I've been talking with friends and coworkers about how I can reduce the amount of pollution generated by my house (heating the air, heating the water, cooking the food, etc.) Everybody has a different suggestion -

  • Replace my natural gas water heater with electric
  • Put solar panels on the roof
  • Buy wind energy credits
  • Carbon offsets
  • Geothermal
  • Don't replace my electric oven with gas (which I had been thinking about, since I hear how great they are for cooking)

I'm thinking that each of these has an amount of carbon reduced, and a cost, resulting in a "carbon per dollar" value. And yes, I realize that will require a calculation that is specific to my house, my specific energy usage, and how my electric utility generates its electricity.

Is there a resource that lets me figure out, for each one, (1) how much of an impact it actually has, and (2) how much would it cost, so I can figure out the carbon reduced per dollar?

  • Right - but - I want to know which things give me the biggest "bang for the buck". Composting and recycling help, and I do them both already, but how much impact do they actually have? Jan 27, 2021 at 3:32
  • 3
    Buying less stuff would be right up there. Jan 27, 2021 at 4:02
  • 1
    I think this question (seeking data sources) would be a good fit over on Sustainability.SE.
    – LShaver
    Jan 27, 2021 at 4:51
  • 1
    @FreeMan thanks for the heads up on water heating speed. I didn't even know that was a thing! Jan 27, 2021 at 15:36
  • 1
    @LShaver I've posted over on sustainability, thanks for the tip! Jan 27, 2021 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


Pick the low-hanging fruit.

For the vast majority of homes, improving insulation and airsealing (caulking cracks, foaming gaps, etc.) will make the largest impact on both operating cost and pollution produced, by reducing the amount of whatever energy source you use to heat and cool your home.

Maintaining the appliances you have to ensure that they operate as efficiently as possible also reduces wasted energy and excess pollution and your bills. Have you flushed the water heater this year? Is the vent/chimney clean, have the burners been adjusted or maintained to burn clean?

In many (not all) cases, replacing a functioning appliance before it becomes non-economical to repair is contributing to pollution, since large parts of the appliance are not actually recycled and end up as trash.

If you improve the airsealing enough that you need one, a Heat or Energy recovery ventilator will save additional energy on heating or cooling fresh air, while also keeping your house healthy to live in.

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