Looking for ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste and water use? Plus maybe save some money and lighten your environmental footprint? You may be surprised how home improvement products made with plastics can help in so many ways. Here are some examples of products and projects that can make a difference for you and the environment—made possible by plastics.
The best place to start: look for opportunities to install modern insulation products that help protect your home from heat and cold. Many top performers are made with plastics. For example:
- Pre-cut, inexpensive plastic foam insulation sheets placed behind switch and outlet plate covers on exterior walls can help prevent air from sneaking in and out. Installation is easy, usually requiring just a screwdriver.
- A small bead of plastic-based caulk (such as silicone) can help seal the frames around windows and doors to reduce unwanted airflow.
- A wide variety of weather stripping—most made with plastic foam—helps trap air to provide a barrier between indoors and out.
- For larger leaks, polyurethane plastic foam sealant expands to fill cracks and crevices in your home where air can escape. It’s often sold in a can with a flexible tube applicator that makes it easy to use.
- Plastic window film can be applied directly to the glass windowpane, helping to insulate the window while still providing a clear view.
- For serious upgrades, retrofits, and additions, it’s typically best to seek the advice of an expert. Plastic foam insulation can significantly improve a home’s energy efficiency by reducing air loss. A building professional can help you decide whether polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam, polyiso foam, or another product is best for your needs.
- Got a chimney? An inflatable plastic “chimney balloon” is an easy way to help prevent warm air from escaping through your fireplace. The plastic balloon inflates to fit your chimney, acting as a plug to prevent unwanted airflow. After installation, the pillow’s inflation tube hangs down into the fireplace as a reminder to remove it before lighting a fire.
Recycled plastics in home design
Recycling plastics is a great way to reduce waste and conserve resources. And today recycled plastics are showing up in a variety of attractive home building and design products.
- Floor tiles and countertops made with recycled plastics, such as milk jugs, help create tough, durable surfaces for the kitchen, bathroom, foyer, and laundry room. Plus they come in myriad colors to suit any décor.
- It’s becoming increasingly easy to find soft yet durable carpeting made with recycled plastics, such as beverage bottles. Plus, approximately 90 percent of carpet underlay/padding today is made from recycled polyurethane foam.
- Tough outdoor rugs woven with recycled polypropylene plastic from used yogurt cups, margarine containers, and other packaging are made to be weather-resistant, fade-resistant, and easy to clean (you can often just hose ’em down).
- Furniture made with recycled plastics, such as used detergent bottles, is available for both inside and outside the home. These recycled plastic tables, chairs, benches, and other pieces are available in all sorts of styles and colors, and the recycled material is often durable enough to last for years.
Weather-resistant plastics make great sense in wet, outdoor spaces like your lawn and garden.
- From shovels to planters, durable plastic garden equipment doesn’t rust or rot in outdoor conditions, which can result in less waste.
- Plus, a variety of plastic garden equipment—tools, planters, pots, and other essentials— are made with recycled plastics. Check the labels at the store or add “recycled plastics” to your online shopping search.
- Check if you can return plastic pots to your local garden center—and even clean, flexible plastic product wraps from garden supplies and other products. Many large chains accept these for recycling. (Note: some communities accept plastic pots at curbside—just make sure you recycle everything you can.)
- Building a deck or a fence? Look for decking made with recycled plastics (bags, wraps, bottles, etc.)—it’s a durable, weather-resistant, bug-resistant option that helps keep used plastics out of landfills.
And with droughts, water scarcity, and high bills on many people’s minds, it’s time to get serious about …
Water Use Reduction
Innovative plastic products can help conserve water in your garden and your home.
- Check out soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems with plastic hoses for lawns and gardens—compared to typical sprinklers, both deliver water more conservatively to roots or plants to help prevent surface run off and evaporation.
- Rain barrels made with durable, weather-resistant plastics collect and store rainwater for your garden and lawn to help reduce your home’s water consumption.
- Chances are most of your water and sewage pipes are made with tough, corrosion-resistant plastics. Not only do plastic pipes not rust, less energy is used to pump water through them than metal pipes. If your home has old leaky pipes, replacing them with modern plastic pipes can lead to water and energy savings.
Speaking of pipes …
Modern plastic piping
- If you’re building a new home or upgrading, consider a heating/cooling system that uses flexible PEX plastic pipes that are installed throughout the building’s structure—heated or cooled liquid is circulated throughout the home to help maintain comfortable temperatures and improve energy efficiency.
- PEX piping also is used for modern water distribution systems that deliver hot or cold water though multiple hoses, which helps reduce water use and improves the energy efficiency of water delivery.