Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Home Improvements that Pay Off

Homeowners (and renters) are increasingly interested in making green home improvements, and they’re particularly interested in knowing which improvements have a clear payback—i.e., a decent Return on Investment (ROI)—and can be made with minimal investment.

Here are some commonly agreed upon suggestions for relatively easy and low-cost home retrofitting projects that reap surefire savings (in energy, water, and dollars):

  1. Switch to LED and/or compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. (Note: When buying CFLs, look for low-mercury products. Also, because CFLs contain mercury, they cannot be disposed of in the trash; they must be recycled by a hazardous waste facility. Some stores, such as Home Depot, collect used CFLs for recycling. You can find other places to take used CFLs near you on Earth911.com.
  2. Switch to WaterSense plumbing fixtures (e.g., dual-flush or other high-efficiency toilets, and ultra-low-flow faucets and showerheads).
  3. Switch to Energy Star appliances and electronic equipment when it’s time to replace old units. Install an Energy Star ceiling fan(s), to reduce or eliminate your use of air conditioning.
  4. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater; and add insulation to your attic (and/or walls and basement).
  5. Have a home energy audit done to check for air leaks and identify other inefficiencies; a home performance contractor should then make the needed improvements. More and more companies are springing up to offer these services. (One experienced company in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute.

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