There’s no better time to start environmentally friendly home improvement projects than in the summer. With the sultry heat beating down, it’s tempting to turn on energy-consuming appliances like the AC, sprinkler system and lights as you hide from the sun. However, you can avoid costly energy bills and be eco-friendly with these three home projects:

Install Solar Panels

Summer is the best time to install solar panels. Because there is plenty of sunlight, having the right solar panel system could help you work toward having a 100 percent solar-powered home. Even if you aren’t in a super sunny area, you can capture indirect sunlight through clouds or humidity. In fact, solar panels work more efficiently in cool temperatures.

Summer is the best time to install solar panels. Because there is plenty of sunlight, having the right solar panel system could help you work toward having a 100 percent solar-powered home. Even if you aren't in a super sunny area, you can capture indirect sunlight through clouds or humidity. In fact, solar panels work more efficiently in cool temperatures.

Most home owners opt for a utility interconnected system, also referred to as a grid-tied system. If your roof faces south, southeast or southwest, this is a good option for your home, according to Kiplinger. However, make sure you have an experienced professional install this type of system so you know it is correctly hooked up to the local utility. By continually lowering your utility bill, these systems pay for themselves and are a smart investment for any green homeowner.

Put in Synthetic Grass

Few things make your home more attractive than a beautifully cut, lush green lawn. However, lawn upkeep costs don’t come cheap. Between the lawn fertilizers, landscaping fees and increased utility bills from keeping the sprinkler system on, it takes a lot to keep your lawn in pristine condition. And all of the water and chemicals are not good for the environment.

Do away with high maintenance costs and go green by installing synthetic grass. This helps you keep the appearance of healthy, green grass without the hassle of mowing, watering, trimming, weeding or fading your grass. It also prevents you from wasting water to keep your grass alive and well during the summer heat. As a bonus, you may be able to save more if you live in a state that offers rebates for residents who install synthetic turf.

Use a Smart Thermostat

With the heat continuing to rise in the weeks to come, you probably want to stay indoors. However, your AC can consume a lot of energy. To help cut costs and use less energy, install a smart thermostat like Nest to monitor your home’s environment. Nest automatically cools the house when it knows someone is home and goes on auto stand-by to save energy if nobody is home. Even when the AC is on, Nest controls the fan to push around cool air to control the temperature more efficiently.

According to two independent studies, Nest can save you 15 percent on your cooling. For the average home, this adds up to $131 to $145 a year. Not only will this project save you money, but it will use energy more efficiently, helping you reduce your impact on the environment.