We're a few weeks into the new year, and you might be wondering how you can make some improvements around the home and maybe get some savings in at the same time. Most American homeowners consider a remodeling project at some point in their lives, and many of these folks are on the lookout for ways to be more environmentally friendly as well as cost efficient.
Let's take a look at some of the ways in which you can revamp your home and be eco-friendly at the same time.
Consider a Metal Roof
Metal roofs have been around for long time, but lately they have been getting some well-deserved attention. Traditionally thought of as unattractive, today's metal roofs are not the industrial-looking vertical slats of tin that you might see on a barn. Instead, as one Dallas roofing company points out, they are now available in an array of styles, materials, and colors to compliment all styles of architecture.
While the cost of metal roofing is greater than that of the traditional asphalt shingle roof, metal roofs are lightweight with greater durability. They have better resilience to weather conditions than asphalt roofs which helps to increase their longevity. And what about the environmental factor? Asphalt shingles are a petroleum product with a negative impact on our environment. Also, asphalt roofs need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years. Compare this with metal roofing that can last four or five decades and is often constructed from recycled materials. That's a big difference. And the best part? Metal roofs are energy efficient reducing both your cooling costs in the summer months and your heating costs in the winter months.
The combined savings from the durability of the metal roof to the savings it will help accrue on utility bills will offset the increase in expense over an asphalt roof. Our vote is definitely with the metal roof.
Low Maintenance Lawns
One third of Americans' water usage goes toward maintaining lush, green lawns. Having a beautiful lawn is of course pleasing to the eye, but are there less expensive alternatives that don't make you pause each month as you prepare to open the water bill? Yes, there are definitely cost efficient ways to have beautiful landscaping without wreaking havoc on your finances. Let's take a look at some of those ways:
Try a different breed of grass. Most varieties of Zoysia, Bermuda, and Buffalo grasses are drought tolerant and require less water than some other types of grasses, though Bermuda requires more water than the other two.
Grow a prairie meadow. Prairie meadows are a blend of wildflowers and native grasses that grow easily in the grasslands of North America, typically in the Midwest. They do not require watering and make for a very pretty landscape.
Clover is a hearty alternative to lawn. It grows easily, overpowers weeds, and needs little to no watering. It also thrives in the sun and doesn't need fertilizing. Visually, it is very attractive with its charming four leaf clovers. The downside: it doesn't handle foot traffic well, so you might want to plant it as a "bed" or maybe create a pathway of some sort through it so that the leaves can avoid being crushed.
Any number of ground covers can add greenery to your yard. There are plants that spread outwards but do not grow very tall—these make optimal ground coverings. You can choose plants with flowers or plants that are edible, such as strawberries or various herbs. Just make sure to do your research so that you are choosing plants that require a minimum amount of water for the area that you live in. One thing your ground cover will need is some type of wood or brick border to contain the plants in the area that you want them to stay in.
Save on Hot Water
According to Consumer Reports, heating water can take up one third of a home's energy consumption. So what's the best way to tackle this problem? There are a couple of options.
Some people opt to replace their conventional water heaters with tankless ones. The unique aspect of tankless water heaters is that they only heat as much water as is needed. This efficiency means you can see up to a 40 percent savings on your utility bill. They are definitely eco-friendly as they help to reduce carbon emissions. There is, however, a drawback to these units, and that drawback is the cost. Most tankless units are two to five times more expensive than conventional ones. This cost may be worth it to you since tankless heaters last nearly twice as long as regular water heaters, and of course provide savings every month on your utility bill.
Another step you can take toward reducing your hot water consumption is to install low-flow, aerating faucets and shower heads. For the best efficiency, select a showerhead with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute). You can run a simple test at home to see how your showerhead rates. Turn on the shower, have a bucket which is marked off in increments of gallons, and catch the water flow. If the water reaches the "one gallon" mark in less than 20 seconds, than you could stand to use a more efficient showerhead.
A Few More Tips
Here are a few more ways to be energy efficient and eco-friendly at home:
Check to see that the seal around your refrigerator door is in good shape by feeling for cold air around the closed door.
Dry two or more loads in the dryer at a time. This way your dryer doesn't have to cool down and heat up repeatedly.
Clean the dryer lint filter!
Make sure the size of the stove burner matches the size of the pot you are using to avoid wasting heat.
Use CFL light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than regular bulbs and give off the same amount of light.
Use a laptop instead of a desktop - they use less energy.
Unplug your battery chargers when you're not using them. Many chargers continue to draw power even when there is no device connected to them.
Change your air conditioner's air filters once a month to keep the system running well.
Saving energy and being environmentally friendly can be done in big and small ways. We hope that some of the tips suggested here can help you maximize your home efficiency while being eco-friendly at the same time.