“Green$ense:  Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects” 

Coming March 2010 – Taunton Press 

When does a green home project make financial sense? The authors provide the answer to this and other questions relating to the cost (and relative value) of environmentally friendly home improvements. In this information-packed book, they walk readers through 50 green home projects and break them down according to the positive impact they have on the environment, as well as the impact they may have (both positive and negative) on the reader’s wallet. This unique perspective on going green is a reference that green-leaning homeowners simply cannot do without. 

Tips on improving the efficiency of your home:

  • By installing a programmable thermostat, you’ll save up to $180 a year in energy savings. 
  • Hot water heaters consume 20% of the energy in your home.  You’ll save 5% of this cost for every 10 degrees you turn down your water heater.
  • Installing simple pipe insulation on your hot water pipes will save an additional 5% of your water heating bill.
  • Over 30% of the air in your air conditioning/heating ducts is lost through leaks.  All of which can be recovered with a simple duct mastic sealant.
  • If you add up all of the cracks around the windows of your home, they add up to an area about the size of an entire window.  Imagine leaving an entire window open all summer!  Sealing the edges with caulk is easy and saves this every loss.
  • Installing a drip irrigation system in your yard will cut your water bill by 40%.
  • Electric clothes dryers eat 10% of all of your homes energy.  Installing a clothesline will save you around $200 a year (and keep your home cooler).
  • Insulation is like chocolate.  The more you have, the better.  Insulate your attic as much as it will hold.
  • Using a light colored or reflective shingle on your roof can cut your cooling bills in half. 


  • Do fill an empty two-liter soda bottle and place it into the back of your toilet tank.  It saves you half a gallon of water with every flush.
  •  Do swap out your showerheads for ultra low flow (less than 2.5 gallons per minute).  This will save you thousands of gallons of water every year.  My favorites:  AquaHelix ( & the Evolve (
  •  Do install power strips (or simply unplug) devices not in use.  Anything plugged in will suck energy, even when not in use.  These vampire loads are costing you up to 10% of your electricity bill.
  •  Do insulate your hot water heater.  It will save you up to another 10% of energy costs.
  •  Do caulk and weatherize around your windows and exterior doors.  If American households saved 10% of energy used to heat and cool their homes, it would amount to 8.2 billion kW saved, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 1,078,561 passenger vehicles.
  •  If you live in the bottom half portion of the country (south of San Francisco), do install solar hot water heating on your roof.  It is easier and cheaper than you think.
  •  Do install a water filter and skip the bottled water.  Peter Gleick, director of the Pacific Institute, says the true cost of bottled water is “like filling up a quarter of every bottle with oil.”
  •  Do install a clothesline.  Electric dryers eat up 10% of your home electricity.  Skip it and save yourself the money (while saving 2000 pounds of CO2 from going into the atmosphere).
  •  Do recycle and compost.  It’s free and has an immediate and direct impact.


  • Don’t bother with photovoltaic solar panels until you improve the baseline energy efficiency of your home.  Simple and cheap weekend projects (as outlined above) will be far easier and more immediate.
  • Don’t bother replacing those old, leaky windows until you can afford to replace them with good energy efficient models.  If every home in the United States replaced their old, leaky windows, it would conserve enough energy to heat and cool 26.7 million homes a year. That is the equivalent of taking more than 323,000 cars off the road. 
  • Don’t trade in your perfectly good, working car for a hybrid.  Instead keep the tires inflated, filters clean and drive more conservatively.  Hyper-miling (the practice of driving to save fuel) works with any car.
  • Don’t turn on the air conditioner.  Install (and use) and whole house or single room ceiling fans instead.
  • Don’t purchase a new refrigerator or dryer until you pick out models with a high EnergyStar rating.  On average, any standard appliance you upgrade to an Energy Star model will reduce its energy use by 30%. For example, the refrigerator is the largest single energy user in your home. By replacing a 1990 or older model with a new Energy Star model, you’ll save enough electricity to light your home for four months. 
  • Don’t leave the flue to your fireplace open!
  • Don’t replace your roof with asphalt shingles.  Even white asphalt shingles still overheat the roof.  Use recycled and light colored roofing instead.
  • Don’t throwaway an existing (but perfectly usable) kitchen cabinet to replace it with a “green” cabinet.

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