Sustainable Home basics
Many associate a sustainable home with solar panels, expensive floor renovations, various purchases of Energy Star appliances, and other costly investments. But greening your home doesn’t have to be costly and time consuming. Even though pricey investments, like going off the grid, can have great ecological and economics benefits, it’s important to accomplish the basics of going green first. Here are 10 quick and cheap steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient while helping you save money.
- Insulate and save. According to the Consumer Energy Center, 31% of air leaks occur in floors, walls, and ceilings. Poor insulation can cause significant indoor heat loss. Sealing air leaks in your home can save you 20% or more on your heating and cooling bill. Learn how to seal and locate leaks in your home by reading our Air Sealing and Weatherization article.
- Got light? Get CFLs. By replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights you can save energy and money. CFLs use 75% less energy and can last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. When shopping, remember to purchase Energy Start labeled CFLs. Energy Star CFLs have passed the federal government’s criteria for lamp life, light output, energy use, and other performance characteristics. To get more tips and info visit our Fluorescent Lights article.
- Solar drying. The simplest way to cut down on your energy use is to install a clothesline to dry your laundry. This old-school way of drying your dripping jeans and t-shirts can save significant money on electric and/or gas bills. If you’re limited on outdoor space purchase an inexpensive free-standing drying rack that can be used indoors.
- From garbage to garden. By making the decision to compost your scraps year round, you can reduce your contribution to the 30% of yard and kitchen waste collected in landfills. You can make use of a small kitchen bin for scraps or an outdoor composting heap. Diverting waste from landfills and creating your own organic fertilizer will give you a great feeling of satisfaction. Learn how you can save money, have a garden that will be the envy of your neighborhood, and reduce your waste output by watching Sierra Club’s composting video.
- Save water & money. Installing low-flow shower heads and faucets is an easy DIY task. A typical shower head uses 5 – 8 gallons per minute, that’s approximately 40 gallons of water per five minutes of your shower. 8,000 gallons of water can be saved per year by installing a low-flow shower head or faucet. For ultimate efficiency install a low-flow shower head that includes a shut-off valve. This will allow you to turn off running water while you soap, shampoo, or shave.
- Water filters. Purchasing a portable filter or installing a residential filtration system will save you a lot of money unlike packaged water. Most people choose to drink bottled water because they believe it tastes better or is healthier than their average tap. However, tap water must meet various quality regulations enforced by your local water district and the Environmental Protection Agency. Once filtered, tap water usually has an excellent taste. By investing in a filter, you can avoid discarding thousands of plastic bottles. Various filtration options are available; to learn more view our Water Filter education.
- Green cleaning. Cleaning harsh stains and messes doesn’t have to be harsh on the environment. There are various natural and homemade techniques that can be implemented to clean your home. But if you are interested in commercially-bought merchandise, look for warning labels that indicate the presence of harmful chemicals, and avoid purchasing such products. An ideal cleaning agent will be marked as “contains no phthalates,” “phosphate free,” and “biodegradable.” To learn what to avoid and shop for visit our Green Cleaning Supplies article.
- Thermostat control. Most residential energy is spent on temperature control. You can save money and energy without any additional investments by simply turning down the thermostat in cold weather and keeping it higher in warm weather. If you would like a more efficient approach to temperature control then install a programmable thermostat. According to Energy Star, an appropriately-used programmable thermostat will save you about $180 in annual energy costs. To get more info and tips visit our Programmable Thermostats education.
- Blackout curtains. Using blackout curtains can reduce significant light and reduce heat loss. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 10 – 25% of thermal energy escapes through windows. By investing in blackout curtains you can save money on your heating bills and reduce your output of greenhouse gases. When shopping for curtains look for organic cotton or hemp textiles.
- Goodbye tech vampires. What is vampire energy? Vampire energy is the energy used by your appliances when in passive mode (the clock on your cable box) or standby mode (your turned off TV). Annually, this accounts for 5-8% of your home’s total electricity usage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Thisenergy accounts for 25% of the total energy used by appliances. Once power strips are turned off, electrical currents do not flow to these devices. In addition, you can unplug appliances (not your refrigerator of course!) from outlets to save money and energy.