Eco-Friendly Winter Home Projects for Handy Homeowners
Many look forward to sitting in front of a cozy fire and sipping hot cocoa when it’s cold outside. However, handy homeowners who enjoy home improvement look forward to tackling numerous winter renovations instead.
Today’s renovation trends lean toward sustainability and eco-friendliness. According to a recent Zillow report, homes with energy-efficient features that reduce monthly utilities have a much quicker turnaround than those without. For example, listings highlighting a house's smart thermostats, lighting and irrigation systems sell six days faster than anticipated.
Whether you plan to sell in the spring or want to reap the rewards of energy savings and sustainable living, consider these seven winter renovations experienced DIYers can do themselves.
1. Install a Smart Thermostat
Rising energy costs have resulted in many Americans struggling to pay their utility bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) October 2022 Winter Fuels Outlook, prices are about to get even steeper.
Forecasts predict households using natural gas for heating will have to pay $930 this winter — a 28% increase from last year’s charges.
Considering half of most Americans’ utility bills go toward indoor temperature control, installing a programmable thermostat can help homeowners reduce energy consumption, lower costs and improve comfort.
The latest Energy Star-certified thermostats have advanced features that allow remote control from a smartphone and machine learning of your household’s climate preferences. Many smart thermostats also have geofencing capabilities to detect your return and adjust the setting to your liking before you walk through the door.
2. Add Insulation
Adding new insulation to your winter project checklist might be a good idea if it’s been a long time since your home was last insulated.
Insulating the attic, floors and crawl spaces can help lock cold air out and prevent warm air from escaping. As a result, homeowners can save 15% on their energy bills and nearly 11% on their total energy costs.
There are four types of insulation homeowners can choose from, including the following:
- Spray foam: The most straightforward technique DIYers can use to insulate their homes with the ability to get into tight corners and cracks
- Fiberglass: The most common and cost-effective insulation found in U.S. households, with the highest reduction in heat transfer
- Cellulose: Made from plant-based materials, making it the most eco-friendly out of all insulation
- Mineral wool: Derived from 30% recycled materials and offers the greatest noise-blocking and fire resistance
The type of insulation you choose will ultimately depend on the climate, where you intend to apply it, your budget, and if you plan to hire a professional for assistance or do it yourself.
3. Seal Air Leaks
Sealing and weatherstripping air leaks are other winter renovations that will make your home more energy efficient.
Air leakage occurs when cold air enters and warm air leaves through cracks and holes in the home — a prevalent issue in older houses with inefficient windows. Sealing the leaks with caulk or weatherstripping allows homeowners to reduce their home’s draftiness, improve indoor comfort and avoid getting sick.
Light a candle near a door or window to see if the flame flickers — a good indication you’ve found the source of air leakage in your home. You can also use your hand to sense cold air in front of door or window frames.
4. Protect Backyard Items
Winter weather can wreak havoc on your patio furniture and outdoor equipment. Considering Americans generated 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018 — equal to 4.9 pounds per person daily — you should avoid causing even more landfill overflow by protecting what you have.
An easy, sustainable winter project might entail covering backyard items to prevent snow and wind damage — for example, tie a tarp around your patio set, barbecue and hot tub.
If space allows, handy homeowners can create extra storage space in their garages to house their outdoor furniture and appliances until spring. The longer you preserve your backyard items, the less waste you accumulate.
5. Repaint the Exteriors
Those looking to spruce up their curb appeal while adding an extra layer of sealant to their homes might consider adding a fresh coat of paint to their siding, trim and garage. It shouldn’t be surprising that colder temperatures help it dry faster.
However, homeowners should be careful with the products they buy. Many paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for the environment, air quality and human health. Look for plant-based options without VOCs to keep your winter home project eco-friendly.
Protecting your hands from the elements with cold-weather gloves is critical. U.S. manufacturers don’t have set criteria for glove insulation, but gloves rated by European standards are scored between one and four, with one having the lowest cold resistance.
6. Lay Sustainable Flooring
Winter is the perfect time to get around to those indoor home improvements you’ve been putting off, such as laying new floors.
Carpets hold dust and allergens and have become outdated in U.S. households. Even during the winter, many homeowners prefer sleek, clean wood floors. Fortunately, several eco-friendly flooring products are available.
One of the most popular sustainable floorings is bamboo. It’s a durable material that replenishes itself every three to five years — ideal for reducing the overconsumption of natural resources.
However, the eco-flooring industry is expanding rapidly, giving homeowners even more options for interior design upgrades. Some products use new technologies to combine eco-friendliness and the highest performance specifications of conventional floors.
7. Install Water-Conserving Features
Eco-conscious DIYers might consider installing water-conserving features in their bathrooms and kitchen. The latest faucet and showerhead models meet federal standards for low-flow consumption.
For example, all manufactured showerheads must have a maximum water conservation threshold of 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM), per the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). Additionally, swapping older toilets for WaterSense-certified models can reduce your household’s water consumption by 20%-60% — an annual 13,000-gallon decrease and savings of $2,900 over the product’s life span.
However, plumbing projects can be tricky, even for the handiest of homeowners. If you need help determining whether you can switch out water features without damaging or flooding your home, you should always call in a professional.
Embrace Eco-Friendly Winter Home Projects
Taking on eco-friendly winter home projects can help the environment and create a healthier, more comfortable lifestyle. Reduce energy and water consumption and watch your utility bills drop. You’ll likely be most satisfied with the savings from these winter renovations.