Forget wondering who’s the fairest; when it comes to choosing home improvements that make your home look good — from the curb and to potential buyers — it may make more sense to ask “Who’s the greenest of them all?” Sustainable home improvements not only help reduce utility costs and boost owner satisfaction, they also make a house more appealing to potential buyers.

In fact, buyers are willing to shell out up to 10 percent more for new homes certified green, according to a January real estate report by Harvard University. Return on investment for certain types of green improvements — such as replacing older, less efficient doors and windows — also tends to be high, meaning sellers recoup much of the initial cost of the improvement when they sell the home.


Here are two sustainable home improvements you can make:

1. Eliminate incandescents.

You’ll have to do it soon anyway, so it may pay to start the process now and phase incandescent light bulbs from your home. A federal law banning incandescent light bulbs means that by the end of 2014, you probably won’t be able to find one of the old-fashioned power-guzzlers on store shelves anymore. Instead, more energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) will dominate the marketplace.

2. Switch to a solar water

heater. Switching to solar power for heating water can be a huge energy and money-saver. Solar hot water systems rely on free energy from the sun to heat a home’s hot water. A typical system can use 50 to 80 percent less energy than traditional heating systems, according to Velux America, marketers of solar-powered hot water systems. That reduction can help a typical household trim its annual energy costs by 10 to 15 percent.

“While the initial cost of installing a solar-powered system is often higher than installing a traditional water heater, most homeowners find the energy savings allows them to recoup that cost in just a few years,” said Jim Cika of solar system manufacturer Heliodyne. “What’s more, homeowners may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost to buy and install a residential solar water heating system.”