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Fill Your Own Pot of Gold with Green Home Improvements

Anybody who’s ever enjoyed a bowl full of Lucky Charms for breakfast knows that where there are Leprechauns, there’s sure to be a pot of gold close by. All you’ve got to do is look for the rainbow. Unfortunately for most homeowner’s bank accounts, locating those Leprechauns is easier said than done, leaving most of us looking for more practical ways to save a few bucks. But what if keeping an eye out for a flash of green wasn’t such a bad impulse, after all? In these times of skyrocketing energy costs and increased environmental awareness, green remodeling options that range from the simple to the complex can end up saving homeowners big money as the years roll by. Here is a list of the most moneywise green remodels in the business, along with an estimate of just how much gold you can expect to find at the end of the rainbow.

Why Look for a Pot of Gold When a few Gold Coins Will Do?
Some might say that the entire leprechaun myth is really a lesson about the elusive qualities of easy money. That said, for many homeowners it makes a lot more sense to quit looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and start poking around for a few lost coins instead. If you’re not ready to cash in your inheritance for a total green upgrade, try these simpler solutions on for size:

  • Programmable Thermostat—According to the consumer advocate website greenandsave.com, a programmable thermostat that costs between $85 to $125 to purchase and install can end up saving you and yours $100 to $300 a year in reduced energy costs. In other words, give your new thermostat a year to pay itself off, and after that this inexpensive home improvement starts filling up your pot of gold in no time.
  • CFLs—According to the D.O.E.’s Energy Star website, compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy than their incandescent counterparts, and last up to 10 times longer. That adds up to total savings of about $30 for every incandescent bulb that you replace with a CFL. Multiply that $30 by every light fixture in your home, and it’s surprising that leprechauns don’t hide pots of CFLs instead of gold all over the Irish countryside.
  • Power Strips—It’s common knowledge that leprechauns like to lay low and avoid being noticed. Unfortunately, according to greenandsave.com, one of the most wasteful uses of energy in your home goes largely unseen as well. As much as 25% of the electricity that is consumed by the appliances in your home is used when those appliances are turned off. By purchasing a $10 powerstrip, and cutting power to home appliances when they are not in use, you can easily double your money in the form of reduced energy savings over the course of a year.

Don’t Rule out Pots of Gold
Of course, if there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, would you pass it up? We didn’t think so. The truth of the matter is that there are a number of mid-range green remodeling projects out there that pay for themselves in a few years time when you take into account long-term energy savings and the ever-increasing cost of home heating fuels. Call it whatever you want—a pot of gold, or just a smart investment—here’s a list of mid-range green projects that deserve your attention.

  • Windows—According to the D.O.E., installing new replacement windows can cut your home heating and cooling costs by as much as 50% annually, depending on climate and the windows you presently have installed. At $750 to $900 per window, assuming you’re smart and opt for multiple panes, low e glazings, insulated frames, and other energy-efficient upgrades, new windows aren’t cheap. But if you figure your new windows have a 30 year lifespan, and have the potential to reduce home energy costs by 50% year in and year out, it’s easy to see why replacement windows are seen as a golden opportunity by people who think green.
  • Insulation—When most homeowners think insulation, they focus on walls and attics. Not a bad impulse, as upgrading insulation in both of these areas can result in a big payoff in energy savings. Insulate crawlspaces, foundations, basements, and even ductwork and hot water heaters, however, and your energy savings are almost guaranteed to shoot through the roof. Greenandsave.com suggests that you start by scheduling a full energy audit to help identify exactly where your home’s insulation can benefit most from a boost.
  • HVAC Upgrades—According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling systems account for 45% of the energy use in an average American home. It goes without saying, then, that installing high efficiency furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners can make a huge difference when it comes to lowering your energy bill and filling your own pot of gold.


Why Settle for a Pot of Gold When you can Have the Whole Rainbow?
Finally, there are green remodeling projects out there for treasure hunters of a different sort, whether you’ve already got more pots of gold than you know what to do with, or protecting the environment is enough of a priority for you that you’re willing to make a major investment in green, whatever the costs. These green remodeling projects come with hefty price tags, to be sure, but when you factor in the combination of huge potential energy savings, beneficial environmental impacts, and the satisfaction you’ll get knowing you’ve done your part to create a better, more sustainable world, it’s safe to say that these green upgrades are worth more than even the biggest pot of gold.

  • Geothermal Heating and Cooling—Geothermal heating and cooling systems circulate fluid through an underground system of pipes, utilizing the steady temperature of the earth, year round, to heat and cool your home. These systems are costly to install (in the neighborhood of $30,000), but according to the D.O.E. and greenandsave.com, they can last up to 50 years, and cost anywhere from 40% to 75% less to operate than conventional heating and cooling methods.
  • Green Roofing —If your home has a low or no pitch roof, consider a true green roof—one that consists of actual vegetation! According to greenandsave.com, these roofs provide 20% better insulation than more conventional roofing products (reducing your heating and cooling costs), and they can dramatically lower environmentally harmful roof runoff as well, especially in urban areas where it matters most. Best of all, since your roof will be made of live vegetation rather than petroleum-based roofing materials, your roof will contribute to reducing the greenhouse effect, rather than making the problem worse.
  • Go Solar —Installing photovoltaic solar panels to provide electricity for your home has finally become an investment that can reap profits, rather than one that is guaranteed to lose money in the long run. According to greenandsave.org, the initial investment won’t be cheap—somewhere in the $25,000 to $30,000 range for an average home. But once you figure in tax credits, available grants for sustainable home building, and long-term energy savings, you could be looking at a return on your investment that doubles what you put in! It could take a decade or more to reap the rewards, but don’t be surprised if your initial investment of twenty or thirty grand ends up netting you as much as $60,000 when it’s all said and done.

Whether you believe in little green Irish fairies or not, it’s clear that there’s more profit to be had in going green with home improvement than you’ll ever find at the end of a rainbow. Making green by going green isn’t the fairy tale it used to be. Instead, it’s the smartest decision you can make if you’re ready to invest in major home improvement for your home.

Green Home Improvements You Can Take to the Bank

With talk of energy shortages, endangered species, and global warming dominating national headlines, it’s easy to forget that going green with home remodeling is as good for your wallet as it is for the rainforest. Here’s a list of 5 green remodeling projects that are good for the earth and save you cash at the same time.

#1—Install High Efficiency Replacement Windows
If you still think of a window as a single pane of glass that gives you a good view of the neighborhood, it’s time to change your perspective. Modern energy efficient windows can reduce your home energy use by as much as 50% year round, and usually pay for themselves in just a few short years. If new windows are in your future, look for multiple paned windows, low e coatings, insulated frames, and gas fills. And don’t forget that proper installation is just as important as buying quality windows when it comes to achieving high energy efficiency.

#2—Install a High Efficiency Heating System
Depending on the climate, heating your home can account for over 35% of your overall home energy costs. New, high efficiency furnaces and boilers can reduce those costs by as much as half, depending on where you live and how old your current heating system is. Look for units with AFUE ratings of 90 or better, and remember that poor installation can sabotage even the highest efficiency furnace.

#3—Install a High Efficiency Air Conditioner
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioning accounts for 5% of the total energy use in the U.S., and costs American homeowners $11 billion annually. That said, upgrading to a high efficiency air conditioner can make a big difference when it comes to reducing your monthly utility bills. Energy Star rated units are required to have SEER ratings of 13 or higher, though the highest efficiency models on the market currently have SEER ratings of 20 and higher. As a rule, the higher the SEER rating, the more money you’ll save.

#4—New Kitchen Appliances
Kitchen appliances are a major consumer of energy in your home. Thanks to the federal government’s Energy Star program, however, they’re also one of the easiest ways to improve the overall energy efficiency of your home. An Energy Star dishwasher or refrigerator, for example, can reduce energy use at those appliances by 40% or more, while an Energy Star rated clothes washer can save you over $500 over the life of the appliance!

#5—Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
High efficiency furnaces, air conditioners, and windows are all excellent ways to cut energy costs and save you money, but even the best windows and heating and cooling systems won’t do much if your home’s insulation isn’t up to speed. Leaky windows and doors, and poorly insulated attic spaces, are some of the most common culprits of energy inefficient homes, so those are good places to start. For a more comprehensive evaluation of insulation levels in your home, however, consider bringing in a professional energy auditor to help you identify where you can reap the biggest returns when it comes to upgrading the insulation in your home, and sealing up areas where leaks are costing you money!

Remember, going green is a win-win proposition. Not only does it mean you’re doing everything you can to foster a better world for generations to come, but by making smart decisions on which projects you undertake, it can mean big monthly savings on your utility bills and a fuller bank account to boot.