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Ten Ways to Greenify Your Home Right Now

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Green Historic HomeWhen you look at the U.S. Green Building Council’s checklist for what makes a Green Home, you see a lot of things you can’t change after you’ve bought a home. Location? Can’t really move your house very easily, now can you? Size? Sorry, that’s pretty much set for us. And building design? It is what it is and unless you’re willing to do some major renovations, your design is set too.

However, there are plenty of things you can do right now to make your home a little nicer on the environment and cheaper on your wallet. They don’t require huge renovations or wholesale changes to your home, just little tweaks here or there that you probably won’t even notice… until you open your energy bill.

  1. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFLs save you money by using less electricity and they save you time because they last longer. They are more expensive, per bulb, than incandescents but many of their other downsides have been fixed (you can get a dimmable CFL now!). One that still persists is the presence of mercury. CFLs use a small amount of mercury so proper disposal is very important.
  2. Trade in that old refrigerator. This is a classic greenification tip because refrigerator efficiency has really improved in the last ten years. The rule of thumb is that if the fridge is over ten years old, replace it because it’s killing you on the electricity bill. This same rule applies to freezers as well.
  3. Check for and plug air leaks. Whether it’s summer or winter, it’s important to check your home for air leaks around windows and doors. That’s valuable air conditioning and heating going through those cracks, you don’t want to cool down the entire neighborhood right?
  4. Unplug devices you don’t use. Various appliances, especially those with an “instant on” button, use electricity even when they’re off. If you don’t need something, unplug it if it doesn’t have a hard switch. You can save yourself a bundle by not paying to power things you aren’t even using. A protip is to put similarly used devices on one power strip and unplugging that (to save you some time).
  5. Eat cold foods, cook less using the range or oven. This falls under the category of keeping yourself and keeping your home cool at the same time. The more you cook inside, the more heat it generates. If you have to cook, try using the grill outside or sticking with colder foods. It’s time to take a look at that cookbook on your shelf… you know, the one with the pretty pictures that you never use (we have a bunch of those!).
  6. Use your window blinds effectively. The only difference between a greenhouse and your house is that a greenhouse is made up entirely of windows. You only have a few of them but you can use window blinds to effectively trap or deflect the sun’s rays from penetrating your home. In the winter, open up the shades and let the light in to warm your home. In the summer, draw the blinds to reflect some of that light away from your home.
  7. Use a programmable thermostat. We recently signed up for BGE’s Peak Rewards program, which replaced our previous programmable thermostat with one that includes a touchscreen interface and is accessible from the internet. Best part of it all was that it’s free and I get up to bill credits for using it! If your electricity company doesn’t offer something similar, using a programmable thermostat still saves you money by only cooling or heating your home when you want it to.
  8. Install a two-stage flusher on toilets. This particular tip won’t save you that much money but it’ll help the environment by cutting down on how much water you use. You can pick up a $20 conversion kit from Home Depot and retrofit your existing toilets into a two-stage flush in about five minutes (ten minutes the first time you do it). At $20 a pop, it won’t save you money for a couple years (we pay $50 a quarter for water) but every bit counts.
  9. Buy a Kill-A-Watt and educate yourself on your appliance’s energy usage. We’ve had one for quite some time and every so often I use it to see how much energy certain appliances were using up. Sometimes it’s important to do this just to be educated, like when I learned it cost us about a dollar a night to use our in-room air conditioner (totally worth it).

And here’s a bonus tip, if you do the laundry, line dry them instead of using the dryer in the summer. The dryer will generate heat, which your A/C will have to fight against, and consume quite a bit of electricity. In the winter, you can still line dry to save on electricity but less so because the dryer does help warm up your house a little bit.

Outside of these elevent tips, anything you can do to reduce the consumption of natural resources and electricity will be good. What are your quick tips to greenify your home?

(Photo: minds-eye)

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29 Responses to “Ten Ways to Greenify Your Home Right Now”

  1. Katya says:

    It’s interesting to me that you assume the use of A/C, regardless of other approaches taken. I realize that there are some climates where it’s very difficult to do without A/C, but shouldn’t not using it, or using it only in some rooms or at some hours, be at least a consideration in greening a home?

    • Jim says:

      Yes I did and the reason is because this post is really for people who don’t usually think about the environmental impact of their actions but want to start. There are certainly other techniques you can use but when you’re just starting out, it’s not feasible to have them cut out the a/c for alternatives all the time.

      I hope that makes sense?

  2. Harry says:

    I don’t see many people suggesting window films or tints for saving money. We have western facing windows, so we suffered from glare and heat during the summer. We found that installing window tint on these windows helped with both problems. Take a look at SnapTint window tint kits, we found their pricing affordable and quick to install.

    • Shirley says:

      We have only one west facing window and my computer sits right under it. The glare and incoming heat of late afternoon sun was intolerable. :-(

      We hung an inexpensive roll-up bamboo shade on the outside and now it’s not a problem.

  3. Paul Sokal says:

    We’ve been air drying our wash for 30 years, never owning a clothes drier.

    I recall being delighted by a cartoon in the Whole Earth catalog depicting a national solar technology enterprise displaying their conception of a solar clothes drier and the hippies demonstrating a simple clothes line.

    To the point, an additional benefit to air drying in winter is to do so in your home where the evaporating clothes humidify the dry winter air.

    • Anonymous says:

      I grew up in the country with 6 sisters and no clothes drier. I support summertime line drying but in the winter time, it takes forever for clothing to dry. Even if your home is heated by an inefficient, polluting, hot-as-hades wood stove.

      • I grew up in the country with *7* siblings. We used the outside line in the summer, but not in the winter.

        We also had this old ringer washing machine. I think my mom finally got rid of it when they moved to town about 5 years ago.

        Well, I THINK she got rid of it.

  4. Jeff says:

    CFL bulbs appear save on the electric bill, but don’t save as much real power as people think. The reason for this is what’s called a power factor. Without dipping into the EE side of this, it means that while you may see that your 13-watt bulb uses only 13 watts at your house, the power company has to provide 20watts (~50% more) of power for that device because it works off-phase. Power factors vary by manufacturer, but none are directly where people are led to believe, so the “green” aspect is questionable. That and the coal used to power them.

    • daenyll says:

      not to mention any loss to the environmental savings in actually manufacturing these more complex bulbs

      • freeby50 says:

        CFL’s last 10 times as long. There is a higher impact from making 10 incandescent bulbs than 1 CFL.

        • mike says:

          Given the # of CFLs I’ve had that have ‘burned out’ in less than 3 years, I’m not sure that I believe the 10x claim at all.

    • Chuck says:

      This is not an accurate explanation of power factor. 13 watts is 13 watts. It can take 13VA to deliver 13 watts with unity power factor, or 20VA with a lower power factor, but in fact only 13 watts of energy is consumed. The problem with lower power factors is the increased current resulting in increased line loss. Line loss is estimated at around 7% for the US power grid, so your perfect power factor 13 watts needs 13.91 watts at the generator. At 0.65 power factor (20VA), you need 14.4 watts at the generator. The 0.5w difference is negligible, and shouldn’t make anyone think twice about replacing their 60 watt bulb, which despite its perfect power factor, requires 64.2 watts at the generator.

  5. freeby50 says:

    Jeff, ok if they are using 20 watts then thats still 1/3 of the 60 watts of an incandescent bulb. And if your electricity comes from coal then thats the case if you are using incandescent as well. So CFL’s using 2/3 less power and therefore burning 2/3 less coal is still greenER.

  6. zapeta says:

    We do 1, 4, 5, and 6 in our apartment…we’d do some of the others but obviously we can’t do big changes. We do have a new fridge but I wish we had a programmable thermostat.

  7. Debbie says:

    Great article. Additional clothes drying habit: Don’t abandon the dryer once you’ve loaded it up. Simply stick around a bit, then have hangers ready, and pull out anything that you can hang up (t-shirts/jeans take a long time to dry thoroughly). Use door facings, shower rods, or garage to allow clothes to finish drying at waistband, neck, etc. Then remember to turn off the dryer once everything has been removed. That timer may not pull much elect but if ‘every little bit helps’, and you want to save the timer too, why not?

    • Jim says:

      Towels take forever to dry, we always line dry those!

      • billsnider says:

        If this is true, then you have a clogged exhaust pipe. You should take it apart and clean it. Ditto for the dryer.

        Bet your drying time drops significantly.

        Bill Snider

    • Shirley says:

      I do this and also hang towels on hangers to finish drying after 10 minutes in the dryer. That way they stay soft but don’t take so much time.

  8. “Check for and plug air leaks. ”

    In our house, there is a door from the garage into the house. From the entryway, you can go up stairs to the upport level or through an open doorway into the lower level.

    The lower level was always cold, to the point that I needed to run space heaters if I was working down there. It was always losing heat to the upstairs and the garage. We even played games with the vents (downstairs open and upstairs closed in the winter; downstairs closed and upstairs open in the summer) to no avail.

    Finally, I bit the bullet and installed a door in that open doorway. It does a pretty good job of retaining the warmer air. At times, it’s actually warmer downstairs than upstairs, and it doesn’t dip below 60 in the winter any more.

  9. Shirley says:

    Does anybody remember ‘pants stretchers’?
    They were adjustable frames stuck into pants to line dry them and so that they looked like they had been ironed and created “the pefect crease”. Saves time in the dryer too. I still use them on jeans, but I haven’t seen any in stores for years.

    • Imani says:

      Pants stretchers!!! Wow, I remember them from when I was a kid, ages ago. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  10. All great tips. I would add upon the first point and say that LED lights can also save money in anybody’s home.

  11. Another tip is to install ceiling fans. They are a greener way to cool down your house so you use the air conditioner less.

    • mike says:

      They might make the air ‘feeler’ cooler, but they will not cool down the air. In fact, they may do the opposite and heat up the air due to the heat generated by the motor…..something like leaving a 60W lightbulb on in a room.

  12. jsbrendog says:

    i have suggested some of these things to my landlord, especially a new stove and/or fridge because she pays the electricity but she has decided it doesn’t matter. not my problem but still she complains how much the electricity bill is.

    lucky for me her husband’s man cave is in the basement on the same bill as mine so i’m off the hook. whatever, i tried. and i use the long lasting green lightbulbs and unplug/turn off all my crap.

  13. UXitect says:

    Great suggestions to start. Being green means living sustainably. Attack consumption is the first step. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Try to get your trash down to zero by composting and recycling. The biggest user of energy in a home is NOT lights – it’s systems. When it’s time to replace the a/c, buy the most efficient unit you can. Install Photo voltaic panels to offset your electricity bills. Install a rain water collection system (my dad did one of these for around $20) to collect your gutter water and hold it to water the plants. Grow your own vegies if you have room for a garden.
    Being sustainable means lifestyle changes, not purchasing more to be green.

  14. Brad Buscher says:

    CFLs and fluorescent lamps are fragile and, upon breaking, these lamps release mercury vapor that can be detrimental to handlers’ health—from those involved with handling new bulbs to people involved with storing, packaging and shipping used lamps. However, CFLs emit approximately the same amount of visible light as incandescents, but they last 8 to 15 times as long and provide significant energy savings. The use of more efficient lighting options, such as CFLs, is one of easiest and lowest-cost ways for the nation to reduce electricity use and greenhouse gases. However, CFLs and fluorescent lamps can only be considered truly green lighting options when used lights are stored and transported to recycling facilities in a package that is proven to effectively contain mercury vapor. Find out more about safe packaging at vaporlok.blogspot.com.


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