Guest Post: Give Your Home a Green Makeover

Easy ways to save money and save the planet

This guest post from Katie White is for all of those do-it-yourselfers who either wish to fine-tune their home or make home improvements in an environmentally responsible way that wastes far less energy. Thanks, Katie!

Home repair and maintenance is one of the most important changes you can make to reduce your family’s environmental impact; but it can be intimidating if you’re not an experienced DIYer. Fortunately, many of the big offenders in your home are easily and cheaply fixed. Here are a few solutions for the biggest energy wasters in your home.

Insulate your pipes

Metal is an excellent conductor of heat, which means that water in an exposed pipe is easily warmed or cooled by the surrounding air. This wastes the energy that was used to heat the water, but it also wastes water, because it takes longer for your faucets to reach a desired temperature. All you need to insulate your pipes is an insulation material of your choosing, a rag, and some duct tape.

Clean the outside of the pipe with a rag and mild cleanser, allow it to dry, and then wrap each pipe completely and snugly in your desired insulation material—generally fiberglass, tubular sleeve, or foil insulation. Be sure to cover every inch of the pipe, and tape up any joints or gaps. If you use fiberglass, wrap it tightly in plastic sheeting to prevent condensation drip.

Give your furnace a tune-up

While you should never tinker with your gas lines, furnace, or hot water heater without professional guidance, there are several safe maintenance projects that can make your furnace run more efficiently. Make sure to shut off the gas before starting any of these repairs.

  • Gently vacuum out the blower and burner with your vacuum’s hose extension.
  • Using a stiff-bristle brush, thoroughly scrub the blower blades. It’s important to clean the whole mechanism or nothing at all; an uneven cleaning can knock the blades off balance and damage them.
  • Use a fiberglass filter to protect your blower and motor. Check your furnace’s owner’s manual to find a filter that will allow sufficient airflow to prevent strain on the system. Air filters should be changed out every three months.
  • Clean your pilot light and igniter with compressed air. Never touch the igniter, as it is very delicate.
  • Check the drive belt on your furnace motor for fraying and cracks—new belts go for around $5, and a broken belt can lead to serious and expensive damage to your furnace if it goes unnoticed.

Repair leaks and drips

Faucet drips and pipe leaks are more than just annoying—they’re costly and wasteful. They’re also pretty simple to fix. For many faucets, all you need is a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench to tighten things up. Before attempting a faucet repair, be sure to identify the type of faucet you’re working with (ball, disc, cartridge, or compression), so you know which parts are causing the drip.

Clean your A/C condenser

All you need for this job is a vacuum with a soft-bristle brush attachment, a regular garden hose, and a screwdriver; and if you live in a hot climate, just cleaning off your condenser can save hundreds of dollars every year. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for a more comprehensive cleaning; but just spraying down the condenser coils and brushing dust out of the condenser fins with your vacuum hose is enough to save you hundreds of dollars a year on your cooling bill.

Katie White is a freelance blogger and DIY enthusiast who is passionate about self-reliance and conservation. She takes pride in making her home a more sustainable and comfortable place for her husband and two kids. She lives in Dallas.

Photo: Katie White