Mike's Blog


My 10 Inexpensive Green Renovation Tips

I was recently giving a talk to a group of real estate investors about green real estate. I was discussing our latest renovation in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Va. Of course investors are always concerned about the cost of renovations and asked if it would really be feasible to offer green features in a lower price starter home. My response was immediately...YES. So below are 10 low cost renovation tips that you can do on even the lowest priced renovations...

1. Route your AC condensation line for irrigation. We always route the condensation line to a flower Green remodeling tipsbed...preferably one that gets lots of sunlight. Drill small holes in one piece of PVC to add drip irrigation to the bed. The great thing here is- the summer time is when you use your AC the most and its the time your plants need the most irrigation. Cost: $6 for the additional PVC line.

2. Outlet and switch insulating gaskets. One of the greatest sources of air leaks in a home is around your outlets and switches. For a quick and easy solution- pick up some insulating gaskets from Home Depot for just $1.37 for a pack of 8.

3. Solar Powered attic fan. During the summer, super hot air is trapped in attic spaces. Attic fans create an air-flow through the attic to remove excessive heat and moisture. Solar powered fans run on their own power and require no wiring. Cost: $217.

4. Motion Sensing Light Switches. How many time have you come home from the office only to find a light on in the bathroom. That light uses electricity and creates heat. Motion sensing light switches eliminate this problem. The switches can be set for auto or manual. We use these in high traffic areas prone to lights being left on(bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, etc). Cost: $14.95 each

5. Rain Barrels. We add two connected rain barrels to every renovation. Its a great conversation piece and marketing play. Cost: $60 a piece fully outfitted on Craigslist.

6. No-Voc Paint. When you're buying paint- how much are you spending per gallon? $15? $20? If you're buying even mid-level Behr paint from Home Depot you're paying $24 per gallon. For just a few bucks more you can get Sherwin-Williams Harmony No-Voc paint. Not only is the paint zero Voc's...the packaging is 100% recycled. Price: $27.50 per gallon at Sherwin-Williams

7. Installing the HVAC in conditioned space.  In many lower cost rehabs, the air handler unit of a new HVAC system is installed in either the attic, garage or crawlspace. We always try- its not always feasible- to place the entire air handler and ductwork within the conditioned space where there is less heat gain and heat loss. This is not always feasible as it affects the design on the home...but the energy savings can be substantial. Cost: $0 .Usually this doesn't cost any more than a typical install.

8. Programmable Thermostat. Programmable thermostats automatically adjusts to reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much. Depending on your family’s schedule, you can see significant savings by sticking with those settings or adjust them as appropriate for your family. Cost: $30-75

9.Recycled Paper Cellulose Insulation. Home Depot offers GreenFiber cellulose insulation for about $.40 a sq ft...significantly less expensive than the traditional "pink stuff". Cost: $10/ bag.

10. CFLs. Long the staple of the green movement- CFLs are now becoming less expensive. Making this switch is one of the most noticeable inexpensive green tips. Cost: $1 each sometimes less if you find a good sale.


These are just a few of the green attributes of our homes...we also include more expensive features such as tankless water heaters, hybrid HVAC systems, Paperstone countertops, dual-flush toilets, steam showers, low-flow faucets, FSC certified cabinets, radiant barriers and more. We're exploring options now for green roofs, greywater recycling systems, solar/wind systems, etc.




Mike Hogan

Associate Broker

RE/MAX Commonwealth





Comment balloon 8 commentsMike Hogan • July 15 2009 10:52PM


Hi Mike, thanks for sharing a great list of things to do "greener".  I remember using those switch insulating gaskets back in 1995 when we moved into an older house in Massachusetts and they really made a difference.  Now, I'm trying to get my husband to convert some old barrels we have into rain barrels!

Posted by Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES, Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living (Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch!) almost 10 years ago

Great post, many people thing going green is only possible for those with lots of extra money to spend.

Posted by Christine McInerney, The McInerney Team, Knoxville TN Homes For Sale (Great Life RE) almost 10 years ago

Silvia- Crack tha whip and get him going. Heck- you can buy rain barrells already outfitted for cheap money. It may be easier than getting the hubby to do it. :)


Christine/Jennifer....OK which one of you wrote this?  Youre very right- everything thinks money when they think green. But saving energy and water can be cheap.


Thanks for the comments!

Posted by Mike Hogan, MBA (The Hogan Group at Keller Williams Realty) almost 10 years ago


We are starting a "green agents" group in the company & it seems like you have done a lot of research on the subject. You touched on a few ideas that I was not aware of. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Posted by Monique Ting, Your agent under the sun (INET Realty Honolulu, HI) about 9 years ago

Hey Mike what about Attic fans ?

Pay Absolutley Nothing to your Electric Company to operate these Attic Fans !!!

Plus recieve a FEDERAL TAX CREDIT !

Both the Purchase Price AND Installation Cost of a solar attic fan qualify for a 30% federal tax credit. The credit applies to equipment placed in service between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2016. IRS Form # 5695 (Download pdf here) is needed to apply for this credit. Enter the installed cost on line 1 of the form. Does a solar attic fan qualify for a state tax credit? ANSWER: State tax incentives vary from state to state. Please check http://www.dsireusa.org/ to see your states incentive.

An Important Distinction
There is an important difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit. A tax deduction is subtracted from income before total tax liability is computed. On the other hand, a tax credit is subtracted directly from the total tax liability. This means that a deduction and a credit have very different values, with a credit being 3 or more times more advantageous to the taxpayer than a deduction. For example, a tax credit of $1,000 for someone in the 28% tax bracket is equivalent to a tax deduction of $3,571.

To obtain quantity pricing on the installation of Attic Fans or Whole House Fans contact :



Posted by Robert about 9 years ago

Green Your MLS

Posted by Kria Lacher, How you get there matters (Meadows Group inc. realtors.// World relo ) about 9 years ago

Ummm... Im not sure what you mean Kria...

Posted by Mike Hogan, MBA (The Hogan Group at Keller Williams Realty) about 9 years ago

Great post.  People are always looking for some of the more insexpensive ways to green their homes.  The CFL's in house alone save us $15/month on our electric bill.  Definintely worth the initial investments.  Not to mention the time saved not have to constantly change light bulbs!

Posted by Kristen Wheatley, Supporting Success - Best Job in the World! (Better Homes & Gardens | The Masiello Group) about 9 years ago