You’ve switched out all the incandescent bulbs for CFLs. You’ve installed a smart thermostat to control your energy efficient furnace. You’ve disabled standby mode on all of your new Energy Star appliances. The family now composts, recycles, and reuses. You’ve even installed solar PV panels on your rooftop.
But in your quest to make your home more eco-friendly, you’ve overlooked one of the biggest energy wasters in the house: the family garage.
It’s a common oversight.
For most homeowners, the garage is a dumping ground — the place where you put anything and everything that doesn’t already have its own place. In fact, many Americans buy a new energy-efficient refrigerator for the kitchen and set up the old non-energy-efficient refrigerator in the garage.
But the garage also represents one of the least eco-friendly areas of the home. Most garages are poorly insulated. There are plenty of leaks through which cold or hot air can escape. And it is the biggest door in the entire home.
Failure to make your garage more energy efficient can result in you leaving money on the table. You’re also missing out on some huge environmental savings.
4 Simple Tips for Making Your Garage More Eco-Friendly
At first glance, the garage doesn’t seem to offer many opportunities for improvement. Maybe you can replace a few light bulbs or invest in a more energy-efficient garage door opener. And if your garage also houses an old refrigerator or washing machine, getting rid of these can definitely help.
But is there more you can do?
Yes. Below are 4 simple tips for making your family garage more eco-friendly. Any one of them in isolation will deliver measurable results. But for maximum utility bill savings and carbon reductions, it’s best to combine all of these strategies:
1. Fix Air Leaks
Because garages aren’t usually designed for comfort, homebuilders don’t invest a lot of resources to make them “airtight.” In fact, most garages are notoriously drafty because of shoddy sealants, loose-fitting windows and exposed gaps.
By plugging leaks, you can dramatically reduce heat transfer, both between the outside world and your garage, and the garage and your home.
Plugging leaks also protects your family from exhaust and other pollutants.
2. Insulate Your Entire Garage
Many homeowners also neglect to add basic insulation to the walls, ceilings, floors and door of the garage. It’s a simple fix and well worth the investment. After insulating your garage, both your thermostat and bank account will thank you.
3. Remove Hazardous Materials
As the family dumping ground, your garage probably has a lot of paints, cleaning chemicals and solvents. Getting rid of these won’t necessarily reduce your electricity bill, but it will limit your family’s exposure to toxic fumes and harmful pollutants. Check out this guide for tips on how to safely dispose of hazardous household waste.
For the items you can’t throw away, make sure you store them as safely as possible:
•Store paint cans upside down after securely sealing the tops with a hammer.
•Store solvents and cleaning chemicals in airtight containers with childproof locks.
4. Replace or Repair Your Garage Door
The garage door is usually the single largest entrance to the home. And when it’s closed, it doesn’t offer a lot of protection from the elements.
This is why replacing your old garage door with a more eco-friendly design offers some of the biggest energy efficiency gains. There are many materials from which to offers various R-values.
Regardless of what style or material you choose, make sure that your garage door is insulated and fits snugly.
Do These Eco-Friendly Improvements Pay for Themselves?
Most of the above strategies carry costs. Caulk, insulation and sealants, plus the cost of replacing or repairing a garage door can quickly get pricey.
Does it really make sense to invest to make your garage more energy efficient?
The short answer is yes, and here’s why:
1. Over a long enough time period, all energy efficient improvements pay for themselves. If the above strategies help you reduce your utility bill by $20 a month, for example, they’ll pay for themselves in nine years, at today’s utility rates. But remember that utility prices are constantly on the rise. So the payback period of your investment will only grow shorter.
2. What if you’re not going to be in your current home for nine years? Well, energy efficiency improvements can also help you fetch a higher asking price when it comes time to sell. According to the Appraisal Institute, monthly energy savings of $60 can boost a home’s property value by as much as $9,000.
3. You also have to factor in the ecological and health savings as well. With fewer carbon emissions and less exposure to pollutants, both your family and the environment benefit in ways that are hard to measure monetarily.
If you’re still unsure about the ROI of eco-friendly home improvements, you can use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s free online calculator.