When 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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).
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 )