5 Low-Cost Green Upgrades You Haven't Thought Of

Sometimes when taking on a renovation it's easy to just knock down walls, pull out cabinets and start from scratch. But in reality a lot of the things we already own just need a little extra help — a new coat of paint, an extra pane of glass or a bit of insulation can help upgrade and extend lives without downsizing your wallet.

Before you make any drastic changes, perhaps some of these quick and expensive upgrades are just what your home needs:

Replace A Sash: Upgrading your windows doesn't require entire new units to achieve efficiency. Sometimes, whether the glass is broken, the seal is leaking or it's just plain old, a window can be upgrading by just merely replacing the sash (the part of the window that actually moves), rather than the entire window frame. Time: 30-40 minutes, Cost: Varies.

Install A Storm Window/Door: Storm windows and doors add an extra layer of protection and seal on your windows an doors. They aren't necessary for new efficient windows, but adding a storm window to old windows, particularly historic ones, can sometimes eliminate the need for new units. Adding storm doors provides an layer, as well as the added convenience of a screen for natural light and ventilation during them summer time. Time: 2 hours with 2 people, Cost: $100-300.

Insulate Plumbing Pipes: Uninsulated pipes lose their heat really quickly, which is bad because it means it will take longer for hot water to reach fixtures, more energy is used to the heat the water, and more water is lost during the wait. To avoid this issue wrap your pipes with insulation — it might not be the most glamorous upgrade, but it is easy and effective. Time: 1-2 hours, depending on amount of pipes, Cost: $1.50 - $7.50 / 6ft section of insulation.

Replace Hardware: Updating furniture, cabinets and doors doesn't need to be as drastic as replacement or even sanding or painting. Sometimes just replacing the hardware is enough for a quick facelift and pop of color or texture. Time: 5 minutes or less per knob, Cost: $2-15 per knob/pull.

Install Low Flow Fixtures: Converting your plumbing fixtures to be efficient and use less is as easy as installing a retrofit kit, replacing a shower head, putting on an aerator, etc. The point is there are so many options for each of your plumbing fixtures that you can choose to spend just a little money to upgrade or more money to replace — either way you're using less water. Time: 15-60 minutes or more depending on the project, Cost: $2 and up.

For those of you looking to take on a somewhat larger task...

(Images: As linked above)