Don’t waste your money on these 7 ‘Green’ items

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People want green homes and investors want to give them green homes.  The logic is simple, the demand is there and the profits should follow, right?  Wrong.  The cardinal mistake I see investors make when they attempt to ‘green’ their investments is spending too much.  They spend money on things that flat out aren’t worth it.

Don’t waste your money on:

1. LEED certification – Getting an investment property LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is like giving a Ferrari to your grandmother. It’s overkill, from the cost to the time it takes to get certified, etc. LEED is usually not worth it for investment properties.  LEED makes sense when you’re doing new construction (sometimes) but that’s about the only time.

2. Certified eco-consultants – Although I hold several certifications I would still say it’s not worth it to hire an eco-consultant purely based on the certifications he/she may hold.  Hire based on past performance and experience; don’t be lured by flashy certifications.  Being certified largely means you are a good test taker.

3. Bamboo floors – Sure it’s touted as sustainable but since 90% is shipped from China, is it really sustainable?  Save your money and go with cork flooring.  Its cheaper, healthier, greener and much more in demand.

4. LED lights – Until the price comes down, they just don’t make much sense right now.  They may last forever but the LED technology continues to increase while the price continues to drop.  Wait a year and then check them out.

5. Solar – If you own a commercial building, multi-family complex or spend more than $800/month on your electricity then you should investigate solar.  If you don’t fit into one of those three groups, pass for now as it still takes too long to see much of a payoff.

6. High-end ultra low-flow toilets/sinks/shower-heads – If you aren’t getting a big rebate with these purchases, you’re better off not buying them.  Go with a regular low-flow model and look for aerators to install.  For example, you can turn a regular low-flow sink into an ultra low-flow sink simply by adding a sink aerator that costs less than a buck.

7. Tankless water-heaters – At first blush this should be a no-brainer. Tankless should be much more efficient that regular water heaters, right?  Not necessarily so when you consider they cost 2-3 times as much to buy, cost more to maintain and often save less than $200 annually compared to an Energy Star water heater.  You’re better off insulating your hot water pipes and installing a water heater blanket.

Hope that helps, as always I look forward to your questions and comments.

About Author

I help real estate investors increase profits and property values through a variety of green strategies. I help clients find hidden rebates, tax incentives and credits to maximize returns on any property.


  1. Re point #5, let us not forget the federal credits for solar panel installation, which can help businesses and homeowners.

    It’s 30% of the cost of solar panel installation.

    And as long as it’s installed between January 1, 2009 and December
    31, 2016, there is *no* maximum credit.

    So $10,000 installation = $3,000 credit. Not bad. And a lot of the utilities and local municipalities offer free/low interest loans too.


    • Andrew, Good point.

      My thought is that while that is a good rebate, you’re still spending $7000 to save roughly 30-40% on a utility bill. If that utility bill is $200/month, that’s a savings of $60-80 monthly. So, to spend $7000 net ($10,000 up front) to save $68-80 per month seems like overkill to me.

      You’re point is a good one, though, thanks for sharing..

      • I think the easiest way to look at any investment is the present value of it (PV). If you consider the future money-flow of 70$ per month which is what you save and you also consider that the installed modules will provide 80% of their nominal output after 30 years. Using a conservative 5% energy rate inflation you end up with $13,039.71 PV, which is twice the money you invest. Of course if you wait for the PV module prices to drop further you might end up with an even better investment, but all in all it is already a good investment financially.

    • Hi Lauren,

      Good question. Here are my quick answers:
      1. Low-VOC paint
      2. Sink aerators
      3. Low-flow shower-heads (Oxygenics makes a nice one)
      4. Blown wall insulation
      5. Cool roof
      6. High-efficiency appliances
      7. High-efficiency sprinkler-heads for irrigation.

      Hope that is helpful!

  2. About point #2, don’t the certifications issued contain some sort of experience and past performance already? I just think that maybe when we get these certifications, they vouch for all our professional capacity about something we got certified on. Although you do have a point there on your last statement. If these certifications are just obtained after acing certification exams, well, I guess it is high time they change that.

    • John, In theory you’re right. Unfortunately in practice there are people who are certified who don’t know a ton about the topic they are certified on. For example, there are tons of people across the country who are LEED AP’s. Of those certified, I’d guess less than 30% have actually worked on a LEED project. So 70% have no experience at all with LEED other than passing the test. Thanks for your comment..Jim

  3. John Lister

    Hey, Jim,
    Perhaps you could put a date on the post. This is very misleading given the speed at which the cost of things change and the lifespan of programs. Examples are the PV rebates and cost of LED lights. I have to read the whole post before I get to the comments, which have dates.

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