Green Home Improvements


Our planet is in trouble. Global statistics show that our behavior is damaging our planet in all kinds of ways, from excessive pollution and littering to what may be the biggest problem of all: climate change. There is not just one giant patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean — there are two. The average temperature of the planet is rising, and scientists have firmly established that our behavior is responsible.

But here's the thing: We can control our behavior. We can each take action to help our planet. And if you're a homeowner, you can make a difference with home improvements.

You don't have to live out in the wilderness to have a home that works in harmony with nature. You can live in Los Angeles, California, or New York, New York. You could live in suburban New Jersey — it doesn't matter. Because in New Jersey or any other place, you can make improvements to your home that will make things easier on the planet. Believe it or not, a new appliance in Northern New Jersey or a bathroom remodel Central Jersey can make your home greener. Here's what you need to know about green home improvements.

Save Money, Save the Planet

Your home uses energy. To some extent, that's unavoidable: You need to turn lights on, run appliances, and do all of the other things that you need electric service for.

But how much energy all of these things use can change quite a bit with the right home improvements. In the United States, we waste an alarming amount of the energy. In fact, we lead the world in energy waste. You can do your part to counter this by investing in renovations and upgrades that improve your home's energy efficiency.

One obvious way to do this is to invest in newer, more efficient appliances. There are a lot of incentives to do this, and they don't all rely on your altruism and love of nature. You might snag a tax credit for cleaning up your energy act, and you'll certainly net some energy savings after you replace a clunker of a washer, dryer, oven, or dishwasher. Working with a contractor to remodel an appliance-heavy space — like a kitchen, for example — can be a great way to invest in both your home and our planet. The average cost of a new appliance may look a little high, but remember to factor in the energy you'll save!

Catch Some Rays

Using up less energy is one great way to cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions. But what if you could change your energy source completely? As it turns out, you can: Solar panels are a home improvement option that you should strongly consider.

Solar panels, of course, generate solar energy — or, more accurately, capture existing solar energy that the sun is always putting out. Solar panels provide your home with an alternative energy source that could allow you to run your appliances, lights, and other electric devices without increasing your greenhouse gas footprints. Alternative energy sources like solar energy are carbon-neutral, meaning that they don't contribute to global warming.

Of course, some areas are better suited to solar panel use than others. Solar panels in Arizona are a smarter idea than solar panels in Alaska, because Alaska has very little light for much of the year. Sunny days are a familiar site in Arizona, though, which is why solar installers there are so busy. Call it the "Persian Gulf of solar energy": the Grand Canyon state is going mad for solar energy, and it's easy to see why.

Of course, solar panels store excess energy in battery storage, so you won't only be able to use your electronics on sunny days. The solar market is even more affordable thanks to federal tax credits. And the financial incentives don't end with the solar tax credits. There are state tax credits and local incentives, too, and homeowners with solar panels can even sell excess energy back to their providers.

Stop Wasting Water

Solar energy and other energy-related issues get a lot of attention, and deservedly so. But homeowners should think about water, too. How much water do your plumbing fixtures waste? Investing in new plumbing fixtures like low-flow toilets, as well as new and more efficient water-using appliances like washing machines and dishwashers, can be a smart way to cut down on water waste — and save on your water bill, too.

More good news: Like many of the other projects mentioned here, a bathroom remodel can increase your home value. Even if you're not planning on selling your home in the near future, bathroom renovation projects can be a great use of your time and money — especially if you hire reliable contractors who will do a great job. When you've increased your home value and are enjoying lower water bills, you can also think about how much you're helping our planet.