Monday I wrote “Ignore NYT’s Green Home column.”

I was critical both of the author Julie Scelfo and Eric Corey Freed, the author of Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies. But having corresponded with Freed, it seems that his recommendations were taken somewhat out of context. He in fact provided a rough list of 20 things to do.

Illustration of a drain-water heat recovery system.

So I asked him for his list, which he cleaned up a bit (reprinted below). I am not going to number this list because the list is not in any particular order and in any case every home is different.

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The list pretty much covers the vast majority of my recommendations. I do think that for those who want a truly green home, you’ll want to get 100 percent renewable power from a local certified provider if you can, but that should be done in concert with the efficiency measures below. I also recommend getting your home tested for dangerous pollutants.

Finally, there is one technology I had never heard of until I hired someone to help green my home a few years ago. That is a “Drain-Water Heat Recovery” system, featured in the picture. It costs a few hundred dollars and pays for itself in a few years — and everything you could possibly want to know about it can be found here.

If you want to know more about Freed, buy his book, or even hire his services, go to Here is the list:

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  • Insulate and turn down your hot water heater. It only takes 123 degrees needed to kill Legionnaires Disease. You can save up to 10 percent off your water heating bill.
  • Insulate your hot and cold water pipes, especially the first 10 feet from the water heater. You’ll get a 5 percent savings off your hot water bill.
  • Install a dual flush (ie: Brondell) kit into your toilet, or at least insert a 2 liter bottle into the back of the tank.
  • Install occupancy sensors on select rooms around the house. Look for rooms where lights are left on. The California Energy Commission estimates 35-45 percent savings.
  • Use smart strips (or manually unplug devices) to kill vampire loads. $3 billion a year lost from Vampire loads.
  • Replace your thermostat with a programmable model. Look for EnergyStar pre-programmed model. Save $180 a year off your heating bill.
  • Seal your ducts with mastic. Most homes average 30 percent duct leakage. $300 a year in potential savings.
  • Install a simple greywater system, ie: Aqus or SinkPositive. Stop flushing fresh drinking water down the toilet.
  • If you repaint, use only zero (not low) VOC paints, or try earthen plaster finishes instead. The plaster potentially adds thermal mass to your wall and maintains a consistent temperature.
  • Caulk and seal around your windows and exterior doors. Most homes average a 20 percent air leakage. Replace leaky single paned windows with low-e, double glazed ones.
  • If you have a pool, install a solar pool heater. Save water and energy by using a pool cover.
  • Skip the sprinklers, install a drip irrigation system. Better yet, plant xeriscaping plants to avoid the need for additional watering altogether.
  • Install an ultra low flow showerhead. (ie: Evolve, Bricor or Oxygenics.) You can jump from the standard 2.5 gallons per minute down to 0.5 gpm.
  • Install a whole house water filter and never buy bottled water again.
  • Install a solar powered clothes dryer (aka a clothesline). Your dryer consumes 10 percent of home energy use.
  • Recycle AND compost at home.
  • Explore solar leasing programs (ie: Sungevity, Citizen RE, Solar City, et al).
  • Install a whole house fan into your attic to avoid using air conditioning on all but the hottest of days. Add a solar powered attic vent to flush the heat out. Cut AC bill by 30 percent. Install ceiling fans to help. Cooling is really the feeling of cooling, not cold air.
  • Insulate your attic. Be careful to not block the soffit vents. Add a radiant barrier if you re-roof. Use light colored roofing (ideally reflective) to create a cool roof. Lowers temperature at roof by 70 degrees.
  • Upgrade old appliances to smaller, EnergyStar models. Target your refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer first. Move fridge away from oven. Replacing a fridge older than 1991 will pay for its replacement in less than a year.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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