DIY Fixes for a Greener Home

Here are five things you can do to make your everyday DIY efforts greener.

As DIYers, we love to build, tinker and fix things. Here are five things you can do to make your everyday DIY efforts greener. They can save you money, make your home more energy-efficient and/or make your home healthier and more comfortable.

1. Choose low- or zero-VOC paint

Low-VOC paint

Improve the air quality of your home with low- and zero-VOC paints.

That “new paint smell” of traditional paints is really VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These chemicals off-gas (vaporize) into the air and can cause short- and long-term adverse health effects. The good news is that most major paint manufacturers offer low- and zero-VOC finishing options now, and the quality has improved tremendously over the past few years.

2. Kill energy vampires

Using power strips to cut energy consumption

Turn off electronics when they’re not in use.

According to the Department of Energy, 75 percent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they’re turned off. These “energy vampires” suck electricity all day long—costing you an extra $100 each year. Unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip. There are also “smart strips,” which can shut off power to electronic devices that aren’t being used.

3. Install smarter switches

Using motion sensors to save energy

Motion sensors turn lights on and off, which saves money and energy.

Motion sensors (occupancy sensors) automatically turn lights on and off so you only get (and pay for!) light when you need it. Using motion sensors in the garage, outside and around the house can save you up to $100 annually in electricity costs. They’re convenient in areas like the laundry room when reaching for a light switch is difficult with your hands full.

4. Build with salvaged construction materials

Using reclaimed building materials

Recycle, reuse and reclaim building materials.

Use reclaimed building materials in your home projects. It’s a great way to save money and you’ll prevent useful items from going to a landfill. Many communities have local ReUse Centers, and you can also check salvage yards and your local Craig’s List. Helpful Web sites include and

5. Go low-flow

A 1.6-gpm water-saving showerhead from Delta

This water-efficient showerhead from Delta uses 36 percent less water but delivers what feels like a standard 2.5-gpm flow. (Photo courtesy of Delta.)

Showerheads are not only the second heaviest water user (after toilets) but also a major energy eater. That’s because 70 percent of the water flowing through the head comes from your water heater. Switching to a low-flow head means you’ll reduce water consumption and water heating. And new efficient showerheads change the shape and velocity of the water stream—even the size of the drops—to provide the high-flow feel using just 1.6 gpm.

— Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor

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