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Green Reno on a Budget

If you’re like many Canadians, chances are you live in a house that isn’t particularly energy efficient or green. Perhaps cold winter air seeps in through the tiny cracks around your door, or your toilet flushes away hundreds of litres of potable water every day. Here’s how to transform your wasteful abode into a lean, green eco-machine without breaking the bank.

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Spend $50 or Less

$50 can go a surprisingly long way at a hardware store, since many of the most effective green improvements are in the $5-$15 range. Assuming you’ve already switched your old light bulbs over to compact fluorescents ($2 and up per bulb) or LEDs ($10 per bulb), the best things to spend a $50 bill on are:

Self-adhering weatherstripping foam tape to seal around windows and doors ($5);

Outdoor clothesline ($13 and up) to give your energy-munching dryer a rest.
0.5 gallon per minute faucet aerator ($3) for your bathroom and kitchen taps.

Draft-stopper gaskets ($4) to stop air infiltration behind your light switches and outlets.

Non-toxic household cleaner ($5 and up) to eliminate the adverse effects most standard cleaners have on your health.

1.5 gallon per minute showerhead ($25) to save water and water-heating energy by reducing flow by 40 percent over standard low-flow showerheads.

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Spend $100 or Less

Spend $100 or less

There’s no reason you can’t spend your $100 on even more $5-$15 items, but here are a few more expensive ones that are well worth the extra money:

Hot water tank insulator jacket ($25-$40) to reduce your tank heat loss by 25-40 percent.

Water Eco-Kit ($50 and up) to save water and water-heating energy in a wide variety of ways.

Zero-VOC paint ($18 and up per quart) to make your indoor air a little healthier when you next paint a room.

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Spend up to $500

Probably the best use of your $500 would be to buy everything listed in the $50 and $100 categories, and then splurge on a couple of bigger-ticket items with your remaining $350:

Living Wall System ($60, not including plants and soil) to improve indoor air quality and create a lush, plant-filled wall in any room in your house.

Toaster oven ($50-$200) for all your smaller meals-uses up to 50 percent less energy than a larger oven.

Programmable thermostat ($50 and up) to cut down on heating and cooling costs when you’re away or asleep.

Indoor clothes-drying rack ($50-$150) to reduce dryer use.

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Spend $1000 and over

The most important thing to remember here is that spending $500 on a single item does not mean that it’s 100 times greener than a $5 item. You should only really go out and buy more expensive gizmos once you have already bought most of the inexpensive ones. With that in mind, here are some green ideas for the fatter wallet:

Power-Pipe ($375 and up, plus installation): saves up to 60 percent of the wasted heat running down your drains, transferring it to the cold water flowing into your hot water tank.

Increase attic insulation to R40 ($600-$800 per 1000 sq. ft., plus installation) to reduce heating and cooling needs.

Tankless water heater ($900 and up) to reduce your water-heating energy consumption by as much as 10 to 35 percent (homes that use a lot of hot water save less).