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Six Tips to Make Your Garage Greener

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Changes that you make in your garage can save energy and improve your home’s environmental profile. Attached garages serve as conduits for heating and cooling losses in the home, and fumes can leak from the garage into living areas. Hazardous materials often collect in garages where they get spilled or forgotten, and can harm pets or pose health threats. Many household pests make homes in cluttered garages, and the best way of preventing infestations on your property is to control garage areas with preventive measures, regular cleaning and environmentally safe pest-control products.

Resist turning your garage into a storage facility, because most people accumulate junk that they will never use. Garages become physical hazards to health, and finding useful items becomes nearly impossible when things aren’t labeled and stored properly. Making your garage green is one of the easiest ways to lower energy and utility usage, reduce your carbon footprint and ensure safety in the home. Here are six tips for greener garages:

1. Change Light Bulbs or Fixtures

Incandescent lights consume more energy than most people think, but you can replace traditional bulbs with energy-efficient LED lighting or CFLs. If you use your garage as a workshop, consider installing task lighting to reduce energy costs while providing enough light to work safely.

2. Green the Doors in Your Garage

Most garage doors are relatively flimsy, so garage-door insulation becomes important for conserving energy and preventing outdoor air from leaking into garages and attached homes. Energy Star recommends using well-insulated garage doors with R-values between 13 and 17.5 percent. These types of doors come with built-in insulation while most garage doors use polystyrene materials that only have R-values in the 5 to 7 range. Other energy-saving ideas for your garage doors include the following green practices:

– Seal cracks and install weather-stripping to prevent hot and cool air from getting in or out of your garage.
– Choose doors made from recycled content to promote the responsible use of resources.
– Keep automatic garage doors in good working order to reduce the time that doors remain open, which prevents heat or cool air from escaping.
– Caulk around any doors from the garage to your home or yard, and check for leaks in windows and doors.

3. Install a Ventilation Fan

An exhaust or ventilation fan prevents stale garage interiors, circulates air more efficiently and helps to disperse dangerous fumes in garages caused by petroleum products, cleaners and chemicals.

4. Handle Hazardous Materials Safely

Many people store hazardous materials in their garages that they never use, which pose a risk of spills, off-gassing, and poisoning pets and children. Paints, chemical solvents and petroleum-based products are among the top hazards to healthy living, according to the DIY Network. Pesticides, auto fluids, paints and other chemicals can leak, pose fire hazards, generate toxic fumes, and cause burns and respiratory problems. Eco-friendly chemical storage practices in the garage include the following habits:

– Road salt and ice-melting compounds can cause pets to develop diarrhea and vomiting, so keep these products secure.
– Antifreeze smells sweet, and as little as one tablespoon can kill a cat, so wipe spills immediately.
– Consider transferring chemicals to a shed set aside for that purpose.
– Keep your garage clean and uncluttered by recycling materials, organizing tools and work areas, and making sure that chemicals don’t filter into the ground or air.

5. Building, Decorating and Insulating Materials

Use energy-efficient building materials for garage structures, doors and windows. Learn how to insulate your garage in an eco-friendly way:

– Insulate pipes, water heaters and ductwork to make garages weather-tight.
– Caulk between floors and garage walls.
– Insulate garage walls and ceilings with the right R-value insulation.
– Replace older windows with Energy Star-certified versions.
– Consider installing solar panels to make your garage self-heating.
– Use eco-friendly paint to avoid the volatile organic compounds found in regular paint.
– Hose down garage floors regularly to remove road salt, slip hazards, stains and auto fluids.
– Monitor garage walls and foundations for cracks, moisture, mold and discoloration.

6. Conserve Water for Washing Vehicles

You can collect rainwater from your garage roof to wash vehicles, clean the garage and even water your lawn. Simply channel water from the roof into a rain barrel, and use the water for any number of purposes around the house, such as washing pets and cleaning sidewalks and patios.

You can reduce energy usage, increase comfort, protect your family and prevent environmental damage by making your garage greener. Most people don’t think about the garage when looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, but garages provide many opportunities for practicing green habits.