Think you're pretty eco-friendly? Houselogic.com, a National Association of Realtors website dedicated to helping homeowners protect, maintain and enhance the value of their home, helps you sort fact from fiction to find out if you're really living as "green" as you think.
The term "organic" is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as products "produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. So if something is labeled "organic," chances are it likely is.
Buying "natural" products
There are no regulations when it comes to "natural" products, so proceed cautiously. That "all-natural" cleaner may say it has no artificial ingredients, but ammonia is technically a naturally-occuring chemical found in many cleaners and pharmaceuticals.
Tossing your old refrigerator that still works
Your fridge is likely an energy hog if it was made before 1993. But before you toss it, see if your local utility or recycling company will come pick it up for recycling. According to houselogic.com, many utilities will even give you a small rebate for it.
Using recycled rubber mulch
While it keeps old tires out of the landfill, rubber mulch isn't as effective as wood mulch at keeping weeds at bay and isn't permanent like advertisers claim. It does gradually break down and can pose a risk to your soil and groundwater.
A solar attic fan requires no electricity, cooling your attic with the use of solar power. A 30 percent federal tax credit is also available on purchase and installation costs through 2016. But they're also expensive at $400-plus per fan, and studies have shown you'll need at least two or three to make a difference on cooling costs.
Installing solar-powered attic fans
Installing a tankless water heater
The choice to go tankless when it comes to water heaters isn't a clear one. They're a lot more efficient, but houselogic.com says they also come with high upfront costs, unpredictable temperature swings and are a new and improving technology that could require a lot of maintenance.
Installing a white roof
White-colored roofs, which are common in some tropical nations, can cut your cooling costs by up to 20 percent if you live in a warm climate -- roughly south of Columbus, Ohio. But be sure it won't break any homeowner association rules first, as some have strict guidelines on aesthetics.
Replacing old, drafty windows with new ones
New windows cost a bundle but only save the average customer about $250 a year, according to EnergyStar. Tossing those old windows and frames into the local landfill also isn't the most environmentally-friendly thing in the world. Houselogic.com recommends making this move more for comfort and aesthetics, not going green or saving money.
Installing a geothermal system
Putting one of these heating systems in isn't cheap. Systems can cost $10,000 to $25,000 and up. But again, you get a federal tax credit through 2016 and geothermal systems can cut your energy bills in half each year.
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs
According to houselogic.com, CFL bulbs are about 75 percent more efficient than old light bulbs, but they don't do well in enclosed fixtures and must be disposed of carefully because they contain mercury. Try LED light bulbs instead.
Click here to read the houselogic.com article in full. To take a look at Earth Day by the numbers, click here.
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