Major home improvement projects like kitchen remodeling provide great opportunities to make your home healthier and save energy, water and other resources. But keep in mind that your day-to-day maintenance practices are just as important as the bigger changes. Greening your maintenance routine means bigger savings and a healthier home.
With every maintenance action you take—whether it's cleaning out a garage, replacing burned out light bulbs, or choosing new plants for the yard—ask yourself these questions:
- How will this affect the longevity of my home and the systems within it?
- How will this choice affect my home's energy or water use?
- What natural resources will be used or wasted? How can I reduce, reuse or recycle?
- How might this choice affect my household's health?
- What can I do differently to contribute to a healthier home, a healthier community and a healthier environment?
This overview describes some commonsense maintenance practices that will make your home more enjoyable to live in and preserve its value. Also be sure to check out our detailed GreenPointers—they're filled with helpful tips on greening your home day after day and year after year.
Heating, cooling and electricity
We've been living in homes all our lives, but few of us are actually taught how to properly operate and maintain them for peak efficiency, longevity, comfort and health. Consider taking a green building class for homeowners to learn about your home's operations. Check the homeowner's manual for any helpful directions on maintaining particular system such as furnaces. Also consider hiring a home performance contractor to test your home and recommend improvements (see our GreenPointer on Building Performance).
In the summer, instead of automatically turning on the air conditioning when temperatures rise, keep the house cooler by blocking the sun at the windows with shades, solar screens or drapes. In the evening, open the windows and use the whole house fan to bring in cooler evening air.
In the winter, allow the sun to come through the windows and warm the home. In the evening, close the shades and drapes to reduce heat loss out of the windows. When you have to resort to the air conditioning or heating system, set the air conditioner as high and the heater as low as is comfortable. Install a programmable thermostat or be diligent about manually adjusting the thermostat.
Also, do not close off any supply registers and try to keep your interior doors open as much as possible to allow the system to circulate conditioned air everywhere.
Follow these additional recommendations:
- Put indoor and outdoor lights on timers and motion sensors or photosensors.
- Caulk and weatherstrip all the holes and seams of your home to reduce air leakage.
- Check the heating and cooling system's air filter monthly and replace when dirty.
- Have your heating and cooling systems checked and maintained annually by a professional.
- Annually, pour a cup of hot water and 10% bleach solution down the air conditioning condensate drain pipe to keep it clear of mold and other contaminants.
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Save money and protect our future supply of water by implementing these practices:
- Take advantage of your local water district's free or rebated leak detection services, shower and faucet aerators, landscaping and water audits, and high efficiency toilets, dishwashers and clothes washers.
- Use dishwashers and clothes washers. only when you have a full load and use the water/energy saving settings.
- Check regularly for leaks (especially in your toilets and irrigation system) and repair them promptly.
- Adjust your landscape watering schedule based on time of the year and the true needs of each of the planting areas.
Health and safety
These recommendations will help make your home safer and healthier:
- Use healthier cleaning, pest control and landscaping products and employ professionals who share that philosophy. Take chemicals you no longer need to a household hazardous waste facility.
- Remove shoes before entering your home, because as much as half of the dirt in a home comes in on our shoes.
- Run your kitchen range hood and bathrooms fans to exhaust odors, humidity and combustion gases.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by the kitchen and bedrooms. Check the batteries annually and replace the alarms every five years.
- Install a fire extinguisher within easy reach of the kitchen stove.
Good maintenance will keep up your home's health and longevity, so use the following tips:
- Clean out gutters and downspouts annually. During and after rains, make sure water flows away from the home.
- Check caulking and flashing around windows, doors and siding every few years.
- Quickly address leaks and other maintenance issues before further, potentially expensive damage occurs.
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