DIY Green Home Projects

We are spending more time than ever at home. The silver lining is we have time to address some of those home improvement projects we had on the back-burner to help make our homes healthier, efficient, and comfortable. It also will help us save extra money on our utility bills.

1. Change out light bulbs to support a 100% LED household. This easy, low-cost improvement can save up to five times on your lighting costs to help offset some of those extra hours we are now using lights at home. It can also be turned into a fun scavenger hunt for the family.

What you’ll need: pen and paper or your phone to to track the types of bulbs that need replacing, & replacement bulbs.

Go through each room of the house. If you see any bulbs that have the wire within, or a reading of 60-100 watts on the outside of the glass, it is an incandescent bulb. Take note of the shape, location, and brightness of the bulb you’d prefer to replace it with. Once you’ve completed the inventory, place the order and get to replacing those wasteful bulbs! Helpful link: Lighting Buying Guide

Wondering what to do with your incandescent bulbs? There are some fun up-cycling projects out there. Our favorite is turning an old bulb into a air plant terrarium

2. Improve the flow of your faucets. This is another easy, low-cost project that can save you water, energy, and money. Efficient-flow aerators restricts the flow of water from a faucet and can save up to 30% of your household water usage.

Check each of your faucets for the current water flow. The standard flow is typically 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). If you cannot read the aerator, you can also test it by running your faucet for 30 seconds. If more than a gallon of water is captured, a replacement aerator is recommended. Replace aerators with 1.0 gpm for bathroom faucets, and 1.5 gpm for kitchen faucets. It’s recommended to purchase aerators with the WaterSense logo.  

What you’ll need: wrench, plumbing tape (often included with the aerator kit), and aerators ($1-5/each). 

3. Improve the flow of your showers. We’re on a roll with saving water, and while we’re in the bathroom let’s improve our showers too. The current national energy policy requires new showers to have a maximum of 2.5 gpm installed, however, older models could have as much as 5 gpm flow. Check your shower heads for the flow rate. If you can’t see it, capture the water for 30 seconds. If it’s more than one gallons, make note of the hook-up style of your showerhead and order yourself one with a WaterSense label. They come in all different colors and styles to match the look and feel of your bathroom. 

What you’ll need: wrench, plumbing tape, WaterSense showerhead(s)

4. Install / Check on Your CO Monitor – Because we’re spending more time in the home than ever, and probably cooking a lot more, it is a good idea to have a CO monitor that gives ppm readings. This means, you can track the levels of low-exposure carbon monoxide in addition to it just alerting you when there is an alarming amount present. Keep one next to your gas appliances, like your stove, and make sure the battery is working.

What you’ll need: (possibly) replacement batteries, CO monitor

5. Hot water pipe insulation – Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can maintain temperature 2-4 degrees higher than un-insulated pipes. has a great how-to on how to do this project. It requires a little more time than the other projects on the list, but will help save energy on water heating and water (because less time spent waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet. 

What you’ll need:  tape measure, pipe sleeves, box cutter or scissors, cable ties or tape to secure the pipe sleeves.

Helpful link:


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Green Multifamily Financing Opportunities

Whether you’re building from the ground up or planning to retrofit an existing property, going green has proven benefits, from lower utility costs and increased affordability for tenants to lower maintenance costs and attractive financing options for owners. Check out these green financing programs for multifamily properties:


Fannie Mae’s Multifamily Green Financing  

  • Green Rewards. Financial incentives for green property improvements, including lower interest rates, additional loan proceeds, and a free energy and water audit.
  • Green Building Certifications. Lower interest rates for properties that have earned a green building certification recognized by Fannie Mae, such as GreenPoint Rated.
  • Healthy Housing Rewards. Lower interest rates for newly constructed or rehabilitated affordable housing properties that incorporate health-promoting design features and resident services.

Freddie Mac’s Green Advantage

  • Green Certified. Affordable rental properties that have earned a green certification such as GreenPoint Rated may qualify for discounted loan pricing.
  • Green Rebate. Properties with an EPA Energy Star score can receive a $5,000 rebate on new loans.
  • Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) Financing Consent. Freddie Mac Multifamily can grant consent for financing from qualifying Commercial PACE programs.
  • Green Assessment and Green Assessment Plus. Reimburses up to $4,000 of the cost of a Green Assessment report that shows borrowers how they can save energy or water by making property improvements.
  • Green Up and Green Up Plus. Borrowers who commit to making improvements based on a Green Assessment and are able to save 30% in energy or water usage (with a minimum of 15% from energy) can get better pricing and access to more funds.

LIIF Community Capital and Grants for Green Facilities

This revolving loan fund provides acquisition, construction, and term financing to affordable housing developers. Projects incorporating green building elements, energy and water efficiency retrofits or green certification may enhance the borrower’s eligibility for financing.

National Housing Trust Green Retrofit Preservation Loan

Energy efficiency and solar loans up to $1,000,000 offered to multifamily property owners.


Bay Area Multifamily Capital Advance Program (BAMCAP)

Multifamily property owners can access assistance to bring down interest rates from their lender to finance an energy upgrade. BAMCAP provides loan capital at 0% interest to the lender, which means the property owner only pays interest on the loan capital supplied by the lender. Financing is available up to $5,000 per unit or $500,000 per project, whichever is less.


Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs allow property owners to finance energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy improvements and repay them through their property tax bills. BayREN’s website lists PACE programs in California. Commercial PACE is available in both California and Florida. 

San Diego Gas and Electric Multifamily Solutions

Multifamily programs include incentives for comprehensive retrofits, no-cost or rebated upgrades, electric vehicle charging stations, on-bill financing, common area upgrades, and solar on affordable housing (SOMAH). SDG&E also offers savings programs for tenants, including energy bill discounts, medical baseline allowances and no-cost energy-saving home improvements.

If you are a single family homeowner, check out the other resources available here:

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How California Utility Customers Can Save in 2020!

It’s the start of a new decade. The long wish list of home improvement projects may seem daunting, and lack of time and money can prevent us from taking that first step.  We’ve compiled a list of available local utility resources and incentives to help kick-start making your home more efficient.


Featuring: California Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs)

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Green Industry Ambassador: Simone Dadsetan

In this new segment, Green Industry Ambassador, we’re introducing green building professionals that are going above and beyond, paving the way for greener homes in California. Green Industry Ambassador recognizes these professionals for their commitment to green building, holding themselves and their work to higher standards, and educating others on how they can live better, improve their home’s impact on their families, communities, and the planet.

Read more

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1878 Napa Victorian Farmhouse Goes GreenPoint Rated

“When the sellers of a recently renovated Victorian farmhouse came to me, I thought you know, I think this home is a green home, and if not we could be really close,” said Kimberly Kinsel, a full-time REALTOR®️ in the Napa Valley Area of California with a National Association of Realtors (NAR) Green Designation and GreenPoint Rated Training.  The farmhouse, built in 1878, by Zenas Garfield, a Napa County Supervisor, was originally built on more than five hundred acres of orchard.  The family that owns the home bought it almost 50 years ago, and began renovations in 2017 and completed in 2018. Although the renovations were meant to bring the home into the 21st century, the owners were careful to preserve and replicate as many of the charming Victorian era details as possible. Read more

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Beautiful Energy-Efficient GreenPoint Rated Home, Showcases the Health and Comfort Benefits of Green Homes

This recently listed energy-efficient home received a GreenPoint Rated Elements Existing Home Label, GreenPoint Rated’s new existing home label that represents the gold standard in green homes. It proves that your home remodel was built to trusted environmental standards and evaluated by a certified GreenPoint Elements Rater. The home showcases the health and comfort benefits that you would expect from a green home such as energy-efficient appliances and energy-saving features including:

  • Energy Star washer
  • Dishwasher low-flow faucets
  • Low-flow toilet
  • Solar + Tesla power wall
  • Detached garage
  • Efficiency drip irrigation 
  • Mulched plant beds
  • Energy Star ceiling fans
  • LED lighting 
  • Lighting controls throughout the house
  • Hardwood floors throughout the house
  • Range hood vents to the outside
  • Bathroom fans vent to the outside

The interest was immediate for the home with:

  • Multiple offers within 48-hours
  • The sellers are in escrow with an accepted offer above the list price

The home even received an offer letter that specifically stated their enthusiasm with the green home label. “After learning what it meant to be a GreenPoint Rated [home], we are thrilled to have the opportunity of owning such a sustainable home,” said one potential buyer.

Green home labels are a great way to promote your listings, differentiating them as higher-quality, which may help you to sell listings faster and for more.

California Homeowners: How Green Is Your Home? Use our quick and easy Green Home Calculator to find out! 

Learn more about our GreenPoint Rated trainings and other offerings for real estate professionals here, and more information for homeowners here.

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Why Going Green Is a Win-Win: A Homeowner’s Perspective

Redondo Beach GreenPoint Rated Home

Redondo Beach GreenPoint Rated Home

Last summer, an endurance athlete from Arizona named Erin and her husband purchased a GreenPoint Rated townhome in Redondo Beach. The home’s unique design and construction promised its owners a smarter, cleaner home with lower energy bills.

About the Home
Built by local green developer Fred Koch, the 1,800-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath townhome is a contemporary craftsman just a few blocks from the beach along Highway 1. It was Erin and her husband’s first home purchase. They had previously rented what Erin describes as a 1930s-era, energy-sucking apartment.

“I was already in love with the place when I saw it,” says Erin, “but the greenness made me feel really great about buying it.”

Standout Features
Aside from the home’s open layout and excellent location, several green features stood out at once to Erin:

  • clean, vibrant, LED lighting
  • tankless water heater
  • low-flow toilets
  • drought-tolerant landscaping with succulents

Other green features were built right into the home and can’t be easily seen, although they contribute significantly to the home’s durability and energy efficiency:

Fly ash concrete
Made with the ash “waste” that is captured during coal production, this concrete is stronger and has a more sustainable bond than Portland cement.

Cement board
Used for siding, cement board is stronger than wood, energy efficient, and practically maintenance free.

The “heat island effect” can cause the membrane found on rooftop and balcony decks to separate from drain systems, which can lead to expensive water damage. Instead of roof drains, the home uses scuppers supported by rain gutters to manage exterior water flow.

Fence metal
Metal flashing protects the wood fencing from absorbing water, preventing deterioration.

Climate-rated house wrap
Using house wrap rated to the appropriate climate zone allows a home to “breathe” properly.

Why Buy Green?
Now that Erin and her husband have lived in the home for a few months, the things that bring the couple the most pleasure are how light and airy the home is, the outdoor spaces, and the open layout for entertaining—all of which were thoughtfully designed with comfort and performance in mind.

Erin professes love for the home’s water-efficient master bath, although she confides that low-flow toilets don’t flush as powerfully as she’d like.

She’s pleased to report that her water and electric bills are comparable to their rental, which was considerably smaller than the townhouse.

“It’s a win-win,” says Erin. “You’ll reduce your daily impact on the environment and use less water, which we all know is massively important right now. And you’ll reduce your electricity and water bills.

“I wouldn’t want another place that’s not green,” she adds. “It’s a crime not to build green homes like this one going forward.”

Want to Know More about GreenPoint Rated?


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South Bay Builder Rides Wave of Green in Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach in winter (estrategy@en.wikipedia)

Hermosa Beach in winter. Photo credit: [email protected]

The quiet beachfront community of Hermosa Beach is getting noticed as an up-and-coming destination for green building in Southern California, and the arrival of South Bay developer Fred Koch is a case in point.

Koch is building a duplex that is exceptional not only for its energy efficiency and sweeping ocean views, but for its ground-breaking green certification in Hermosa Beach. The property is the first to take advantage of a city incentive that awards a 50% rebate on building plan check fees for achieving a green building certification. No other city in the South Bay offers such an incentive, but no developer has taken advantage of it before Koch.

“Hermosa Beach is leading the way for other cities,” says Koch. “The city both values and incentivizes green building. It’s walking the walk and talking the talk.”

GreenPoint Rated Certification

Koch’s dramatic new residence will achieve the GreenPoint Rated certification for its all-around excellence in energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, indoor air quality, and community siting. Koch is a big fan of the GreenPoint Rated system. “It’s the most user friendly system for both the end user and the builder,” he says, adding that GreenPoint Rated is tailored for California-related issues and requirements to move the industry above California code in a way that other certification systems are not.



Rendering of Koch’s GreenPoint Rated home at 651 10th Street in Hermosa Beach

Whole House Design

Koch designed the Hermosa Beach project with Kevin Stringfield of Robert C. Stringfield Architects, with whom he worked on a green home in nearby Redondo Beach. Koch and Stringfield evaluate each component of the house and determine what energy efficient features represent the best value for the customer.

For example, Stringfield helped turn the building’s least energy-efficient attributes – sliding glass doors with panoramic views of the ocean – into green assets.

“To optimize the view of the ocean, the living areas were placed on the second floor with wrap-around decks and glass doors,” says Stringfield. But, as most builders know, glass is an energy-efficiency liability: Large amounts of glazing and lack of insulation lead to heat loss, as well as increased solar heat.

“These doors — and how they are arranged along the west and south sides — became the most important aspect of the building in terms of design, structure and climate control.” Koch and Stringfield minimized heat gain by adding appropriately sized overhangs above the doors. They also reduced the size of the doors from the original design to increase the insulation along the walls and allow room for the required structure.

“The prevailing wind is from the west, and having such a large amount of operable windows and doors facing that direction allows the occupants to passively cool the house,” explains Stringfield.

Sustainable Materials

While the wraparound deck was particular to the Hermosa Beach property, other energy efficient features are part and parcel of Koch’s buildings. For example:

  • Fly ash: Fly ash concrete, which is made with the ash “waste” that is captured during coal production, offers a stronger and sustainable bond than Portland cement. Koch says he uses it in all of his projects.
  • Cement board: Koch favors cement board over virgin wood or vinyl for siding. It’s stronger than wood, energy efficient, and practically maintenance free. “The price point is the same,” he adds.
  • LEDs: “They are a cleaner light, both in terms of the quality of light and energy use,” says Stringfield.

“This project fits nicely into the personality of what Hermosa Beach residents want: clean, safe, healthy homes,” explains Koch. “It’s a population that’s going to appreciate what we’re doing. They have a passion for these features more than other folks in other cities.”

Kudos to Stringfield and Koch for going beyond the minimum code requirements, for earning a GreenPoint Rated certification and for understanding the benefits of building green.

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Historic California Hotel to Get GreenPoint Rated

One of Oakland, CA’s most historic hotels has just celebrated a grand reopening — and will soon boast an impressive GreenPoint Rated certification. On May 15, 2014, the GreenPoint Rated team joined the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, StopWaste staff and many others gathered to celebrate this achievement.

Built in 1929, the California Hotel is a treasured part of Oakland’s rich cultural history. Acquired by EBALDC in 2011, the building has undergone extensive renovation, including many green and energy efficiency upgrades. Today, it provides 137 homes that are affordable and modern. And as the GreenPoint Rated label affirms — safe, healthy, and green as well. The hotel is in the final stages of achieving its certification, which will be awarded soon. Congratulations to EBALDC!

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Financing Makes It Easy to Green Your Next Home

It’s easy to fall in love with a fixer-upper, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer on a budget.  You see the character, charm, and potential of a home, but worry about the costs to modernize and upgrade it, right?

You’ve got more options than you think. The best time to undertake green home improvements — to transform a fixer into a comfortable home with lower utility bills — is during your new home purchase process. A new generation of innovative programs allows you to finance the cost of your renovations through your mortgage. That means one mortgage, one closing, and no additional money down. Talk to your lender about the following options:

FHA Energy Efficient Mortgage
Finance the cost of improvements through a current or new FHA mortgage for 1-4 unit existing single family homes and condos, with no additional income qualification or cash down. Can be used for a range of upgrades, from HVAC modifications to insulation and windows.

FHA 203k Loan
Finance a broad range of repairs and renovations—including energy efficiency upgrades—up to $35,000 for the 203 streamline or $150,000 for the 203K full. Improvements must be completed within 120 days of closing.

Escrow Holdback
This conventional financing option can fund up to 10% of the improved value of the home, or $25,000. Upgrades must be completed within 30 days of closing.

Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage
This conventional home loan provides a convenient way for borrowers to make renovations, repairs, or improvements totaling up to 50 percent of the as-completed value of the property.

Fannie Mae HomePath Renovation Mortgage (REO or Real Estate Owned properties)
This conventional home loan provides an additional 20 percent of the purchase price or $30,000, whichever is less, to pay for a wide range of repairs to HomePath-branded homes owned by Fannie Mae.

Jumbo Renovation
Finance up to $250,000 in major renovations through your mortgage, from green upgrades to kitchen and bathroom remodels. Can be used only for primary, owner-occupied residences


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