around windows and light fixtures with expanding foam. If you’re sealing around windows, ensure you choose the correct expanding foam, as the incorrect type can crack your windows.

Caulking, expanding foam, and weather stripping are all inexpensive home renovation supplies you can purchase for a few hundred dollars. This project falls well within the DIY experience range, so there is no need to hire a contractor for this project.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that you’ll save 15% on your heating and cooling costs after air sealing your home. That means if you spend $200 per month on heating and cooling (or $2,400 per year), spending a weekend air sealing your home will save you $360 per year. Based on these numbers, we can see that air sealing pays for itself in the first year and will save you $1,000 on your heating and cooling costs in just under three years.

#2. Installing low-flow water devices

Interior of a real laundry room with a washing machine at home

Did you know that water heating makes up about 13% of your home’s energy use? Every time you turn on the tap, take a shower or run your dishwasher, you need hot water. You can reduce the amount of hot water you consume by installing low-flow hot water devices in your home.

There are several points around your home where you can save on hot water use. The first and easiest place to save is in the shower. Replacing your showerhead with a low-flow model takes about 15 minutes requires only one tool – here’s a quick tutorial on the process. A low-flow showerhead costs around $40, so you can complete this project on a Saturday afternoon.

Once you make those changes in your bathroom, you can head to the kitchen. The two major hot water wasters in this area are your kitchen faucet and dishwasher. Replacing these takes a bit more technical knowledge, so you may want to hire a plumber for this project. But, the cost of hiring a professional will likely outweigh their fee – as switching to an energy-efficient dishwasher will save you about 15,000 litres of water over its lifetime.

Finally, the last primary source of hot water use is your washing machine. ENERGY STAR certified washing machines use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than their less efficient brethren. Installation is often included as an option when you purchase your energy-efficient washing machine, and some installers will even haul away the old one for you for a nominal fee.

In total, upgrading these appliances should save you about 30% of your water and energy bills. That means if you have an annual water bill of $800 (like I do), you’ll save $240 per year and will save $1,000 in a little over four years.

#3. Upgrading your heating system

Happy young couple calculating bills at home

Heating and cooling account for a considerable portion of the average home’s energy consumption, clocking at 42% of all energy consumed. For this reason, it’s essential to ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems are updated and in good condition. If your home’s heating and cooling systems are old and outdated, upgrading could save you a significant portion of your monthly energy bills.

Upgrading your heating system is a job for a qualified professional, so you should bring in an experienced HVAC contractor for this project. First, an HVAC contractor will assess your current system, including your heat source, such as an oil furnace. They will also review your distribution system – for example, ductwork or hydronic baseboards and any additional equipment such as an oil tank or electrical panel. Once they complete a thorough review, they can recommend how best to upgrade your equipment to achieve the highest efficiency.

Upgrading your HVAC equipment varies widely in cost, ranging from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. We recommend you obtain at least three quotes from qualified contractors researching local rebates and financing programs offered by your provincial government, which may reduce the cost of your heating system upgrade significantly.

While upgrading your heating and cooling system can be expensive, this renovation is guaranteed to save you well over $1,000. For example, if your home is heated by electric baseboard heating, adding a heat pump to your home will cut down on your heating bill by up to 50%. Yes, you read that correctly. Some more advanced heat pumps will also assist in heating your domestic hot water, cutting down on that cost by 25%.

If your home’s heating bills are $200 per month (or $2,400 per year), then you’ll save $1,200 per year – that’s over $1,000 just in the first year alone!

Eco-friendly home improvements help you save long-term

Most home renovations like new bathrooms and kitchens have an aesthetic impact on your home but don’t do much to improve your bottom line until you choose to sell your home. Eco-friendly home renovations are an exception to that rule.

Eco-friendly home improvements impact you immediately, by making your home more comfortable to live in, but also by saving you money on your utility bills. The home renovations listed above are surefire ways to save at least $1,000, but you’ll enjoy the savings for years to come.

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Jordann Brown

Jordann Brown is a marketing and communications professional living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As the owner of an 83-year-old cottage, and with a passion for renewable energy, Jordann spends much of her time working on home renovations. Founder of the popular personal finance blog, My Alternate Life, Jordann has been featured in many notable publications including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, CTV News and CBC.