Finding an energy and water efficiency upgrade for your home is a profound way to save more on those respective bills in the long run. Not to mention, it reduces your carbon footprint and helps to combat climate change. Here are just a few projects to consider: 

1. Seal it up

Air leaks around your home allow hot outside air to get in, making it a lot harder to keep your home cool. Seal these leaks with spray foam, caulk and weather stripping. Combined with adding more insulation, you can save up to $200 a year. 

2. Check your ducts

In a typical house, 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system may be lost due to leaks, holes and poor connections. Addressing these problems can improve the efficiency of your HVAC system and improve comfort. Start by sealing (and then insulating) easily accessible ducts, such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements and garages. 

3. Shave off gallons

Running water runs up your utility bills, so turn off the tap while you shave or brush your teeth. That simple step can save eight gallons of water daily.

4. Be a leak detective

The average American home wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water per year from easy-to-fix leaks. Tighten fixtures to nip those drips, or check for silent leaks in your toilet by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank for 10 minutes; if you see color in the bowl before you flush, your tank may need a new rubber flapper.

5. Shower better

Inefficient showerheads not only waste water, they waste energy used to heat that water. By replacing just one showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model, your family could save more than $70 per year in utility costs.

We sat with Massimo Ballucchi, Director of Product Design for Daltile, to break down the trends that so far define home renovation in the 21st century, and for a better understanding of the best ways you can select the materials and hardware that are right for your home.

What are the most important things that readers need to know about home improvement projects?

Massimo Ballucchi: Focus on the things that will make you happy in your home. It is your space; put your stamp on it. Make sure the remodel satisfies current and future needs. Get a contractor referral and shop for the best materials. Don’t skimp on big-ticket items like a floor tile or countertops, as those define your space.

How do trends affect the way that homeowners make their own mark in their homes?

They uniquely reflect cultural conversations taking place, such as the push for sustainability, organic products and inspiration drawn from what nature has to offer. That is why we see an increase in the popularity of wood, stone and marble looks in tile. Homeowners are bringing authentic materials that inspire them into their environments. These materials help them create a space that is a reflection of how they live and what brings them joy. There is an increasing desire to turn living spaces into warm, inviting and functional, more permanent homes.

What is your best tip for saving money without sacrificing quality?

First, think about the long-term effect. Will the product you buy today last for years to come, or will you be replacing it in a few years? A higher price now may prevent maintenance or replacement costs in the future. Choose low-maintenance products like tile to simplify your life and save money in the long-term.

Beyond researching online, visit a local store or dealer that specializes in the product you are looking for. They can help you stay in budget, might introduce you to a product or installation option you didn’t even know existed and some have designers on staff to guide you.

What is the best way to add value to a home for the smallest time commitment?

Take on small, yet meaningful projects that can help you make a personal statement. Focus on the entry area, the kitchen, master bathroom or a powder room, because these are central places where you can add noticeable value to your home. A backsplash, tiled entry or new countertop can add a personal note, but can also be changed out easily if new buyers have differing aesthetic preferences.

How has home improvement changed in the U.S. over the last five years?

Commercial spaces have embraced some of the new trends faster. For example, the use of large format tile, three-dimensional wall tile, accent walls or polished tile. This has crossed over to residential, as we are seeing homes are embracing clean lines and open spaces. Also, we are experiencing the resurgence of outdoor living. This trend is now extending the living room and kitchen to the outdoors, creating a larger space to gather, cook and entertain. In addition, because we are experiencing more multi-generational living, homeowners are remodeling to meet the extended family’s needs, such as a full bathroom, bedroom and living space on the first floor.

Why is it important for readers to consider taking on a new improvement project in their home?

These improvement projects provide readers the opportunity to create a place that reflects their personality and allows them to keep up with design trends. Millennials, who are buying their first home, have the opportunity to customize and differentiate their spaces. They work from home more, which requires functional and well-designed home offices.

On the other hand, baby boomers are living in their homes longer, are upgrading to more up-to-date features and preparing their homes for future needs. New home improvement projects go beyond just aesthetic and functional; they help to create your personal connection to your home.