Feathering your new nest? Think green! Eco-friendly home improvements offer a solid return on investment by increasing your home’s comfort and value while reducing energy and water consumption. (Many qualify for government rebates, too!) Here are five projects for a greener house.

  1. Install a programmable thermostat

Heating and cooling accounts for up to 60 per cent of your home’s energy costs. A programmable thermostat is a cheap-and-cheerful way to save: basic models start at under $50 and qualify for government incentives in some regions, and installation is a breeze.

In winter, program your thermostat to between 21°C and 23°C when people will be home – that’s the sweet spot for comfort and energy efficiency. Lower it to three degrees cooler while you’re asleep or away. In summer, limit the AC to 24°C or 25°C: every degree below 26°C raises energy consumption significantly.

  1. Invest in a high-efficiency furnace

A high-efficiency furnace will set you back at least $2,500, but it will save you plenty of green in the long run. An Energy Star-certified high-efficiency forced-air furnace can reduce your heating costs by as much as $250 per year.

Government incentives take a nice chunk out of your initial investment, making this upgrade one that pays for itself over several years, a worthwhile expenditure since today’s furnaces have a typical lifespan of 20 to 30 years.

  1. Go with the (low) flow

Got an old toilet in your new home? Swap it out, pronto. It’s a major source of residential water usage, so upgrading a water guzzler will trim your utility bill, fast.

That’s because pre-1985 toilets use at least 20 litres per flush (LPF), while circa 1985 to 1995 models use 13 LPF. The modern, low-flow models popularized from 1996 onward use just 6 LPF. Upgrade outmoded porcelain for a newer 6- or 4.8-LPF model or a cutting-edge, high-efficiency 3-LPF toilet.

Many provinces and municipalities offer rebates; between that and the water savings, your toilet could pay for itself within one year.

  1. Layer your windows

New window treatments can beautify any room while reducing heat transfer and drafts. Slatted window blinds will reduce heat gain in summer, although they are less effective at cutting heat loss in winter. Shades – particularly quilted rollers and layered Roman blinds – do a better job of keeping heat in during the colder months. They are most effective when mounted as closely to the glass, and covering as much of its width, as possible. Layer drapery overtop for a more polished look and to boost insulation when pulled closed after dark.

  1. Repaint

Repaint any room in your home for an instant-makeover effect. Few home improvement projects offer such dramatic results for so little cost and effort. Zero-VOC latex paint is the best choice for interior walls. It dries fast and is virtually odour- and chemical-emission-free. Best of all, today’s VOC-free formulas offer excellent coverage for an effect that’s dramatically green (or mauve or grey or white, etc.!).

This article is part of our Guide for Millennial Homebuyers.

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