Buildings (and their construction) account for 38% of all global energy-related CO2 emissions according to the UN Environment Program. Yet we often don’t realize what a large impact our homes have on our environmental footprint. And when we do, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that we need a brand new modern home in order for it to be green. But the truth is, a few simple home improvements can make your home significantly greener and more efficient without a major renovation. So here I'll cover the easy green home ideas that any eco-friendly homeowner can use.
Change your air filters
Changing your air filters regularly is one of the easiest ways to lower your home's energy usage. That's because dusty and dirty filters make your HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy. Replace your air filters every three months to keep your central heat and AC flowing smoothly. More often if it looks dirty. Not only will it make your home greener, but it will also help keep your indoor air quality healthier.
"A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure," according to EnergyStar.gov.
Get a smart thermostat
A smart thermostat is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. You simply buy a smart thermostat - such as Nest - and let the artificial intelligence do the rest. Installing a smart thermostat is a sustainable home improvement because it automatically turns off the heat or AC when you're not home. You can also program it to run at certain times to maximize energy efficiency.
"Thermostats are mission control for residential energy use for heating and cooling—9 percent of energy consumption in the United States," according to Drawdown.org. "Smart thermostats eliminate the capriciousness of human behavior, thereby driving more predictable energy savings."
Related: Why you need a smart thermostat
If you want a green home, using a renewable energy source like solar panels can be a great option. Once solar panels are installed, they're an easy way to make you're home significantly greener by using less dirty energy from fossil fuels. The hardest part about getting a home solar system researching solar companies, but I have a few ideas on how to get the best solar quotes.
Home solar panels are a classic green home idea. However, it's not the only way to use solar energy at home. Community solar farms are emerging across the country. So if a home solar system isn't right for you, see if there's a community solar project available near you.
Opt-in to your utilities renewable energy option
Utilities are also starting to offer customers the option to opt-in to 100% renewable energy options. Your local utility might have a renewable energy option that will only cost you an extra couple of dollars per month. If that's available in your area, make sure to take advantage of it.
Electric and induction ovens
You may have heard that some carbon-neutral cities are banning natural gas for new homes. In these cities, the new homes will be all-electric. All-electric homes do not use natural gas to power appliances and fireplaces. Instead, electric appliances and fireplaces are used.
This may seem difficult or expensive, but you don't have to do it all at once. Instead, swap out old natural gas appliances for the latest electric appliances when they need replacing. I started by swapping my natural gas range for an induction range, and it's fantastic.
OhmConnect offers a bridge between utilities that don't want to turn on expensive and dirty energy sources and customers that want to reduce their environmental impact. Here's how it works:
- Sign up*
- You'll receive a text when the utility is expecting high demand and the need to turn on dirty energy sources.
- You power down as much of your energy usage as possible
- If you use less energy than expected, you earn rewards through OhmConnect.
- It's currently only available for select customers in California, but hopefully more programs like this will emerge throughout the country.
Planting native plants is an easy green home idea that would have a huge impact if more people did it. Native plants are not only already adapted for your local climate, but they also help support biodiversity in your area. My front yard is full of native plants that the bees and butterflies love. Even if you have grass in your backyard, keep your landscaping in the front native and drought-resistant.
Go green at home one step at a time
Green home improvements don't have to come together overnight. You don't need to do everything at once, and it doesn't matter where you begin. Just put a plan in place, take it one sustainable home improvement at a time, and eventually, you'll have the most sustainable house in the neighborhood.