Greenest of the Green TOP EFFICIENCY-BOOSTING HOME IMPROVEMENTS

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Forget wondering who’s the fairest; when it comes to choosing home improvements that make your home look good – from the curb and to potential buyers – it may make more sense to ask “Who’s the greenest of them all.” Sustainable home improvements not only help reduce utility costs and boost owner satisfaction with their homes, they also make a house more appealing to potential buyers.
If you’re looking for eco-friendly home improvements, these five are among the greenest you can make:

SWITCH TO A SOLAR WATER HEATER Switching to solar power for heating water can be a huge energy and money-saver. Solar hot water systems rely on free energy from the sun to heat a home’s hot water. A typical system can use 50 to 80 percent less energy than traditional heating systems, according to Velux America, marketers of solar-powered hot water systems. That reduction can help a typical household trim its annual energy costs by 10 to 15 percent.

ELIMINATE INCANDESCENTS You’ll have to do it soon anyway, so it may pay to start the process now and phase incandescent light bulbs from your home. Federal law banning incandescent light bulbs means that by the end of 2014, you probably won’t be able to find one of the old-fashionedpower-guzzlers on store shelves anymore. Instead, more energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) will dominate the marketplace.

ADD OR UPGRADE A SKYLIGHT Installing a skylight, or replacing an older model skylight with a new Energy Star-qualified one, can a skylight can help reduce the need for artificial light sources, thereby paring down electricity costs. When you pair no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights equipped with automatic rain sensors and efficiency-enhancing, energy saving accessories like designer solar powered blinds, you gain a new source of fresh air while improving energy efficiency by up to 37 percent, according to skylight manufacturer Velux.

REPLACE AN OLD HVAC SYSTEM In the typical American home, up to half of total energy consumption goes to heat and cool the house, EnergyStar says. Replacing old, inefficient heating, ventilation and cooling systems with newer, more efficient models can dramatically reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs.

UPGRADE OLD WINDOWS/DOORS A home can lose a tremendous amount of air – hot in the winter, cool in the summer – through poorly sealed doors and windows. Older units, obviously, tend to be less energy efficient than newer ones. Upgrading from drafty windows and doors to more air-tight models can result in significant savings on your heating and cooling costs. What’s more, replacing windows and doors are among the home improvements that deliver significant ROI at the time of resale. Replacing old windows with new vinyl ones can recoup more than 71 percent of the cost when you sell; 73 percent for wooden replacement windows, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. And installing a new front door earns you back nearly 66 percent for a fiberglass door and a whopping 85.6 percent for a steel door.