Saving Green while Going Green

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Going Green Using Spray Foam Insulation
Going green with spray foam insulation
There’s one common bond that homeowners share: saving money on the upkeep and maintenance of your home is a pretty good thing. And being in the same boat as the rest of you, I look for the cheapest and easiest ways to make my home hum more cost effectively. But one thing I seem to find often is that there’s always a product that’s got the green label, claiming it’s safe for the environment, it’s nontoxic and butterflies with rainbow colored unicorns on their wings will come flying out the bottle as soon as you open it up. Are these green materials for real?

Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes no. It’s called “green washing” and it’s runs rampant in the building industry, and many others. If you’re looking for a more substantial green building product to help improve or maintain your home, check out these ideas and you’ll get a cheap, green and effective home improvement that will make Al Gore look like the owner of a coal powered factory that makes baby seal skin shoes.

Interior Shutters or Blinds

This easy to install home improvement project is a great way to save energy on your heating and cooling bills. New window replacement can cost you a fortune and give you very little ROI. Wooden shutters are great for keeping the hot or cold air at bay without the high price of new windows. Simply build a wooden frame using some 1×3’s around your windows and install wooden shutters on a brass hinge for a great looking and cost effective alternative to new windows. Even Wood Blinds available on Amazon can help insulate a window.


Bamboo Flooring

If you’re looking to replace your old shag carpet or disco vinyl floors with a durable and cost effective green material, then bamboo can be a great choice for updating your shag pad. Bamboo can be stained or colored to mimic just about any wood flooring material, so you can be sure to get a suitable match for your wife’s design theme. Even though bamboo looks like wood, it’s really a fast growing grass with wood-like properties. It takes decades for conventional wood materials to grow to a harvestable age. Bamboo takes four years or less. And because it can be grown just about anywhere in the world, bamboo is the ultimate local building material. Yes, most bamboo products are truly green and sustainable.

Rain Barrels

rain-barrelIf you don’t have a gutter system on your home; get one. They help to increase your home’s curb appeal, they prevent erosion around your home’s foundation and they also can help stop water infiltration into basements and crawlspaces. With the addition of a rain barrel, you can funnel a huge amount of water and store it for later use. An airtight lid and water spigot make sure your rainwater stash is safe, debris free and easily accessible for watering the garden, washing your car or squirting the neighbor’s dog when it comes over to poop in your yard. You can find a wide variety of Rain Barrels on Amazon, from traditional to modern styles with prices mostly ranging from $100-$200.

Recycle/Reuse It

If they had a wood hoarders TV show, I’d probably be on it. I save every little piece of wood I use, because eventually, I’ll use it for something else along the way. I also like to pick up thrown away materials that others discard; whether they come from a Craigslist ad, a yard sale or off the side of the road, I use it, and use it well. There are a ton of websites out there that trade or give away materials too. After all, one man’s (or woman’s) trash is another man’s treasure.

Paints and Stains

Most of today’s paints and stains are transitioning to water based and that’s a good thing. Some oil based paints release volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s) in a process known as off gassing. Dangerous chemicals break down over time and release toxic gasses into the air. If your home is filled with not-so-green oil based paints, they can release dangerous gasses for years after application, ruining indoor air quality. Use a low or no VOC paint or stain on all your projects. Or take it one step further and make your own. I use white distilled vinegar and some old rusty nails to create a natural stain that looks good, costs very little and is about as toxic as a salad.

Solar Lighting

Image Courtesy of worradmu at
Image Courtesy of worradmu at
While setting up a huge solar farm on your roof isn’t going to be cheap, attractive or please fossil fuel-centric utility companies, smaller and more efficient solar powered devices are an easy option to get your green feet wet. Solar powered walkway lights, landscape lights and security lights are all affordable and easy to install additions to your green home improvement project list. Best of all, you don’t need to be an electrical engineer to install them. A single screw gun is about all it takes to harvest the energy of the sun and light your home’s exterior for free. Find a large variety of Solar Lighting on

Have green tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Eric

Since Eric built his first skateboard ramp in his parents driveway; he’s breathed, slept and eaten DIY construction. As a second generation master carpenter who runs two Florida-based construction firms, Eric’s had the chance to work on everything from Mcmansions to your local mall to the cat lady’s bathroom. So when it comes to dealing with construction s@#t; he’s the man—literally. There isn’t a tool or construction material that Eric hasn’t used and abused, and if there is; it’s rocking in a dark corner nervously waiting for him to show up for work.

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4 thoughts on “Saving Green while Going Green”

  1. While I like the idea of solar lighting I haven’t found any to be worth while. Most are not good at collecting enough energy to make the lights viable. I’ve seen several neighbors embark on these solar lighting ventures and the lights barely light anything and usually die within the year.

    I would recommend that you find someone that has had a successful installation and find out what product they used before spending your own money.

    • Agreed Todd, there definitely is a lot of solar junk on the market. . . a path light won’t do much good if the light it puts out is dimmer than a match. Good suggestion re. the successful installation.

  2. I do normally use latex paint. But I can’t stand having things stick to shelves several years after painting. My kitchen cabinets have all been painted and I will be using oil paint for this reason only.

  3. One of the best things that I’ve done is to replace recessed lights with LED units. In a large room, you can run all the cans with LEDs for less energy than 1 of the cans with an incandescent bulb. It’s a considerable investment at ballpark $30/can, but having to never change a bulb on a vaulted ceiling again is priceless.


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