Making Your Home More Sustainable

Solar Homes

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Responsible homeowners know that doing their part to live a greener life is more than just a trend. It can make their homes safer and even more affordable. But if you want to “green” your home, where do you start?

The first step is to define what having a green home means to you. According to Bankrate, it can mean a number of things:

  • Saving on energy costs by making your home more efficient.

  • Making sure your home is modeled and furnished with nontoxic items.

  • A home made from sustainable building materials and items.

Obviously, each of these options will have different price points and choices.

Energy Efficiency

To tackle this objective, you’ll need to focus on your appliances. However, you’ll also want to make sure that your systems are working optimally.

  • Energy Star Appliances Many appliances already carry this rating, which is designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They apply strict energy efficiency guidelines before giving out this designation. Not all Energy Star appliances are equal, though. Check out the list of this year’s most efficient appliances from Energy Star.

  • Learning or Programmable Thermostats Many thermostats are programmable, allowing you to reduce the heat at specific times, like when you’re at work. A learning thermostat adjusts to your schedule when you are not around. Either one can save you money when used properly.

  • Effective Barriers Next, you’ll want to make sure that doors, windows, and any other openings are properly sealed to keep out the cold. You may need to reseal some of them. Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket to make it more effective as well.

  • More Green Labels Consumers can find more products and resources with environmental labels, like these from Triple Pundit.

Non-Toxic Living

This type of “green” living means you’re working to reduce the toxins in your home. You’ll need to look at the following items and upgrade them to cleaner options:

  • Buy a water and air filter or purifying system. Find out if you are breathing clean air at home in this article from The Green Guide.

  • Use organic lawn care rather than traditional pesticides.

  • If you struggle to find non-toxic cleaning products, you can make your own with vinegar, lemon, and baking soda. Find more cleaning fluid recipes at DIY Network.

  • Consider buying an organic or natural mattress to reduce off-gassing from chemicals.

  • Eliminate air fresheners with fragrances.

  • Use VOC-free paint, which is free of volatile organic compounds that can cause allergies and other health problems.

Read more ideas on going green at home from Sustainable Baby Steps.

Buying An Eco-Friendly Home

If you are more interested in an eco-friendly home, it might be a little more challenging. However, there are some things you can look for:

  • Did the prior owner or builder care about nontoxic or green living? If you can discover this, you might be able to find a home with sustainably sourced building materials.

  • Solar panels are a sure sign of a greener home.

  • Inside, look for recycled carpeting or bamboo flooring.

  • Look for a home with natural landscaping that fits into the environment and requires little water.

  • Design matters, too. Strategically placed windows and trees may mean the builder was interested in sustainability.

  • Look to see if the home is equipped with some of the items mentioned in the Energy Efficiency sections, as well as water and air purifiers or filters.

Depending on your area, a green home might cost you a bit more. It might be more affordable to “green” a local home in your budget. For example, most homes in Miami, Florida, sell for an average listing price of $410,000.

Greening your home is possible, depending on what it means for you. Do your research to find out what choices fit your lifestyle, budget and environmental outlook.


Suzie Wilson is an interior designer with more than 20 years experience. What started as a hobby (and often, a favor to friends) turned into a passion for creating soothing spaces in homes of every size and style. While her goal always includes making homes look beautiful, her true focus is on fashioning them into serene, stress-free environments that inspire tranquility in all who enter. The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Your Home for an Open House is filled with tips, tricks and other advice based on Suzie’s years of experience in interior home design that will set you up for success.

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